Using DBT Skills in the Election Aftermath

Using DBT Skills in the Election Aftermath

In light of the contentious 2016 Presidential election, no matter which candidate you voted for, many people are feeling burnt out, sad, defeated and depressed. There is an apparent rift in our country, which trickles down to challenges in our own circles of friends and family. Social media is swarming with articles and arguments. People are being de-friended on the Internet and in real life. Some teenagers are being bullied across the country for their political beliefs. Many people are feeling unsafe. Some people are feeling happy.

No matter whether you agree with the election results, or are saddened by them, we live in an emotionally heightened time and we all need to utilize our coping skills.

How to incorporate DBT skills into every day life?


It’s so easy to be in emotion mind right now. That’s okay. It’s an emotional time. It’s also not the best idea to ignore your emotions–when that happens, they can build up. We also don’t want to judge our emotions. That only causes self-resentment and self-loathing, and can lead to maladaptive behaviors. Staying in wise mind, by acknowledging the logical and rational along with your emotions, is an optimal state to be in.

Letting yourself feel what you want to feel by observing and describing what it is you are feeling is the best way to get through this trying time. Now is the time to stay in the present moment. Now is the time to pull out the tricks of the trade: stress balls, putty, mindfulness coloring books, exercise, yoga, meditation. Now is the time to be writing gratitude lists, to stay present for what we are grateful for in the moment. Even when it seems the energy in our country is quite tense, you can reverse that in yourself, if only temporarily.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Communicating with others

How we communicate with one another is integral to all of our relationships, especially during a time in which people are constantly arguing and disagreeing. DEAR MAN skills can help you get what you want. If you do not want to speak about the election with a friend, knowing that it could lead to an argument, use your skills to express that you just don’t want to talk about it right now. If you want to assert your point of view knowing it can make you feel better, always be sure to validate the other person, no matter their beliefs, use “I” statements.

Negotiate–maybe that means to just agree to hear the other person out. Maybe it means that you speak about the election for ten minutes and then move on to other, more neutral topics. Stay mindful in conversations. Reinforce and reward the other person when speaking to them. Listen closely, even if you do not agree.

Use your GIVE skills: (be) Gentle, (act) Interested, Validate, (use an) Easy Manner. Use your FAST skills for self respect. Don’t leave a conversation wishing you acted in a certain way. Speak to others the way you wish to be spoken to.

Distress Tolerance

There is so much to radically accept. Your candidate may not have won. Your candidate may have won. People you know may be upset as a result. It is what it is. It’s time to take a deep breath, accept that “what is, is what what will be”, and try to move on.

Another bit of advice: it’s totally OKAY to take a vacation from the news and from social media. If people are bothering you with their posts on Facebook, just simply hide their posts. You don’t have to de-friend or end relationships. If someone is bullying you and making you feel bad, it’s totally okay to end the relationship. Just do so in Wise Mind. If the news is making you upset, stop watching the news. Focus on other things. You aren’t a bad or misinformed person if you mentally check-out regarding politics. In fact, it is brilliant self-care.

It’s also okay to use those interpersonal effectiveness skills I just mentioned to say that you don’t want to speak about the election. It’s time to bring out your ACCEPTS skills, and focus on things that make you happy. Distract yourself. Contribute to others. Take long bubble baths. Take long walks in the park. Make yourself appreciative of the moment we are in.

Emotion Regulation

Practice good self-care. Build Mastery. Create pleasant experiences and put those in the “bank”- moments of happiness, no matter how small, add up. And that makes us all feel better in the long run.

Middle Path

Realize that not everything is so black and white, and although it seems like it is right now, it’s okay to live in a gray area. It’s totally fine to like some things about one candidate and not like some things about the other. You can be okay with the election results. You don’t have to feel 100% fantastic. It’s okay to agree to disagree. In a world that seems Red and Blue, please take a moment to recognize that it’s okay to hang out in the middle.

Remember the meaning of Dialectic. Two things can be true at the same time. We can be going through a confusing time as a country, AND you can be okay! It can be a hard time, AND it can and will get better. You may feel many people are stuck on the election AND you may feel that too AND it’s okay to move on! There is always more than one truth. As human beings we all have different backgrounds, perspectives and stories. Let’s take a step back, self soothe, if necessary, and focus on maintaining relationships, self respect, and, most importantly: internal and external peace.


Authored by:  Jaime Gleicher, LMSW