Experts are weighing in on how to cope with sadness, depression and helplessness related to election stress.By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — As the presidential election remains too close to call, Americans on both sides of the aisle have not yet been able to determine whether or not to celebrate.

Mental health professionals say during this unprecedented time when election night has stretched into several nights, it is increasingly important for Americans to monitor their mental health and help prevent themselves from becoming too wrapped up in the election outcome.

“There is going to be a lot of anger, and grief, which could lead to depression,” said psychotherapist Jennifer Musselman.

Some symptoms of depression include the following, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

  • Loss of energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in movement (less activity or agitation)
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Lack of concentration
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Changes in sleep
  • Hopelessness or guilty thoughts

As psychiatrist Tal Ben-Shahar described it, “The difference between sadness and depression is that depression is sadness without hope.”

Experts say emotions related to being let down during the election are to be expected, but they should still be addressed as they arise.

“Unfortunately, grief doesn’t go away, so if you don’t deal with it, if you don’t talk about it and get help and resume your normal life, it will sit and wait for you,” said grief recovery expert Kristi Hugstad.

The key, experts agree on, is giving yourself permission to grieve and recover to fall back into a routine that’s right for you.

“So, in many ways, the foundation of happiness is allowing in unhappiness, permission to be human,” Ben-Shahar said.

“I think giving yourself a week or two to grieve, at most 30 days, but you really need to be looking at the new normal and getting back on some level of structure, routine, what can I control in my life?” said Musselman.

A suggestion one expert gives is to limit screen time to help prevent excessive exposure to coverage related to the election cycle.

“You definitely should take the apps off your phone so it’s not as accessible and give yourself a limit — 20 minutes a day — so you can just scroll through it,” Musselman added.

Another important tool in your destressing arsenal: proper sleep and self-care.

“So, put your own oxygen mask on first right now, because self-care is not selfish, it is essential for your mental well-being,” Hugstad said.

Finally, experts say to turn helplessness into helpfulness. A way to help boost your mood and find some much-needed reprieve is to find a way to help others — in your family or in the community. It will not only help keep you occupied, but it will also give you back some control.

Seeking Help

Los Angeles County’s Department of Mental Health has a 24-hour access center that can be reached by calling 1-800-854-7771.

Los Angeles Unified School District also offers a hotline for students and families that can be reached by calling 213-241-3840 on weekdays between 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

People can also text HOME to 741-741 to be connected with a crisis counselor at the Crisis Text Line or reach the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

For those struggling with mental health issues, a list of resources can be found on the state’s website.

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