Danielle: Good evening, Jacksonville and happy Saturday. I’m Danielle Leigh and welcome to The Conversation with Dr. Ali Kasraeian. Dr. Ali, long time no see. How are you?
Ali Kasraeian: I am good. How are you?
Danielle: I’m doing just fine. What do we have going on today?
Ali Kasraeian: Today we have a very interesting and very exciting and I think a very, very needed show in my opinion. Today we’re going to talk about the psychology of the stress around election 2016. I think it’s a vast understatement to say that this has been a very tumultuous election season. It has been one that has been one of the most advertorial and adversarial elections in the modern history, and it has been compounded by the fact that we have been hounded with a 24-hour news cycle, our social media influences and the mass media impoundment of information that is just constantly present. Our iPhones, our social media tablets are constantly give us information which can be polarizing and it increases stress.
A lot of statistics have shown that in the American Psychological Association actually in October released a statement showing that more than 50% of American adults experienced significant stress associated with the election and that crossed both Republicans and Democrats. It was exclusive of party lines. Today to help us have this discussion is in studio, Dr. Carolyn [McLanahan 00:01:37] who is a wonderful friend to the conversation. She’s a physician, she’s a director of financial planning at Life Planning Partners, and a health care policy and economics expert and contributor to Forbes, CNBC among other periodicals. I suspect that you are going to be writing a lot more about these topics in the upcoming few months.
Dr. Carolyn M.: I will be dragged in, yes.
Ali Kasraeian: Also to help us have this discussion is psychiatrist and Chief of Pediatric Behavioral Health at Nemour Children’s Clinic, Dr. Michael De La Hunt. Thank you both for being here.
Dr. Carolyn M.: Thank you for having me.
Dr. Michael D.: You’re having us a part of the conversation.
Ali Kasraeian: Before we get started I want to say one quick thing and pay some homage to a giant of surgery. Yesterday, unfortunately Dr. Denton Cooley passed away. The reason I bring this up, he was a world-renowned and pioneering cardiothoracic surgeon who performed the first successful heart transplant in the United States, performed the first artificial heart transplant in the world, and one thing that may be interesting for our audience. If you get a chance to see a movie called Something the Lord Made, this is an interesting story.
It’s the story of also an innovative surgeon, Dr. Alfred Blalock who with the guidance of a gentleman named Vivien Thomas, who was an African American at a time where having someone who was African American help in the operating room in places like that was very, very difficult to do. They participated and created and opened the era of cardiac surgery where in 1944 they did the first surgery for blue babies, where it was actually a revolutionary operation which made the impossible possible. It ushered in the era of modern cardiac surgery.
I just wanted to put a little bit of a condolence in for the world of surgery in the world because he was a revolutionary and pioneering gentleman who pushed the envelope at every step of the way and interestingly at 24 years of age he was the surgical resident who assisted Dr. Blalock in that operation, so I can’t imagine what a monumental experience that was. Obviously he used it to push his career forward and push the envelope for the world of cardiothoracic surgery. He passed away at 96 years of age in his home yesterday.
Before we get started Carolyn, looking at 2016’s election cycle, what is your general Gestalt? Obviously it was a very stressful election cycle just by the sheer amount of information we constantly received. What was your impression just generally?
Dr. Carolyn M.: My impression overall is that people are sick of the government. On the left they expect the government to do good things, but three things like the Affordable Care Act, which did some great things. It also created many, many complications in people’s lives. Medicare has become more complicated, applying for Social Security, we spend an hour and a half on the phone on hold, waiting for Social Security. It’s those inefficiencies of government and how big government’s gotten, that it just making people sick of it.
On the right, people just see government as bad, and when it’s inefficient like it is, it could be. They felt like they didn’t have much of a choice, they voted with what they thought would bring the most change. If we remember in 2008, President Obama focused on hope and change and the problem is, is not much change. It got a little more complicated, we got a few things done. The economy came back, but people thought it could have been a lot more efficiently.
Ali Kasraeian: Dr. De La Hunt. When you look at what arose during the election, and then what is facing us now in the post-election cycle, what do you think from a psychiatrist looking at this? Obviously, when you look at the research for stress, unpredictability, uncontrolled situations increase our stress level and so this scenario, both in the pre-November 8 moment, and the post-November 8 election moment, we have both of these things going on. How do this perfect storm if you will, seem to be more of a process or where even the American Psychological Association thought, “Wow, this is a little bit different than a normal situation. We need to address this and talk about it.”
Dr. Michael D.: It’s hard to even now. I think everyone’s just still trying to process what’s happened. Both the left and the right were somewhat surprised by the results and I think that there’s just a great deal of uncertainty as what’s going to unfold, what does this really mean? What kind of a president and administration is President-elect Trump going to lead? How much is just rhetoric for candidate debates and whatnot, and how much is actually what’s going to be implemented? Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of competing forces that are going to direct where exactly we go.
I think also there’s just a great deal of angst in the aura of uncertainty with regards to who is being encouraged in some of these results, who’s being discouraged in some of these results. The other thing that obviously we’re in the holiday season. There are people who are very passionate about their political beliefs and their political perspectives, and unfortunately, households are maybe on opposing sides of the fence on that.
I am concerned about what’s going to happen during these holiday family gatherings where there might be some political discussions that become political debates that become political conflict in the household. I think we just all need to settle down, let’s see where things go and hopefully all of this uncertainty and angst will calm down and more rational minds will take over, but I understand that there’s a great deal of uncertainty and angst out there.
Ali Kasraeian: I tell you, one thing I found very interesting and this was when I was watching the news when I would watch the debates and I would watch some of the commentary on the news channels. It took be back a little bit into a viewing of the physiology of stress and I had a little bit of insight for myself looking at this. When someone is stressed out, your body really moves into this fight or flight scenario, so you’re basically gearing up for a battle. You’re either going to fight or you’re going to escape. Both of those scenarios really take the blood away from your brain.
When you’re having a heated political discussion, you would hope that your brain is fed with blood so that you can have more of an intelligent discussion and your higher center of intellect is being fed a little bit moreso than your fight or flight response area, which are your muscles and things of that nature. If someone is at Thanksgiving, if they are at Christmas and they’re getting into a heated debate, it might not stir up a scenario that’s well suited with a very intelligent and a very good outcome of an intelligent discussion.
Dr. Michael D.: Well said. You’re not feeling your brain with blood and it’s all going to your sympathetic nervous system in overdrive and especially if there’s any kind of alcohol involved or substances, it’s going to lead to some problems. Some simple things that people can do is first of all, sit down, don’t stand up. When you sit down, the chance for physical conflict is going to be minimized. Learn to just be quiet rather than constantly trying to talk over the other person who’s trying to change your mind while you’re trying to change their mind. You don’t always have to speak. It’s good that we have to listen and I think that’s the takeaway point on a more global scale of what needs to happen in conversations. There needs to be the appropriate give and take …