In the opening chapters of her highly anticipated new book, What Happened, Hillary Clinton talks about feeling “totally and completed depleted” after the 2016 presidential election. After spending 23 years in public policy serving as first lady, a New York senator, and secretary of state, she (and many others) believed her next step would be the White House. As we now know, that wasn’t the case.
What Happened, which was released Tuesday, September 12, is Clinton’s reflection on the election and also, in many ways, her attempt to move on from it. “Slowly, on a personal level, it has gotten better—or at least less terrible,” she writes in the book’s introduction, adding that she’s spent a lot of time praying, writing, and connecting with loved ones over the last year. “I believe this is what some call ‘self-care.’ It turns out, it’s pretty great,” Clinton says. She follows up this statement in the first two What Happened chapters by walking readers through the steps she’s taken to prioritize herself, accept what happened, and ultimately, move on from the loss.
Here, 16 ways Clinton says she practiced self-care in the aftermath of the 2016 election.
Immediately after giving her concession speech, Clinton headed to her home in New York and changed into comfy clothes. “I absolutely love our old house…It’s cozy, colorful, full of art, and every surface is covered with photos of the people I love best in the world,” she writes. “That day, the sight of our front gate was pure relief to me.”
Clinton describes herself as the kind of person who “runs through the tape over and over, identifying every mistake,” especially the mistakes she made. But she realized this wouldn’t be useful—at least not right after the election. “Every once in a while, I’d turn on the news but then turn it off almost immediately,” she writes. “Fortunately, I [realized] diving into a campaign postmortem right then would be about the worst thing I could do to myself.” Clinton also gave herself 24 hours to ignore all the texts, calls, and emails that were pouring in. “I couldn’t handle it,” she says.
Spending two years campaigning is enough to wipe anyone out, and Clinton cherished the time she now had to catch up on sleep. She took naps. She went to bed early. She slept in. “I could finally do that,” she writes.
Clinton had two tough choices to make right after the election: Would she go to President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and would she attend the Women’s March? She showed up to the former and stayed home for the latter—and she let herself be OK with that. “I wanted badly to join the [Women’s March] crowds and chant my heart out. But I believed it was important for new voices to take the stage, especially on this big day,” she writes. “So I sat on my couch and watched in delight as the networks reported huge crowds in dozens of cities across the United States and around the world.”
“After that first day of laying low, I started reaching out to people,” Clinton writes. “I knew…I’d need my friends now more than ever.” Clinton thanked the people who’d worked on her campaign, hung out with her friends, and bonded with her family members. She visited her daughter and grandchildren in Manhattan more often. She hosted a huge group of people on Thanksgiving. She also spent more time with her husband, Bill. “I was grateful for the one-billionth time that I had a husband who was good company not just in happy times but sad ones as well,” she writes.
On the Friday after the election, Clinton threw a party for everyone who’d worked on her campaign. She likens the event to an Irish wake—”celebration amid the sadness”—and says she cherished the chance to come together with her staff one last time. “Under the circumstances, it was great,” she says. “To help matters, there was an open bar.”
Clinton tried to keep her feelings off the public stage, but she was open with her friends about how she was feeling. “I tried hard to let go of the burden of putting on a happy face or reassuring everyone I was totally fine,” she writes. She answered honestly when asked how she was doing, she commiserated over the latest political news, and she shared when she wasn’t up for talking about something.
After the election, Clinton began doing yoga a lot more. She also embraced “alternate nostril breathing,” a breathing exercise that involves breathing in deeply through your right nostril while holding you left nostril closed, holding your breath, and breathing out deeply through your left nostril while holding your right nostril closed. Clinton recommends repeating this cycle a few times, alternating nostrils, until you feel calm and focused. “It may sound silly,” she says. “But it works for me.”
Clinton says that when she felt down, she’d turn to things that had brought her joy in the past. For literature, that meant mystery novels and Maya Angelou’s poetry. For TV shows, it meant whatever Bill had recorded—so The Good Wife, Madam Secretary, Blue Bloods, and NCIS: Los Angeles. Oh yeah, and she caught up on Downton Abbey, too.
Sometimes, she yelled at the television. Other times, she considered throwing things while reading the news. And you know what? She was OK with that.
The day after her concession, Clinton headed to a forest near her home. And she continued to go out into nature—over and over again—to hike, to think, to spend time with Bill, and to reflect on why she lost the election.
In her book, Clinton talks a great deal about relying on her faith for peace, wisdom, and purpose. She read daily devotionals and talked to a reverend she’s friends with. “I can almost see the cynics rolling their eyes,” she writes. “But pray I did, as fervently as I can remember ever doing.”
Clinton says she decorated her house, organized her things, gave old clothes away to friends, and threw out old junk (including all the business cards she’d been handed over the years). “With every gleaming drawer and every object placed in its correct, appointed spot, I felt satisfied that I had made my world just a little more orderly,” she writes.
Clinton says her daughter, Chelsea, helped her realize that when people offer to help, they usually genuinely want to. Clinton acknowledges that while it doesn’t come easy to her, she made an effort to open herself up to this kind of care. Her friends sent her books, paid her visits, and took her to plays. “For the first time in years, I didn’t have to consult a complicated schedule,” she writes. “I could just say ‘Yes!'”
Before too long, Clinton realized part of her was thankful for what happened. She writes about attending her granddaughter’s dance recital and feeling a twinge of relief. “I had been ready to completely devote the next four or eight years to serving my country. But that would have come with a cost. I would have missed a lot of dance recitals and bedtime stories and trips to the playground,” she writes. “Now I had those back. That’s more than a silver lining.”
“Writing [this book] has been cathartic,” she says. She notes that sometimes, she’s had to walk away from the book and empty her mind for a minute. But What Happened helped her process and find solace in last year’s election. “As the days went by, November turned into December, and that horrible, no good, very bad time came to a close,” she writes. “And [I] found myself thinking more about the future than the past.”
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