With the perfect storm of election stress, seasonal depression, and a global pandemic, it’s no wonder that anxiety is at an all-time high. Add to that the loss of an hour of daylight and the regular flu and good old-fashioned sickness season, and we could find ourselves in a collective freak-out with the rest of the country. But right now, at least, at the forefront of it all is the election.
If you’re like most Americans, you’ve been bombarded with political ads for months. No one has been able to escape political conversations. You can’t unhear the smear campaigns and talking heads. It’s bipartisan too. According to a survey from the American Psychological Association, 76% of Democrats and 67% of Republicans say the presidential election is a significant source of stress in their lives.
Despite all of that, YOU are in control of your mental health!
Here are some tips to help you get through the next few days (or weeks or months):
Come to grips with the fact that we may not find out who the winner is as quickly as we want.
Because of the surge of early voting and mail-in ballots this year, there is a significant chance the election will not be called for a few days. In fact, at the time of this writing (Wed, Nov 5), there’s still a long way to go.
Take a break from the news.
If the results do end up taking forever, checking all the news outlets every minute will not make them call it any faster. Instead, the A.P.A. recommends taking breaks from the news to engage in activities that bring you a sense of calm or fulfillment. Listen to music, dance, talk to a friend (but NOT about the election!), try making a new recipe, or finishing up a project you’ve been putting off. If all else fails, binge watch your favorite shows until this madness is all over.
Keep your pessimism in check.
If anything, this election cycle has proven to be stressful because it combines two negative states: uncertainty and powerlessness. Uncertainty lends itself to making people imagine worst-case scenarios, a cognitive pattern called defensive pessimism. It can help in instances where you have the power to change the outcome, but when you don’t, it causes unnecessary stress.
Focus on what you can control.
You obviously can’t control the election’s outcome, but you can control other things in your life. You can start planning for Thanksgiving. You can decorate for Christmas. You can make a grocery run for neighbors who are quarantining. You can make a difference in someone’s life by showing them kindness and extending grace.
Go for a walk or spend some time outside. Studies have linked aerobic exercise to improved emotional regulation and the growth of new neurons. Write out your thoughts by hand to intentionally slow your mind down. Stay connected to friends and family who know you well and can help you manage your stress levels.
Choose to extend grace.
Whatever you do to manage your stress in a healthy way will benefit you greatly. While you’re choosing to stay mindful of your own well-being, make it a point to extend grace to others as they navigate through their own bouts with stress and anxiety. Extending grace may just be the kindness that helps others find some peace in their day.
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: “These are trying, uncertain times.”
Man, isn’t that the truth! But as uncertain and trying as they are, you can still stay grounded and remain at peace throughout all of it.