mindfulness

6 Ways to De-Stress During the Election

Coffe and Book near window with bright sunny light

Election day is tomorrow, but seeing as how you’re online, you already know that.

You probably also already know that this election is, well, freaking people out. Americans on both sides of the ever-growing political divide are anxious, scared, and more stressed out about politics than they have been in years, if ever.

As a wise internet meme once said, “If you don’t have a problem, then don’t worry. If you have a problem, and you can’t do anything about it, then don’t worry. If you have a problem, and you can do something about it, then don’t worry.”

Clearly this wise internet meme has never been inside a Jewish mother’s brain. This sort of logic just doesn’t apply in certain situations, such as when it feels as though the fate of a very nation is hanging in the balance. For example.

But we can’t worry about all of that now. What we can worry about it is getting through the next day or two until the polls close without losing our collective sh*t. Here are a few ideas that will help you stay as calm as possible during a tense time:

1. Do what you can. If you haven’t voted, do it as early as you possibly can. If you can canvas or call or drive people to the polls, do it. Knowing that you have done everything you can do will help ease your stress.

2. Get as much sleep as you can tonight. Sleep is one of the most powerful defenses we have in the face of extreme stress. It not only fortifies our bodies against the impact of strong emotions, but it cleans out the toxins and detritus that can so easily cloud our thinking and cause us to feel even more anxious or fearful than we might have otherwise.

3. Stick to your schedule. It may be tempting to stay up late or drink 87 cups of coffee instead of your normal 12 or leave the news on all day when you usually turn it off. Don’t do it. When the world feels beyond our control, we need routine and predictability more than ever. If you feel compelled to check in with the news, do so in a way that causes the least amount of disruption to your regular schedule. I have the NPR One app on my smartphone, which allows me to listen to the most recent national and local newscasts. I can get a quick update, and then turn it off and get back to my regularly scheduled programming.

4. Notice how your screen time is making you feel. Some folks find constant news updates to be comforting, while others find them stressful and anxiety-producing. If you feel compelled to turn on the radio or TV or log onto the news, take a moment to pay attention to how your body and mind respond. Do you feel calmer? Or, like me, do you notice your thoughts racing or your shoulders or stomach tightening up? If that’s the case, turn it off, calm yourself down, and check back in (briefly!) in another hour or two.

5. Move your body. Worried thoughts live in our minds, but big emotions (including stress and anxiety!) live in our bodies. We spend far too much time trying to battle our thoughts when we should be taking care of our bodies. Go for a walk, do 20 jumping jacks, lie down on the floor and put your legs up a wall, or do a short yoga sequence. Whatever you usually do to take care of your body, well, don’t stop now.

6. Breathe. And then breathe again. There are many, many guided breathing meditations available online and in smartphone apps, and if those work for you, feel free to use them liberally throughout the day. I prefer to stop whatever I am doing and take three deep breaths. The beauty of intentional breathing is that it is always with us, we can deploy it wherever we are, and the folks around us will have no idea that we’re on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Oh, and the best part about it—you can’t think anxious thoughts while you’re noticing your breathing. Your brain just isn’t capable of doing both things at once. (You might notice your brain jumping back into worries. That’s OK. Just come back to your breathing.)

Finally, remember, this too shall pass. It might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass. As we Jews know all too well, nothing, no matter how horrible or fantastic it is, lasts forever. The election results will come soon enough, but we can’t cross that bridge until we’ve come to it, so do what you can to stay focused on today and as sane as possible.


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Carla Naumburg

Carla Naumburg, PhD, is a clinical social worker and writer. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post,The Huffington Post, Parents.com, PsychCentral.com, The Jewish Daily Forward, and Psychology Today. She is the author of two books, Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters (Parallax, 2014) and Ready, Set, Breathe: Practicing Mindfulness with Your Children for Fewer Meltdowns and a More Peaceful Family (New Harbinger, 2015). Carla grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the Bay Area of California, and she currently lives outside of Boston with her husband and two young daughters. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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