Even though voting can be counted as a health habit, no matter where you sit politically: left, right or smack dab in the middle of the aisle, elections can also be a source of stress.
Our mission in our quest to create healthy routines is to reduce stress whenever possible. Remember, little actions can lead to big change. Here are some ideas to manage your election stress levels (spoiler alert: it’s all about boundaries and self-care):
Write It Down
Write down what is stressing you out. Getting it out of your brain and onto paper can immediately relieve stress.
Try this 4-7-8 breathing technique:
- Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds
- Hold that breath for 7 seconds
- Exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds
Repeat as often as necessary. This technique acts as a natural tranquilizer for your nervous system helping you reduce anxiety, alleviate tension, or even fall asleep.
Pausing to breathe or meditate reduces stress and encourages resilience in the face of uncertainty. Neuroscientists says this benefit takes as little as 60 seconds to kick in.
Stick To The (Healthy) Basics
Don’t let healthy habits fall away. Be proactive with getting in a little movement each day, eating healthy foods, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep. Especially sleep . . .
Go On A Media Diet
Don’t become overwhelmed! Media consumption (especially social media) can trigger an already stressed mind and send you down some crazy rabbit holes. Give your brain a break:
- Turn off phone notifications.
- Limit your news exposure to trustworthy sources.
- Pick specific time limits for checking the news (i.e. once a day). Watching minute by minute coverage is not going to change the results.
Laugh It Off
Better yet, create an anti-news bubble and turn on a comedy. Binge The Office, Parks and Recreation or some other classic comedic tv show or movie. Research shows a hearty laugh helps to build resilience, stimulates relaxation and lowers blood pressure.
Focus On What You Can Do NOW
Volunteer in your neighborhood. Make it political in nature if you want: hand out flyers for your favorite local candidate, or don’t: shop for supplies for a food pantry or walk your streets and pick up trash. Taking action now will mediate feelings of helplessness and have a positive impact in your community.
Instead of ruminating in your home, get outside! Exposure to nature is also proven to make us more resilient in stressful times. Get some sunshine, boost your vitamin D levels, and hang out with some trees, rocks, or bodies of water.
Avoid Quick Fixes
These might seem like a good idea but tend to only make things worse. Overindulging in alcohol is a short-term fix, not a long-term solution. Same with consuming large amounts of caffeine and sugar: these aggravate your nervous system and if you’re already feeling anxious, can make things worse. These can also disrupt your sleep cycles. No Bueno.
If you are feeling completely overwhelmed, panicked and unable to cope, it might be time to give therapy a try. Check your benefits. If your organization has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), counseling or therapy may be available to you at little or no cost.
With early voting, mail-in votes, and in-person polling, election results are likely to be a roller coaster ride. Even before COVID-19, elections were not officially certified on election night. Votes are systematically counted and re-counted to avoid voter fraud.
Protect Your Well-Being And Remember The Good Things
Election season has become a source of stress in our lives. Take steps to protect yourself from unreasonable stress levels that simply make you miserable. Stay informed, but not obsessed. Engage with people you love, not strangers on the internet. Laugh. Breathe. Get outside and remember how great it is to be alive.