Election day is here, and we’re all stressed. Seriously. Nearly a month ago, the American Psychological Association (APA) revealed survey results that showed that 52 percent of American adults consider this election a somewhat or very significant source of stress. That stress crosses party lines and hits people of all age groups. And the rest of the world isn’t much less nervous.
So how do you handle that stress in a healthy way? Most people I talk to plan to drink their way through the final hours of the U.S. election, but while that might get us through, it’s certainly not healthy. But what other steps can we take?
The APA offers a helpful list of recommendations for how to get through the next day or so:
If the 24-hour news cycle of claims and counterclaims from the candidates is causing you stress, limit your media consumption. Read just enough to stay informed. Turn off the newsfeed or take a digital break. Take some time for yourself, go for a walk, or spend time with friends and family doing things that you enjoy.
Avoid getting into discussions about the election if you think they have the potential to escalate to conflict. Be cognizant of the frequency with which you’re discussing the election with friends, family members or coworkers.
Whatever happens on Nov. 8, life will go on. Our political system and the three branches of government mean that we can expect a significant degree of stability immediately after a major transition of government. Avoid catastrophizing, and maintain a balanced perspective.
Vote. In a democracy, a citizen’s voice does matter. By voting, you will hopefully feel you are taking a proactive step and participating in what for many has been a stressful election cycle. Find balanced information to learn about all the candidates and issues on your ballot (not just the presidential race), make informed decisions and wear your “I voted” sticker with pride.
These are all good and helpful suggestions. Unplugging is hard, but remember: the election will still come to an end whether you remain glued to your social feeds and news sites all day or not. If following along is causing you more anxiety than stepping away would, then stepping away is an excellent idea.
Once you step away, you’re going to need to do something else with your time. Here are a few helpful, healthy ideas.
Meditate: Clearing your head might be particularly difficult today, but that isn’t all that meditation is about. Mindfulness meditation is about acceptance — letting your thoughts and emotions exist without judging them or dwelling in them. If you’re new to the practice, this may not be a day to dive in alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of apps and sites out there that offer guided meditations, like Headspace, Calm, or Wildflowers.
10% Happier goes a step further, offering election-related guided meditations. I’ve found JoAnna Harper’s “What Really Matters” particularly helpful. It’s a non-partisan guided meditation that encourages us to reflect on our political values and our emotions surrounding the election.
Exercise: Physical activity is a huge stress reliever, and it’s also great for anxiety, depression, ADHD, and a lot of other issues. If you don’t think you’re going to be able to quiet your thoughts to enjoy your workout, consider throwing on some good music or an audiobook to occupy your mind while your body works out the stress. Our followers shared their favorite mood-improving songs earlier this year for our pump-you-up Spotify playlist, so give that a shot.
Remember self-care: When you’re stressed and busy, it’s easy to forget your usual self-care routine. Earlier this year we talked about this interactive self-care guide, and today might be a particularly good day to pull it out again. Generally speaking, though, make sure to bathe, eat, stay hydrated, and take your medication.
Be with others: If being around people doesn’t sound like too much, consider getting together with a few like-minded friends to watch the numbers come in. Talking about your concerns can help you make sense of them, and can help you feel supported. Turning the election into a social event can also be a morale booster.
Distract yourself: Avoiding your issues isn’t usually helpful, but when you can’t do anything else to improve the situation that’s upsetting you, it can be good to do something completely unrelated. Video games might be helpful, but if you can’t stop checking your phone or talking about the election in chat, getting out of the house may be even better. Maybe a viewing of Doctor Strange is in order. Local theater or sporting events that haven’t been bumped for the election can absorb you in a different head space for a while. And getting out of the house is a good way to remind yourself that the world as you know it will continue tomorrow, no matter today’s results.
Vote: Yes, it’s mentioned in the APA’s recommendations above, but it’s worth reiterating. If you’re eligible to vote in the U.S. election, you can make yourself part of the process instead of worrying about it alone. Having some control over the outcome, however small, can feel a lot better than leaving it in everyone else’s hands.