How to stay calm on Election Day and beyond, according to meditation and mental health experts

How to stay calm on Election Day and beyond, according to meditation and mental health experts

11/02/2020

  • Limit the time you spend watching the news and looking at social media on election night and the days that follow.
  • Lean into your daily self-care routine — or even "supercharge" it — for a preemptive mood boost.
  • It's okay to feel anxious right now, but if it's impacting your daily activities, you may want to seek help.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

If you're feeling stressed out about the US presidential election, you're not alone. More than two-thirds  (68%) of American adults surveyed by The Harris Poll said the election is a significant source of stress in their lives, up from 52% in 2016.

Uncertainty and lack of control provide fuel for anxiety, and there's plenty we don't know about both the pandemic and upcoming election, said Ethan Kross, professor and director of the Emotion and Self-Control Laboratory at University of Michigan. 

On top of the stress associated with the election, women and BIPOC communities may be processing trauma associated with systemic oppression, Devi Brown, chief impact officer of wellness company Chopra Global, told Insider.

"Who gets elected has implications for how we resolve the pandemic, so that's one issue. The economy is in shambles. And we don't even know what's going to happen when the votes come in," Kross told Insider. "If you have those thoughts running over and over and over again, that's not going to lead a person to be in a very happy place."

Insider spoke with experts in mental health and wellness about how to deal with feelings of anxiety surrounding the election, from setting clear boundaries to allowing yourself space to process.

Set a cap for your news-watching time

We know when the votes are going to start coming in, and we know that it could take a few days before a clear winner emerges. Continually refreshing the polls or watching the news 24/7 won't make the results arrive any faster, Kross said.

Social media might make you feel worse during this stressful time, as your network can amplify the anxieties that are already on your mind, he added.

It's possible to find a happy medium between tuning out entirely and spending the next 72 hours plugged in, said Neil Leibowitz, chief medical officer of online therapy company Talkspace. He suggested planning how many times a day you'll check the news, or scheduling a screen break.

"You don't have to go to a cabin in the woods without WiFi," Leibowitz told Insider. "It's really about setting a limit for yourself and having a clear expectation."

Be mindful of who you choose to vent with

You should also set clear expectations among your friends, family, and roommates, who may not share your political views or level of engagement.

Setting boundaries can be as simple as saying,, "Let's not talk politics this week," or, "Can I vent to you if I'm feeling stressed tonight?"

Talking to people when you're stressed can be helpful or harmful depending on who you seek out, Kross said. Co-ruminating with the wrong person could end up stoking your anxiety instead of calming you down.

"Pause and think about who you're going to talk to," Kross said. "Ask yourself, is it someone who is going to get me worked up, or is it someone who might help me think through the situation in a way that actually improves the way I feel?"

'Supercharge' the daily practices that make you feel good

If you already have a self-care routine, like daily meditation or exercise, now is the time to take it up a notch, Brown told Insider. She regularly meditates for 20 minutes once a day, but her new goal for this week is to meditate twice or three times a day.

"I highly recommend for everyone this week to really lean into the building of a daily routine," Brown said. "And if you already have one, supercharge it. Find more things that you can add on to it that make you feel good and grounded and protected."

Getting a good night's sleep and practicing deep breathing exercises are two more aspects of Brown's daily routine. She also recommended taking a walk outside and leaving your phone outside if you can.

Kross said spending time in nature is a great way to seek out feelings of awe, which can lead you to experience a "shrinking of the self." Art and architecture can also inspire this feeling that there are things bigger than yourself and your current concerns aren't the only thing in the world, he said.

Seek out professional help if your election anxiety becomes disruptive to your life

Abnormal times call for abnormal reactions, Kross said, so it's okay to feel anxious or on edge right now.

If you do experience an emotional reaction to some aspect of the election, Brown recommended sitting with the feeling and saying, "This doesn't have to mean something about me, but this is what I'm feeling right now."

But if your emotional response starts to take a toll on your daily life, you may want to seek professional help, such as counseling or a support group, Leibowitz said. There's a difference between wanting to stay in bed on Wednesday and checking out for the whole week.

"If you're someone where it really is impacting you more than just feeling down, and it reaches a point where you're almost paralyzed in a way and not doing the things that you need to do on a daily basis — well, in that case, there are a lot of resources out there for help," Leibowitz said.

Source: Read Full Article