On edge about the election? If so, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, 76% of Democrats and 67% of Republicans have found the election stressful. And that doesn’t even include independent voters. Heightening election stress is the perception of many that the fate of the nation turns on the results. It is further compounded by the fact that it follows 8 months of coping with the stress of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting changes in how we live, work, and socialize.
SO, we all need to learn healthy ways to cope with election stress. And, because the results may be delayed for days and even months, it’s important to develop habits that can boost your ability to cope over the long haul. Here are some tips:
1. Limit your exposure to news and social media. Watching the vote count won’t change the ultimate outcome. Instead of hours of mindless scrolling and watching, practice mindful and planned screen time. Check in with yourself to see how it’s affecting you. If you feel worse, stop it.
2. Do something meaningful. In DBT, we call this valued action. If you feel powerless, focus on what’s within your power, what you can do to make a difference—vote, blog, advocate, help others, be productive.
3. Spend time in nature. Take a walk in the park. Look at the trees. Watch the birds. Numerous studies show that spending time in nature calms the brain.
4. Exercise. It’s one of the most effective ways to manage stress, anxiety and depression. Even brief sessions can have a positive effect on your mental state.
5. Meditate. By learning to anchor in the present moment, you can decrease anxiety which tends to be future focused.
6. Affiliate. Spending time with others decreases stress. Meet a friend for a social distancing walk; spend time with family.
7. Gratitude. Focusing your awareness on all you have to be thankful for in your life buffers the impact of current stress.
Remember, the ability to manage stress is a skill. The more you practice it, the stronger it becomes. Keep at it.
Dr. Lisa Napolitano is an expert in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other mindfulness-based treatments. A licensed psychologist in New York and Florida, she is the Founder and Director of CBT/DBT Associates, a boutique psychology practice group. Dr. Napolitano is an expert in the treatment of stress, anxiety, worry, and emotion regulation problems. She has specifically designed her treatment approach for executives, attorneys, and other high-functioning individuals whom she believes shouldn’t have to sacrifice their careers to manage their stress and work on developing their potential.