Election stress is very real. It is probably also only on the rise. According to a poll taken by the American Psychological Association, is a significant source of stress for 52% of the population.
(I am shocked it isn’t higher.)
If you’re feeling stressed, here are some tips on dealing with it.
Turn it off
If the constant tweets, videos, posts, claims and counterclaims feel overwhelming, start by limiting your media intake. Read enough to stay informed, but then turn off social media. Go for a walk, spend some time by yourself or with family and friends doing things you enjoy.
Talk about something else
It seems as if more people than ever have opinions about the election. Try to avoid getting into discussions about it if you think they have the potential to escalate to arguments. Be aware of how often you’re discussing the election with friends, family members or coworkers.
Take three deep breaths
It’s simple, but taking the time to take three deep breaths is a recommended practice in types of meditation and faith-based traditions. Breathing deeply helps lower levels of stress hormones and can cause biological changes in the body that have a calming effect – something we all could use.
Keep a healthy routine
When you’re stressed, keeping a standard schedule can help keep things feeling as if they are under control. Keep up your normal routine, and don’t forget to eat well, get enough sleep and exercise.
Channel your energy positively
Stressing about what might happen doesn’t help you. Try putting that energy to something more positive, such as volunteering in your community, advocating for an issue you support or joining a local group.
Remember that in addition to the presidential election, there are state and local elections taking place in many parts of the country, providing more opportunities for civic involvement.
Remember — the sun will come out tomorrow
Whatever happens, life will go on. Our political system and the three branches of government mean that we should be able expect a significant degree of stability immediately after a major transition of government. Avoid catastrophizing, and maintain a balanced perspective.
Reserve some time for your mind
Meditation is a well-studied method to ease stressful emotions, and a recent study showed mindfulness meditation can be as effective as exercise at lowering stress. You don’t even have to sit still to do it. Other research has shown that doing everyday tasks like washing the dishes can have similar calming effects, as long as you do them mindfully.
By making the effort to vote, you will hopefully feel you are taking a proactive step and participating in what for many has been a stressful election cycle. Research all the candidates and issues on your ballot (not just focusing on presidential races), make informed decisions and wear your “I voted” sticker with pride.
Send good vibes to people of a different political party
With all the back-and-forth bickering, it’s important to remember that these are still people – some you’ve probably known for a long time. Send some mental good wishes to others.
Start by sending them to someone you know, then someone you feel neutral about, then a person you struggle with—someone you’ve been arguing with about the election, for instance. Elections come and go, but our relationships are more important.