Coping During Election Season
Is election season causing you stress?
You are not alone. Having a strong emotional reaction during election season is normal. A recent poll conducted by the American Psychological Association found that nearly 68% of adults are reporting elevated stress this election season. This is a 16% increase from the previous presidential election.
There are ways manage and cope with election-related stress. If you are feeling anxious, frustrated, or sad, the following strategies and skills may help in reducing the distress you are feeling.
Tips for coping
Take a time out from screens and say “no” to doomscrolling!
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Doomscrolling refers to the "tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing." Doomscrolling doesn't just burn out your phone battery, it can burn you out as well. Try taking a step back from social media and the news. Instead, do something you enjoy. Go for a walk, talk to a friend, do some yoga, catch up on your Netflix watchlist.
Pick your battles
Debating is not likely to change anyone's mind; however, it can leave you feeling angry and depleted. Know what is important to you and is true to your values. Research suggests that debates do not change minds; instead, they polarize already-decided-upon beliefs.
Connect with others and find ways to support each other
Seek out ways to connect with others and find ways to provide them with support. You may find yourself feeling better by helping others feel better. Reach out to your friends that you know are struggling and offer them support. By connecting with others, we remember we are not alone and we can help others remember this as well.
Be productive and seek out mastery
When feeling hopeless, focusing on activities that bring you a sense of achievement can improve your mood. Tackle an activity you have been putting off that may be a bit of a challenge. Maybe it's time to reorganize your closet, try a new recipe, finish reading a novel, or clear out your inbox. Find activities unrelated to the election that provide you with a sense of accomplishment and control.
Practice being mindful
Mindfulness can help us find space to be present, grounded, and aware of our thoughts and emotions. Download an app, such as Insight Time, Calm, or Headspace, to help you practice slowing down, being present, removing judgment, and practice mindfulness.
Try out some skills to help lessen the intensity of your emotions
Use your senses
You can use your senses to help ground you and lessen the intensity of your experiences.
- When you are feeling distressed, find some space to self-soothe. This can be done by bringing your focus onto activities that engage your senses.
- Use your vision. Look at something pleasurable, maybe a favorite photo or movie, or images of your dream vacation or someone you love.
- Listen to something pleasant. Forget debates, listed to some music you enjoy or sounds of nature.
- Smell some perfume, a candle, or fresh baked cookies. Our sense of smell can link us to memories that can induce positive moods.
- Maybe pair your sense of smell with your sense of taste and eat a comforting food. Try something new and explore new flavors.
- Do not forget the power of touch. Find a blanket that feels soft, warm, and comforting. Pet a fluffy animal.
- Your senses can also help you ground yourself when you feel dysregulated. Try this grounding activity:
- Name 5 things you can see
- Name 4 things you can feel
- Name 3 things you can hear
- Name 2 things you can smell
- Name 1 thing you can taste
Change your body temperature
Different water temperatures can affect our moods.
- Cold helps us feel less angry or overwhelmed. You can try splashing cold water on your face, holding an ice cube, taking a walk when the weather is cooler.
- Heat helps us feel relaxed and less sad. Try taking a hot shower, drinking an herbal tea, wrapping up in a warm cozy blanket.
Breathe a little deeper
Spend some time focusing on your breathing.
- Inhale for 4 seconds
- Hold for 3 seconds
- Exhale for 4 seconds
- Hold for 3 seconds
- Repeat for several minutes
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
When you feel stress, your body may physically respond with tension. Try systematically tensing and relaxing your muscles by focusing on one muscle group at a time. Focus your attention on the feeling of the release.
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