The current presidential campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is stressful for just about everyone. It is difficult to have a conversation with a supporter of the opposition without it crashing into angry accusations. In fact, the anger felt by some individuals is so deep and so intense that they talk openly about raising arms against the government if their candidate loses. Talk of the election being ‘rigged’ is shaking the foundation of our democracy, causing increasing levels of anxiety and fear. An October poll by the American Psychological Association found more than 50% of adults report the 2016 presidential campaign is causing them massive levels of stress.
Given that this race seems to be creating intense anger, anxiety and stress, the question arises, “How do you stay calm during this bizarre presidential race?” Here are some scientifically-proven ideas to help you remain calm in the midst of the political storm…
Go on a media cleanse
Repeatedly checking your phone for the latest election news is not alleviating your stress. It does add to it, however. And it can be addicting. Practice regularly disconnecting from Facebook, Twitter, TV, radio and any other media in which you expose yourself to political news.
Take action by voting
Vote! One of the best ways to combat anxiety is to act. Do not fall victim to the belief that your vote will not matter. Your vote does matter. Voting is the foundation, the right and the privilege of living in a democracy. Take action and vote to ease your dis-ease.
Focus on compassion for others
Dehumanizing the people on the other side of the political spectrum makes it easier to become increasingly angry. The antidote to this is practicing compassion for everyone on the other side of the aisle. In a few short weeks, one candidate is going to win this election. At that time, we will need to set about rebuilding the rifts that have been created in our country. Instead of remaining stuck in anger, take a moment to consider the thousands of reasons that led that person to act as they did. Assume their actions were not intended to harm you. Often, we are merely minor players in the other person’s story. Practice putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, in part to make you feel more peaceful, and in part for the good of the country.
Stay centered with objective facts
When emotions get high, facts tend to get distorted and ignored. Don’t buy into the mistruths being fed to you by your emotional mind. Check the facts. Know what is true and what is not. This will give you greater confidence in your conversations, your feelings and ultimately your vote.
Remind yourself that you are not alone
As mentioned earlier, over half of adults in the United States report that this election is causing them significant stress and worry. According to a David Brooks column in the New York Times, some therapists say that 75% of their clients are reporting election-related anxiety. Social trust is being eroded. Many individuals say that their friendships are being undermined due to whom their friends are supporting for president. To combat these pressures, remind yourself that you are not alone. This election is particularly difficult for nearly everyone.
Take good care of yourself
Anytime stress and destructive emotions arise, take a moment, pause and remind yourself to take really good care of yourself. This may mean going for a walk, talking to a friend, taking a nap, or taking some alone time. Be mindful of how you are feeling and take concrete steps to be on your own side. Be for yourself, not against others.
Perhaps the best proven remedy for feeling lousy is to do something kind for another person. Volunteer. Remind yourself of the good in others. Give items to charity. Donate your time at a soup kitchen. Remind yourself that all other people matter.
Get help if you need it
If you begin to feel overwhelmed, depressed or have thoughts of hurting yourself, seek professional help immediately.
Practice a few of these tips from this list of proven stress-busting ideas:
Distract yourself with something enjoyable
Breathe deeply (breathe out longer than you breathe in to activate the parasympathetic nervous system)
Write down your worries on paper
Take a hike in nature
Pet your dog
Watch a funny movie or stand up comedian
Sing out loud (even badly!)
Kiss your loved one
Do a progressive muscle relaxation exercise
Focus on things for which you are grateful
Listen to a relaxation app
Work in the garden
Take a warm bath
Take a power nap
Drink a cup of green tea
Put a slight smile on your lips
Think about past positive memories (like a family photo album)
Go for a jog. Exercise.
Focus on what you are grateful for in life
Change the scenery and move to a different location
Take a mental vacation to a place where you can relax and feel safe
As we move forward, following whatever the results of this election are, it is imperative that we find ways to heal the divides in our country. The initial step is to recognize and let go of the anger, fear, and stress that has accumulated over the past year.
About the Author – Dr. John Schinnerer
Dr. John Schinnerer, an expert in positive psychology and anger management, is revolutionizing the way in which people make sense of the mind, behavior and emotion. Recently, he was one of three experts to consult with Pixar on the Academy Award-winning movie, Inside Out. He has developed a unique coaching methodology which combines the best aspects of entertainment, humor, sports psychology, positive psychology and emotional management techniques. His offices are in Danville, California. He graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a Ph.D. in educational psychology. He is an award-winning author of the book, How Can I Be Happy? He has been a speaker and coach for over 16 years. Dr. John’s blog, Shrunken Mind, was recognized as one of the top 3 in positive psychology on the web (drjohnblog.guidetoself.com). Dr. John hosts an online anger management class using positive psychology at WebAngerManagement.com. He offers an online anxiety management class.