The current race to the White House between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is the most rancorous and vitriolic I have witnessed. It is difficult to have a conversation with a supporter of the opposing candidate without it devolving into anger. In fact, the anger felt by some individuals is so deep and so intense that they speak of raising arms against the government if their candidate does not win. Recruitment in private armed militia groups is on the rise. Talk of the election being ‘rigged’ is undermining the fabric of our democracy, stoking anxiety and fear. A recent poll by the American Psychological Association found more than half of U.S. adults say the 2016 presidential campaign is causing them significant levels of stress.
Given that this race seems to be fomenting a large degree of anger, anxiety and stress, the question becomes, “How do you stay calm during and after this unusual presidential race?” Here are some proven tools to help you deal with stress and remain calm…
Go on a media diet
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.
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 the other side
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.
Ground yourself in 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.
Know 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.
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.
Give to 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 get overwhelmed
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 pleasant
Write down your concerns on paper
Take a hike in nature
Scratch your dog behind the ears
Watch a comedy
Sing out loud
Practice mindfulness meditation
Kiss your significant other
Do a progressive muscle relaxation exercise
Try this relaxation audio file by Dr. John Schinnerer (free MP3 audio file)
Focus on things for which you are grateful
Listen to a relaxation app
Work in the garden
Take a bath or shower
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, we must find ways to heal the divides in our country. The first step is to recognize and release the anger, fear, stress and irritation that has built up over time.
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. His primary site is located at Guide To Self.com.