7 Ways to Manage Your Election-Related Stress

Voting in the 2020 election ended more than 36 hours ago, and several states are too close for the Associated Press to call as of noon on Thursday, November 5. The months, weeks and days leading up to the election caused an undue amount of stress for many people, and now not knowing the results is exacerbating the problem. On Thursday, NPR interviewed a psychologist from the American Psychological Association who explained that many people are feeling an undue amount of stress as states count votes. More than 67% of Americans reported that the 2020 election has been a stressful experience. November 5 is National Stress Awareness Day, which makes it a timely occasion to reflect on ways to lower stress related to the 2020 election. Read on to learn about seven ways to manage this stress.

1. Understand the Process

Your stress response is likely related to the unknown. While you wait for definitive results, you can learn about the vote-counting process. Each state has different rules about when absentee ballots are counted, when ballots must be received in order to be counted and how when a recount can be requested. Rather than believing what you read on social media, go to the Secretary of State's website and read about the process.

2. Avoid Ruminating About What You Didn't Do

After the fact, it's easy to ruminate about all the things you didn't do. If the election didn't go the way you hoped, you might have regrets or feel guilty about not doing more. This is a common feeling in many situations. You're one person, and you can't do it all. Perhaps you donated to a campaign, volunteered or were a poll worker. If so, you've done more than many people did. Even if all you did was vote, you fulfilled your civic duty. Channel your energy into distinct plans for the next election. If you want to do more, spend your time researching how to get involved right now.

3. Breathe

When you're stressed, your body releases cortisol. This triggers a fight-or-flight response. Your body is revved up and ready to attack or flee. The nervous energy makes it difficult to focus, let go of physical tension or calm your mind. Take a minute and just breathe. Take slow, deep breaths. This reduces the flow of cortisol and mitigates the flight-or-fight response.

4. Put Your Phone Away

Doom scrolling has become more common in the past year. With all the bad news related to the COVID-19 pandemic, its economic fallout, natural disasters and now the election, many people can't help but scroll through it all. The doom scrolling can become addictive and take over the time you would usually spend with your family or on self-care. Put your phone away. Let yourself look at the news for five minutes, then close the browser. There's no need to constantly monitor the news. Check in two or three times per day. Avoid doom scrolling at bedtime. The stress from seeing news you don't like will make it more difficult for you to fall asleep.

5. Exercise

Funnel your energy into something healthy, like exercise. You don't have to start training for a marathon. A brisk 15-minute walk will calm your mind and allow your body to let go of the tension and stress-triggered energy. Fresh air, sunshine and seeing nature will also improve your mood.

6. Connect With Friends or Family

Connect with friends or family, but avoid talking about the elephant in the room. Instead of discussing the election, talk about something else. Maybe you can't travel for Thanksgiving this year because of COVID-19, so you want to discuss the best stuffing recipe to make for your dinner at home. Talk about your latest knitting project or something else to get your mind off the election.

7. Meditate, Pray or Practice Mindfulness

Meditation, prayer and mindfulness are ancient practices that are scientifically proven to calm your mind and your body. They lower the stress response and help you refocus your thoughts. Schedule time for meditation, prayer or mindfulness into your day. This activity could be a good part of your evening routine before bed. These practices allow you to release your thoughts and get outside of your head. When you focus on your breathing, the world around you or your faith, you're able to get past the immediate frustration and develop hope for the future.

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