If you've had a knot in your stomach for weeks and haven't been able to sleep lately, you're not alone — you may have election stress. According to a Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association of over 3,400 U.S. adults, 68% say that the 2020 election is a significant source of stress in their life. That's up from 2016, when 52% said the same thing.
And around Election Day, you're probably feeling the most on-edge of all — especially knowing we might not know who wins the presidential race until weeks later. Luckily, there are plenty of expert-approved ways to keep your anxiety in check as you wait for the results.
"If you are feeling scared, enraged, upset, or otherwise distressed, recognize when you've had enough and consider what you can do to feel better," Marni Amsellem, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist, tells Bustle. "When you realize you're hitting an uncomfortable level of discomfort, surround yourself with calm. Turn off the TV, put your phone away, and don't go online for a little while. Turn on some music, take a bath, take the dog for a walk, or listen to a meditation app. Breathe. Whatever it is that brings you calm, take that moment of calm unapologetically."
If you're having trouble finding your calm, here are 13 expert tips to cope as you wait for results.
1. Stick To Your Routine
The pandemic put a wrench in many of our routines, but if you've picked up a new one, stick with it as you're waiting for results. "I tell my clients not to let the election overtake them," licensed professional counselor Shemiah Derrick tells Bustle. "There are a multitude of things that one individual person cannot control. I am urging them to stick to their routine — go to work, go to the gym, make dinner, and do whatever they would on a normal day. This can help to give them control and provide a distraction over something they cannot."
2. Distract Yourself
When your mind starts racing, have a plan for how you'll handle it. "If your anxiety is an expert, it has you going way in advance, so to combat this you will need tools to break the cycle of anxious thoughts," Mendi Baron, LCSW, tells Bustle. "One of the popular ones is to picture a large red stop sign whenever anxiety-provoking thoughts enter your head. Other options include changing scenery, engaging in enjoyable physical or mental outlets, or engaging in self-care like a bath or massage or listening to music."
3. Limit News & Social Media Coverage
Avoiding the results may feel like the last thing you want to do during an important election, but it may be in your best interest to scale back on media consumption if it's making you feel worse. "Set regular brief times for updates and stick to those times," Ken Yeager, PhD, LISW, and director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience (STAR) Program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Social media counts, too. "Once you have voted you can only await the outcome," licensed professional counselor Tabitha Westbrook, LMFT, tells Bustle. "Steering clear of the news, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even Snapchat, can help reduce feelings of anxiety for some people."
4. Have Some Fun
Make some time to treat yourself in the best way you know how, whether it's going for a run or baking bread. "Doing things you find enjoyable can take the focus of the election and help your body and mind calm down," Westbrook says.
5. Cool Off, Literally
If your anxiety is getting worse, Westbrook recommends placing a cold rag or bag of frozen food from your forehead to under your nose. "This triggers the mammalian dive reflex and tells your brain it needs to slow down," Westbrook says. "With the brain [slowed] down, your body chemistry also slows down and the stress hormones begin to reabsorb into your blood stream."
6. Be In The Moment
With so much uncertainty around this year's election results, it's hard not to think about what will happen.But staying in the moment can help calm you down. "When your thoughts are getting to you, try and intentionally focus on the here and now," Baron says. "Scents, sounds, smells, feeling can all stimulate your mind positively and help you break free from anxiety."
7. Take A Break To Meditate
If you're limiting news and social media consumption, try meditating in between updates. "As you are awaiting the election results, consider taking some time away from your television and social media feed to engage in some mindfulness meditation," Dr. Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, M.D., M.S., tells Bustle. "You really must focus on your breathing technique to enable yourself to start feeling calm and relaxed."
8. Consider Being Around Like-Minded People
You don't have to go through it alone — even if that means hosting a Zoom party. "Like-minded anxiety loves company, so watch with friends," Amsellem says. "If you're not able to do that, share this experience over social media or over phone or text, if that feels comfortable."
Psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman, M.D. agrees. "Watch results with people who are on your side," she tells Bustle. "This way you can avoid stressful arguments, and you can have people to cheer or cry with you when the results are in."
9. Try This Yoga Move To Find Peace: Seated Twist To Seated Breathing
Heather Peterson, Chief Yoga Officer at CorePower Yoga, tells Bustle that this move will help you find peace today. According to Peterson:
"Sit crossed-legged with [your] right leg in front. Place [your] left hand in front and right hand behind. Inhale, lengthen your spine, exhale Twist. Breathe and twist two more times. Come back to center and reverse your legs so your left leg is in front. Repeat to the left side.
Come back to center, place your hands on your thighs palms down and close your eyes. Inhale silently and say 'peace'. Exhale silently and say 'calm'. Repeat for up to three minutes. Keep coming back to your breath and your mantra of Peace and Calm."
10. Try This Move To Quiet The Body: Tripod to Tripod Headstand
Peterson also recommends Tripod to Tripod Headstand to keep anxiety in check. Here's how to do the move, according to Peterson:
"Start in a Squat position: Plant your hands under your shoulders and spread your fingers wide and bend your elbows straight back. Plant the top of your head in front of your hands to make [a triangle with equal sides] Bring your knees onto your elbows and lift your feet off the floor as you press more into your hands than your head and draw your belly in.
Inhale: Bring both knees into your chest in a tuck position and find your balance with your hips over your shoulders as you draw your shoulders up away from your ears and press equally through your hands.
Exhale: Extend both legs up and draw your tailbone up as you press through your flexed feet.
Breathe 3-5 breaths then return both legs to the tuck position and lower your knees to your elbows."
11. Try This Trick To Change Your Thinking
If you're going in circles with constant "what if"s, try this. "One fast way to reduce anxiety is to place a "so" in front of every "what if" statement," Dr. Wyatt Fisher, Licensed Psychologist in Denver, Colorado, tells Bustle. "So, if you're nervous about Trump winning and playing out scary scenarios in your head, try saying to yourself, "so what if Trump wins?"
12. Try Mindful Breathing
If mediating isn't your thing, you can try changing breathing. "If you feel you are getting more anxious as the day goes on, intervene directly on your physiology," Joshua Klapow Ph.D, Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor of Public Health at University of Alabama at Birmingham and co-host of The Web radio show, tells Bustle. "Slow deep breathing, as silly as it sounds is one of the most powerful ways to keep your anxiety regulated over the course of the day.
13. Play Out The Worst-Case Scenario
It may be helpful to confront your fear — in your head, at least. "Play out the worst-case scenario and how you would handle it," Fisher says. "Usually, when we play out our worse fear like this we see the end result isn't really that bad after all. Also, we can brainstorm how we would handle it if the worst-case scenario did occur so we feel prepared."
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