If the 2016 election taught us anything it’s that we need to prepare for any outcome for this year’s election results. A recent survey by the American Psychological Association reported that 68% of adults in the U.S. said the election “is a significant source of stress in their life”, regardless of political affiliation. Social isolation from the pandemic has also put people in vulnerable positions to manage this stress. I myself have noticed that I am more irritable and less tolerant to conflict. Not having control and managing the unknown can be anxiety provoking, stressful and exhausting. Here are five ways that you can manage your stress and emotionally prepare for the election results:
1. Focus On What You Can Control
For lack of a better term, this year has been a dumpster fire. There has been so much going on around us that it can be easy to get lost in the negativity and spiral to a dark place of hopelessness. There are always going to be things that are out of our control, so our job is to focus on what we can control, so that we can manage our mental health and wellbeing.
You can’t control the election, but you can control whether you vote and who you vote for. You can’t speed up time to hear the results quicker, but you can practice coping skills that keep you present and bring you joy until you do find out. You can’t control what other people say or believe, but you can control your response to others to protect your mental health. You can’t control the political climate, but you can make sure to get enough sleep, move your body, and eat a balanced diet so that you have a better chance of managing what comes your way.
Shifting our focus to what’s within our reach and abilities is a crucial piece in remembering that we are not powerless.
2. Assess Your Needs and Create Boundaries
No matter what the outcome, there will be people who will be devastated and there will be people that will be celebrating. It’s important to take this time to bring awareness to what your needs might be.
Maybe you’ll want to take the day off from work, or maybe it’s helpful for you to stay active and busy. You may want to be in a safe place or with safe people that you can connect with, or maybe you’ll need some time to yourself to process. Will you need to take a break from social media and the news, or will it be helpful to stay connected in this way? You might also want to think about scheduling a therapy session for additional support, if you have this access.
Take some time now to plan ahead and put some boundaries in place so that you can honor your feelings and care for yourself. Flexibility within this will also be important as we can’t guarantee an outcome and may have delayed election results.
To learn more about creating boundaries, read this post What Are Boundaries And Why Are They Important? Learn To Set and Keep Boundaries.
3. Acknowledge and Accept Your Emotions
It can be hard to deal with strong emotions. Know that whatever you feel is okay and exactly how you’re supposed to feel. It’s important just to bring attention to your feelings and emotions and not to judge them. When we dismiss, judge or try to numb certain emotions, what we may not realize is that we are numbing them all – even the positive ones.
It’s okay to grieve, it’s okay to feel joy, it’s okay to feel fear, it’s okay to feel a mixture of all of those and more. Spend some time stepping into your feelings by talking with others, journaling, or simply just taking a moment to be.
As you practice acknowledging and respecting your emotions, also remember how important it is to honor and respect other’s as well.
4. Stay Present
As human beings we all have a tendency to spend either too much time in the future or too much time in the past. We perseverate on mistakes that we cannot change or events that we have no control over. Spending too much time in the past or the future increases stress and anxiety. Finding ways to stay in the present moment will be essential to coping until results are in.
If you find yourself overthinking or feeling anxious, try going for a walk outside and notice what you see, what you smell, and how it feels. You can also practice a few minutes of yoga, take some deep breaths, or mindfully enjoy one of your favorite foods.
Whatever you can do to use your senses and come back to the here-and-now will have an enormous impact on your mental health and disrupt that catastrophizing spiral.
5. Focus on Hope and Gratitude
Research shows that gratitude can help us feel more positive and disrupt those negative cycles. In fact, just the act of trying to think of something that you are grateful for can increase optimism. If we didn’t look for hope, it would be easy to give up, to lose any motivation, to feel powerless.
Nothing in the future is guaranteed and your hope is needed to cultivate the world that you want to live in. If we didn’t focus on hope, we would never be able to make change. Take a moment to accept your emotions, rest, and then get back to working towards that world that you believe in.
Article written by: Molly Ward, LCSW
Molly is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who works with teens, young adults, families, and couples providing support for substance use concerns, healthy body image, anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
She is trained in family systems and uses a collaborative approach to helping clients learn ways of managing life and relationship stress.
Molly joined Denver Metro Counseling in 2019.
Denver Metro Counseling is a group of clinicians who provide therapeutic support for teens, adults, parents, and families. We help people learn to build positive relationships through identifying and building boundaries with themselves and others.
Click on the links below for more information:
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