Are you feeling stressed over the upcoming election or anxiously awaiting official results? If so, you’re not alone.
Nearly 70% of Americans report feeling apprehensive and nervous over the 2020 presidential election. That’s up from 52% in 2016! There’s now even a term for it — Election Stress Disorder (ESD). Why are so many of us suffering from ESD?
As Dean Gail Stearns rightfully states, “That anxiety you’re feeling right now — it’s not your fault.”
To help you navigate ESD over the next few days — and weeks — please enjoy the video and resources below to help you cope with election anxiety.
- Acknowledge your fears, anxieties and concerns.
Your emotions are real, so honor what you feel. Write them in your journal. Share them with others. Invite creativity. Discover, imagine, engage your hopes and fears, the beauty and
ugliness of our world. Write, read, paint, sing, dance, soar.
- Take a breather
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe some more. Take time in your day—at any moment—to take five to ten, slow, deep breaths. Doing so will regulate your body’s “stress-response” system and boost your “relaxation-response” system to feel calm and centered.
- Be adaptive, not reactive to change
If your outside world feels “out of control,” focus on your inner world. The concept of “neuroplasticity” reveals how you have the ability to rewire and retrain the brain to be more adaptive to change. Focus on what you can manage. Let go of what you can’t. Contemplative practices—such as meditation, practicing gratitude, or mindful breathing—empower you to be less reactive to change and uncertainty.
- Self-care isn’t selfish
Self-care is an essential form of solace to help you manage stress and cope with anxiety. Be sure to take your MEDS (Meditate, Exercise, Diet & Sleep). See your health and wellness holistically—mind, body, and spirit. Science affirms that practicing physical, emotional and spiritual self-care can equally strengthen your immune system and increase resilience.
- Focus on the present, not “future fear”
In times of change and uncertainty, it’s natural for your brain to “catastrophize” or spin “worst-case scenarios”. Recognize that certain things are simply out of your control—the weather, other people’s behaviors, the future in general. Focus your awareness on something real, enduring, or beautiful in your present surroundings. Look up often. Discover the wonder and joy that are always there and forever present.
- Unity in community
Now more than ever, we need to show up for one another. Listen compassionately. Practice empathy. Message the people you care about. Connect, even virtually, to a community that is helping people in need in your area. Make a plan to be with others on “election night” or the day the results of the election become known.
- Unplug, wisely.
Embrace social media only if it inspires you. While staying aware of developments, don’t let “election anxiety” overwhelm you. Forgive yourself when and if it does. Block notifications and the constant barrage of news and social media that heighten your anxiety. Even better, take a 24-hour “social-media” break every week. You will notice the difference.
- Practice kindness. Practice gratitude. Practice hope.
There is a natural tendency in times of chaos and confusion—especially during election cycles—to view “the other” as a potential threat. Stand with those most vulnerable and who suffer the brunt of prejudice, bigotry and fear. Remember we are in this together.
- Embrace your spiritual, religious, humanist, cultural, or other traditions.
Find strength and solace in traditions, texts, rituals, practices, upcoming holy times and seasons. Pray, meditate, reflect, silently, through song, in readings, through ancestors.
- Remember you are not alone. Ever.
Remember that fear is not the final word. Take this period as an opportunity for inner exploration and opening your awareness. You are surrounded by care and support. Reach out. Remember the long view of history, the rhythms and cycles of nature, the invisible threads that connect us all. Humanity has endured much worse. We will prevail.
Learn to embrace this time of confusion and change as a transitional state of opportunity—a sacred gift to create, innovate, refresh, and renew. This unprecedented historical moment may provide newness in the future we never thought possible. The more we trust in our collective power to endure and persist, the more we live fully into the goodness that awaits.
Please utilize these on-campus and online resources to help you navigate change and nurture calm.
Stay Safe. Stay Strong. Stay Calm. Stay Connected.
Dr. Jay Kumar
Director, Contemplative Practices & Well-being, Fish Interfaith Center