Were you feeling the stress and just drained emotionally during the election campaign? Many of us thought everything would get better once the election was over, but things only seem to have gotten worse.
No matter what side you are on, the recent election has been incredibly stressful on everyone. Just a brief look at your Facebook newsfeed is enough to tell you that people are deeply divided and upset for a whole variety of reasons.
Elections are always contentious, but this one in particular has gone far beyond policies and has many of us even questioning who we are as a nation. What's more, it has us reevaluating our friends, our families, and our futures. The emotional intensity is certainly stronger than anything I’ve seen in my lifetime during any previous election.
How to Cope
So how do you deal with this? We want to share not just some personal strategies around mindfulness and stress relief, but also some tips on how to help you bridge communications with friends, family, or co-workers you may be arguing with that are also causing stress. Here are 10 tips.
6 Tips for Personal Stress Relief
Tip #1 - Meditate
We all know this works, but we still often fail to do it. Let this post simply serve as a reminder to take 10-15 minutes a day and just relax.
Make sure you are in a quiet place, free from distraction. This might mean having to wait until other family members, especially children, have gone to sleep, or waking up early.
Definitely make sure your phone is off! :)
If you haven’t done much meditation before, you may find it hard to let go. Your mind may keep wandering back to whatever is upsetting you during the day. That’s OK. It takes practice. The key is to just keep at it on a daily basis. You’ll be amazed at how much it helps.
You can also aid the process by focusing on a soothing image. This could be imagining something with eyes closed or keeping your eyes open and staring at a calming physical picture.
Focusing on your breathing and counting deep breaths from 1-10, then starting over can really help you focus during the meditation as well.
Many areas in Seattle even have regular groups where you can meditate with others in the room. Do an Internet search or check ww.meetup.com to try and find some. If anything, your local coffee shop or yoga studio will probably know some good places.
Tip #2 - Talk It Out
Obviously, you can always talk to a licensed professional like the many here at Mindful Therapy Group, but often talking to a trusted friend and family member is enough.
The important thing is to find someone who is a good listener. When dealing with stress, we’re often not looking for answers right away, just someone to vent with. And if the other person is constantly adding their perspective, we may not be able to get it all out, or we may even get more worked up!
Best to find someone that can simply listen first. Then, later, you can move on to discuss what to do.
Tip #3 - Exercise
According to the Anxiety and Depressions Association of America, physical activity reduces stress. Exercise also keeps us healthy and can help us get our mind off our troubles.
This doesn’t have to be anything intense. You’re not trying to lose 20 pounds or become a body builder here. You simply want to focus on a healthy activity.
As little as 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, just 20 minutes a day, is enough. That could be running, yoga, or maybe even your children’s Wii sports if it gets you moving enough :).
Tip #4 - Take a Break from News & Social Media
Let’s face it. Most of the news broadcast these days is negative. Ask yourself, “Am I checking the news every 10 minutes to see an update on whatever negative story is going on right now?” If so, this is just causing you stress.
Remember, you can’t change what has already happened.
Social media is even worse because, not only does bad news spread fast, but people get into arguments online very easily that they wouldn’t get into were they standing face to face.
Giving yourself a much needed break from both these sources of stress can go a long way in maintaining mental health.
Tip #5 - Focus on the Good Things
Positive thinking really works in these situations! Many people get stuck in a rut by thinking about the same thing over and over again. If you’re going to do that, you might as well be thinking about something positive, right?
Do you like spending time with family, or participating in a sport, or reading? Whatever it is, spend your time focusing on that.
Even focusing on positive goals for the future can keep us moving in the right direction. Take a look at our previous post How Do You Track Progress in Your Life to help yourself get started.
Tip #6 - Start a Happiness Journal
Very connected to positive thinking, start a happiness or gratitude journal. What makes you happy in life? What are you grateful for?
Research shows that the simple act of writing these things down every day can make us happier.
We actually strongly recommend this is handwritten rather than typed, but it’s up to you. Every day, write down 3-5 things that you are happy or grateful for and we guarantee you’ll start feeling better, too.
In order to keep the habit going, it’s best to do it at the same time every day, like right before bed. Also, remember that it takes an average of 28 days to form a new habit, so you’ll really need to focus the first month. After that, it just becomes routine.
4 Tips to De-stress a Relationship
Tip #7 - Seek to Understand
All of the above are great tips for you, but what about your connection with others? Maybe you have an important friendship or family relationship that has been damaged due to recent disagreements. This doesn’t have to be about the election. It could be about anything.
Many of our disagreements come from the fact that we don’t understand the other person. In fact, we tend to start to demonize or “otherize” them, especially if we see their beliefs and values as in direct opposition to ours.
People are people and they all have reasons for what they do and how they think, reasons always rooted in their personal experiences and life histories.
Just like in our Talk It Out tip above, the key is to be a good listener first.
Once you find out why they think the way they do, you may still not agree, but it’s much easier to understand them and see where they’re coming from. So start by learning why they think the way they do rather than simply trying to explain why you think they’re wrong.
Which brings us to our next tip.
Tip #8 - Look for Common Ground
The fact is that we won’t agree with everybody on everything. That’s just not how people work.
Keep in mind that the point of any dialogue, especially around a contentious issue, is not to persuade the other side that you are right, but to find out ways that you can still live or work together even though you disagree.
What do you two agree on? And that may be as broad as the fact that you both want to remain friends or that you value each other as family members.
If that’s the case, then what steps do each of you need to take to make sure that happens?
Of course, there will need to be give and take here, so be prepared to compromise somewhere.
You can prepare yourself for a difficult conversation beforehand by thinking about what your goal is with the conversation and what compromises you’re willing to make in order to achieve that goal.
Tip #9 - Give Yourself Time as Needed
When emotions are high, the more primitive area of your brain takes over and you can no longer think rationally. This is called “emotional hijacking”.
To resolve an issue or to build a bridge of communication, both sides have to remain calm. If you or the other side is getting too heated in a discussion, it’s time to take a break and come back later. This could be 5 minutes or 5 days, depending on how much time either one of you need.
Just make sure not to continue any conversation where too much emotion is involved. Calm and reasoned discussions are the key to understanding and agreement.
Tip #10 - Involve a Mediator
Sometimes two people really just need help and that’s perfectly OK. This is why so many couples get counseling. They need a more neutral third party to help them through.
A mediator has no emotional ties to the situation at hand and can really help keep things calm.
Again, a mediator doesn’t have to be a professional. It can be another friend or family member who you know will be impartial.
Relax and Take Care
There you have it. 10 tips and techniques to help you deal with post-election stress and maybe even rebuild some bridges with others. Of course, if you still need help, we’re just a phone call away as well (425-640-7009). Take care and see you next post :).