In addition to fierce traffic on Election Day, there are polling station lines, threats of terrorism, potential electronic tampering, voter mishaps, and the nauseating prospect that your preferred candidate will lose.
The anxiety has been building for months, and its consequences on your health could be more serious than its effects on the nation. Experts recommend taking a mindful approach for getting through the day—and coping with the results—in order to minimize the possibility of emotional overwhelm, illness and interpersonal conflict.
“Politics in general tends to increase people's stress levels—throw in this controversial election and you have a very unpleasant cortisol cocktail flowing throughout your body,” New York-based certified life coach Kristen Elyse told Metro.
“Too much cortisol, your body's stress hormone, can impair cognitive and gastrointestinal functions, and make you a generally not pleasant person to be around," she said. "You need to actively work towards reducing your stress so it does not control you.”
Elyse recommends a five-point coping plan to get you through the day and stay in optimal mental and physical fitness:
- Take action where you can and vote. One of the biggest causes of stress I see on a regular basis is not feeling like you are in control. Voting is an action that creates a greater sense of control.
- Turn off the TV and stop scrolling through social media. A lot of the time, we use TV and social media to confirm what we already believe, and when people don't agree with our point of view we get extra worked-up. Don't seek out provoking situations.
- Practice self-care. In times of high stress it's even more important. Go to a yoga class. Read a book. Go out to eat. Take a bath. Do something extra special for yourself that has nothing to do with politics.
- Treat others how you would want to be treated. Don't bash someone for having opposing views as you. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs and that doesn't make your belief wrong. Practice compassion towards yourself and others no matter who they are voting for.
- Stop borrowing trouble. One of the reasons this election is so stress-provoking is that we are creating doomsday scenarios as to what could happen if a certain candidate is elected. Practice mindfulness and focus on what you can do with what is happening right now (vote!). If and when a situation arises in the future, that will be your time to take action on it.
For some, the grief might be felt the strongest after the election.
“It certainly can trigger a trauma response,” said grief counselor Nesreen Mahmoud. “This can be a very significant loss for people if it goes one way or another. The important thing is to seek support from friends and be around a nonjudgmental person. And take action, because as in cases of loss and bereavement, not having the right outlets can deepen the pain and fear as with the loss of a loved one.
Amelia Barnes, a certified life, leadership and relationship coach, advises against dwelling on a negative outcome.
"How do we heal ourselves, our communities our country? Yes, you can hold onto your bitterness and rage," she said. "But grudges eat away at us, and people who hold grudges are never very happy."
She offers these observations:
- Take a few days (or weeks) to vent and commiserate with buddies.
- Yes, you will go through a grieving process, and it is not pleasant. (The typical stages of grief are shock, anger, sadness, denial/bargaining, acceptance.)
- Be self-compassionate and take good care of yourself.
"It’s OK to rant and rave for a few days but the time will come to step out of your pity party, fear based, victim place," she added. "Let's put our differences aside and work to both make America great and of course, we are stronger together," she said.