Whether we lean left, right, or center, there’s one thing unifying Americans as we barrel toward November: Our collective angst about the election. Even in 2019, 62% of adults said our political climate was a source of stress. (And at that point, we had no idea what 2020 had in store for us!) With so much on the line this year, many of us are—perhaps justifiably—losing our cool.
For the past several months, I’ve been anxious about all things election-related, getting caught up in the drama of fresh political outrage served hot daily. But gradually, I’ve realized that the hue and cry around the election hasn’t just been stressing me out—it’s actually degrading my mental health. I’ve noticed that the more I’ve focused on politics, the angrier, more irritable, and more depressed I’ve become.
That’s why I recently decided to take action to turn down the volume of my heightened emotions. (The irony isn’t lost on me that, just like a politician, I have a five-point plan for doing so.) Here’s how I’m working to calm my mind and refresh my spirit this election season.
Getting off social media
I’ll come clean and say it: I’m a Facebook addict. The dopamine drip of checking my notifications has me hooked. But there’s definitely a dark side to spending excessive time on social media—and for me in particular, on Facebook. I have a tendency to get worked into a tizzy each time someone posts something I vehemently disagree with (which is often). To keep these frustrations to a minimum, I’ve committed to getting off Facebook for 40 days, which started on September 27 and will end on November 5.
Even though my “Facebook Lent” is far from over, I’ve already seen a difference in my outlook. When I don’t expose myself to the loud opinions of 250 digital friends, there’s far less to ruin my day. I’ve noticed that my feelings toward certain people in my life have come back around to more positive and less antagonistic. I no longer dread meeting the neighbor at the mailbox for fear that we’ll have to rehash something we discussed in a feed.
I do miss the chance to check in on friends and acquaintances via a quick and easy platform, but the lack of online connection is driving me to connect more with friends in person by meeting up for lunch or a happy hour. Research shows this is better for mental health anyway.
Limiting news consumption
Reading the news is such a double-edged sword. I want to stay informed, but it seems like keeping up with headlines inevitably sucks me down a rabbit hole of indignation or sadness. I’m no news junkie, but leading up to the election, I’ve decided to reign in my consumption even more than usual. My parameters: a quick scan of headlines once a day and one news article to read. With as much as current events saturate our culture, I’m pretty sure I won’t miss anything life-changing.
For years, I’ve made it a practice to write down five things I’m thankful for each day. It never fails to ground me in what’s good about my life. Lately, though, I’m working to up the ante of my thankfulness. In addition to my written exercise, I’ve started a gratitude meditation that guides me through giving thanks for even the smallest blessings. Even on days when I feel frustrated to the max by politics, I finish my meditation thinking deep thoughts about how amazing it is just to be alive.
Getting out of town
What’s one way to quell the stress of political turmoil? Get the heck out of Dodge! (Or, in my case, metro Phoenix.) Our family was fortunate enough to take up some friends on an offer to stay in their mountain cabin for the first week of November. The plan is to vote by mail, then get off the grid for a few days. I firmly believe leaving town during the most intensely contentious days of the year will spare me a lot of mental anguish.
Visualizing and accepting the future
There’s a good chance that the one candidate I’m voting for will lose this election. I don’t want to be mentally unprepared for this very possible reality, so I’ve been spending some time visualizing the future with the candidate I don’t want to win. I remind myself that, even under these circumstances, life will go on
Pre-accepting something undesirable reminds me that I have a choice in how I respond to these very stressful times. My peace doesn’t come from who’s in the Oval Office—it comes from knowing that God is in control. No matter what happens this November 3, we’ll all get through it. When all is said and done, I want to look back and see that I got through it as peacefully as possible.