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10 Ways to Cope With Anxiety During Election Uncertainty

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Editor's Note

This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.

Last week was a roller coaster of emotions, uncertainty and doubt. There were a few times where I convinced myself that cable news was designed to present the most sensationalized, anxiety-inducing election updates possible. Social media wasn’t any better. While my timeline was filled with hilarious, satisfying memes, I sensed we were all holding our collective breath.

While the race isn’t 100% officially called, it looks like we have a new president-elect. Some are feeling anger and grief, while others are celebrating. Still, what connects us is the uncertainty that accompanies such a significant and ongoing shift. In a year already marked by unpredictability, the prospect of having a new commander-in-chief is bound to keep us up at night, regardless of who we selected on our ballot.

If you’re struggling to adjust to current and pending transitions, you’re not alone. Here are 10 ways to cope a little better in what feels like a never-ending election cycle.

1. Be where your breath is.

The first thing I do when anxiety creeps in is hold my breath. This typically occurs when entering a freeway or seeing a “we need to talk text.” What helps is noticing how my breath feels as it enters and exits my body. Is it warm? Is it cold? Are my inhales sharp? Can I feel air filling my belly? I invite you to ask yourself these questions to feel a bit more grounded.

2. Ask for help.

It seems simple, but it can be easier to isolate than to seek out the support we need. Whether it’s a therapist, psychiatrist, family member, partner or friend, reach out to someone you can trust and let them know how you’re feeling about the state of our country.

3. Shut down the apps.

If you’re like me, you’ve stayed up late doom-scrolling on social media several times these past weeks. Or, maybe you’ve just been glued to election updates on YouTube. Fact: the news is never-ending, and there’s always going to be a different angle or another upsetting update. I removed a few apps from my phone at the beginning of the month, and I’ve noticed I’ve been getting better sleep. Which leads me to my next point.

4. Get rest.

I live with bipolar disorder, so it’s imperative I hit the sack around the same time each night. If not, my mood is adversely impacted, and things can go downhill from there. If you’ve been staying up late because you’re worried you’ll miss something, it’s time to rework your bedtime habits. I’ve found it useful to get to bed an hour or two after we get our daughter to sleep. This means I’m typically brushing my teeth when she is, and doing low energy activities (read: this isn’t a great time for a cardio workout).

5. Try meditation.

I’ve been using the Balance app recently, and it’s awesome for folks at any experience level. The meditations are personalized. If you’re going to give it a shot, try the SOS meditation. It’s perfect for a time right where so much can feel out of control.

6. Go outside.

If you can, engage in a socially distanced trip around your neighborhood, at the local park or even just in the parking lot in front of your home. Your sore eyes — burnt out from all the screen gazing — will thank you.

7. Balance your plate.

Real talk, I’m writing this after finishing a combo meal from Wendy’s. Still, I’ve actually felt better these last few days because I’ve introduced more vegetables into my diet. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing, just see if you can get one healthy thing on your plate or in your cup each day. Food impacts our mood: see sugar, carbs, energy drinks, etc. And if you’re struggling with this, it’s OK. You’re doing the best you can.

8. Make an “I can decide” list.

This is something I talked with a friend about the other day. Basically, take time to notice the few small things you can do that are totally in your control. For instance, you can decide to take a shower. You can decide to text a friend. You can decide to put on a funny Netflix movie (I recommend “Holidate”). Just because so much feels out of control right now, doesn’t mean you have no agency over your life. What will you decide to do today?

9. Clear out your calendar.

Can you take a sick day or a vacation day? Do you have any absences left for classes this semester? Are there any meetups or appointments you can reschedule? If overwhelm is negatively impacting your physical and/or mental health, give yourself permission to cancel a few things, so you can do one of the other items on this list. It’s OK to advocate for your needs and ask for what you need.

10. Lean on community.

If you haven’t yet, check out the variety of community offerings here on the Mighty. It can be really freeing and calming to see others’ stories and be reminded that you’re not alone.

Though it feels like the surface beneath us is constantly shifting, we are not powerless. There are so many ways for us to get centered, reset or just sign off for a day or two. No, we don’t know what the next 24 hours will bring, but we get to decide how we’ll respond. Do something good for yourself today. Be the president of your own mental wellness.

For more on the 2020 U.S. Elections, check out The Mighty’s politics contributor stories.

Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash

Originally published: November 9, 2020
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