Are you feeling stressed and a little depressed about the vitriol and division that have defined our presidential campaign over the last year? The American Psychological Association says, yes… many of us are. In a survey, the APA found that more than half of Americans – 52% from all party affiliations – say that the campaign is a pretty significant source of stress.
As a former television news anchor/reporter, it is in my DNA to stay informed and up-to-date on news around the world, so I am often glued to national news on television, my phone or on social media. But that information overload, during one of the most contentious and painful presidential campaigns in recent history, elevates our stress.
I’m a pretty easygoing person but this election year has made me more anxious than ever because of its animosity and negativity. Sometimes the arguing between political pundits is like hearing someone’s fingernails screeching down a chalkboard – the bluster, from both sides, reaching a piercing pitch. It’s so disturbing that I talk back to the television, saying “Just, STOP it!”, as if they can hear me on the other side of the screen. (Have you been doing that, too?) I have this unrequited longing for less partisanship and more reasonable, respectful conversations.
So, I mute the television’s volume to lower my blood pressure and increase my sanity. Many of us seem to be feeling the same way. In my lifetime, I have never felt so emotionally distressed by any election.
I take it so personally, in part, because I believe in unity, not division. I am a lover, not a fighter, and I want our nation to have more civil discussions, in spite of our differences.
Since that’s out of my control and yours, how do we relieve some of the stress and take a break from the constant highs and lows of this campaign? (Things are ratcheting up again, with less than two weeks to go to election day, as one “October Surprise” after another generates more friction and chaos.)
First, I heard a Pastor say recently, in reference to this acrimonious political climate, “Bring light into the darkness. What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” So, that’s a good place to start:
1. Focus on What Matters Most During the Presidential Campaign: More love and kindness
A little love and kindness can remind us that there is more “good” in the world, than “bad.” More that connects us, than divides us, regardless of our political affiliation. Concentrate on our common humanity, the things that matter most to all of us, such as our love for family, love for friends and compassion for others.
You can show that with more random acts of kindness, to boost your mood and the spirits of others. The ‘acts’ don’t have to be life-changing.
Return to “treating people the way you want to be treated” this election year. Don’t let politics change you.Click to tweet
Perhaps, it’s a “Hello and, how are you?” to a stranger. Helping an elderly neighbor with a chore. Having a genuine conversation with a work colleague and offering to help them with a project. Or, bringing in a box of doughnuts or other treats to co-workers.
Maybe it’s a thank you to someone whom you may have taken for granted. Or, a re-connection with a friend or loved one that could make their day. You, like me, have probably also ‘paid it forward’ to someone before. Do it again! More love eases our current stress.
I remember, once, paying it forward to a woman in line at a grocery store. As the charges added up, she started returning items to the cashier that she couldn’t afford. I could sense her distress and that made me sad. So, as she rolled her cart out of the store, I bought the remaining items, hurried out to the parking lot and handed her the items she had to leave behind.
I was surprised at how touched she was by my gesture. She said that she and her children lived on a tight budget and that she struggled financially. But, this wasn’t about me. It was simply a way for me to let her know that I felt her pain and I cared. My divorced mother of six children faced similar financial burdens when I was young, so I could see a glimpse of my mother’s stress in her eyes. Let’s see each other through more loving eyes, with the light of understanding relieving the darkness of political discord.
And, don’t forget acts of kindness at home. A study at McGill University in Montreal, referenced in this Huffington Post article, shows that stress can affect our ability to feel compassion. So, remember to give a hug, a kiss or a note of praise to the people you love, every day. Or, plan a family day of community service, or a day of helping a neighbor, to teach your children the importance of caring for others. Our children are watching us closely in this prickly political climate, so this is a time to teach love and lessons of how people should treat each other.
When we replace our election stress with kindness and good deeds, we remind ourselves that there is so much that is beautiful in our lives, and that will remain true long after the election.
2. “Unplug” To Decrease Stress During Presidential Campaign
Honestly, it’s hard for me to do it, but we need to limit our consumption of anxiety-inducing political news, during this stressful period, on tv, radio, our computers and cell phones. We can power it all down more often or, turn on more inspiring or entertaining fare. Right now, I have HGTV on, as I write this article, because I love to decorate. It ‘colors my world’ and makes me smile. What show does that for you?
Or, if you’re on your phone or computer, listen to inspirational, educational or motivational podcasts or videos that can edify and entertain you. Here is a head start for you. Watch this touching Random Acts of Kindness video. And, remember, the election cycle is almost over. Kindness is never-ending.
3. Avoid Presidential Campaign Arguments to Relieve Stress
I admit that we have had some tense conversations in my family during this election year, because we, like many Americans on both sides of the political aisle, believe that there is much at stake in this presidential campaign. But I have also learned when to stop the discussions. Nothing means more to me than the people I love, so when I start feeling that the tensions could hurt my relationships long-term, I just don’t talk about politics anymore.
No political climate should have power over relationships that matter most. Don’t compromise love for politics.Click to tweet
A mental health expert, in this U.S. News & World Report article, drives home that point. “Long after the election results are in, we need good relationships with our family and friends,” says Dr. Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist and author from Beverly Hills, California. “Put a stop now to any damage your arguments have caused, and try to repair the damage.” Is one more fiery debate, that could strain important relationships, really worth it?
4. Identify Distractions to Relieve Presidential Campaign Stress
When you’re still absorbing too much of the stress from all the political news – instead of succumbing to it – identify activities that distract you and relieve stress. Start to exercise. Take a walk outside. Dance around the house. Turn on a fitness video. Play a game with your kids. Or, turn off everything and pray or meditate to steady your nerves and calm your mind.
And, repeat something that I say often in times of stress or trouble. It takes the weight off immediately. “This too shall pass.” Somehow, it always does. Have confidence in that undeniable fact of life. There is always light on the other side of darkness.
5. Why Stress? Concentrate on the Things You Can Control
So, let’s be real, here. What can we truly control except our reactions to circumstances and our own choices and decisions? The longer I live, the more I realize that I can’t control anything outside of myself. That is actually quite ‘freeing’, in many ways. Less stressful.
So, as hard as it can be to do, why not concentrate on the things that we can control during this presidential campaign? To me that includes exercising our right to vote. My 80-year-old mother, with the wisdom of years, has reminded me often, during this political season, to ‘just breathe’ and ‘go vote.’
There is power in voting, no matter how disillusioned you may feel this election year. Use it. Raise your voice!Click to tweet
Truthfully, there is no perfect political candidate, nor were there any in the past. Don’t let the politics and the process silence your voice. I feel that if I don’t vote, I lose my right to complain about what politicians do or how they run the country.
I also exercise my right to vote to honor our ancestors, people of all races who fought, bled and died to give us the freedom to walk into a polling place, on election day, and take part in an incredible cornerstone of our nation’s democracy. I am proud to live in a country that lets me have a voice in choosing our leaders.
In the end, election day will come and go and the world will keep spinning. We will still get up and go to work the next day. We will take our kids to school. We will attend our functions and family gatherings. And life will go on.
So today, I hope you will join me in my quest to stop stressing. Have confidence in tomorrow, faith in all that is good in humanity and a belief that our nation will overcome a divisive presidential campaign, as it has done at other times in our history.
As someone who believes that love prevails, I pray, too, that we will rely on the better angels in all of us: respect for all, even during our differences in this election, and a peaceful outcome, no matter who wins. We may need some time to heal and address the underlying bitterness and dissension, but we are a better nation when we are united and not divided.
Do you agree? And, do you have some other ways to relieve presidential campaign stress?