5 tips to manage anxiety during the election
Posted September 28, 2016
If you’ve recently been waking up clammy from nightmares, experienced insomnia or having digestive problems, then you may have election-based anxiety to blame.
Slate reported that numerous psychologists told the publication that “ the election casts a shadow” on many of their patients.
“Therapists find themselves helping their patients through a process that feels less like an election than a national nervous breakdown,” wrote Michelle Goldberg for Slate.
There are some anxiety-related issues sparked by the election that can’t be easily addressed or solved, such as what Slate reported as the expressed concern from people of color about the election’s results on police violence.
But if you find the election is making you anxious and fearful, here are some general tips that may be of use:
Acknowledge your anxiety
Doing otherwise, or feeling guilty of frustrated by it, can only make it worse, Steve Orma, a San Francisco-based psychologist and career coach, told Fast Company.
“Remind yourself that this is a natural reaction the mind and body has in situations of uncertainty,” Fast Company noted. “There's nothing wrong with having that feeling, but the first step is to acknowledge it.”
Communicate that anxiety
Talk to friends and family about your feelings, and let them know if there’s any way to help, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) recommended.
Keep a journal or speak to a physician or therapist for professional help.
Learn to self-soothe
Anxiety-inducing situations induce the “flight or fight response,” but unless it’s an immediate, truly life-threatening scenario, acting on that impulse isn't helpful. Psychology Today suggested calming yourself down from your body’s reactions by trying these methods:
- Use deep-breathing techniques, as described here, to slow your heart rate and relax yourself.
- Practice “reassuring and realistic” self-talk, such as telling yourself, “I will get through this,” or “this feeling will pass.”
- Tighten and release muscles, as this video demonstrates.
Watch your diet. Caffeine and alcohol, for example, have been found to exacerbate anxiety, Psychology Today stated.
Caffeine consumed in even small amounts can “cause anxiety, trigger panic attacks and increase feelings of nervousness and irritability,” and lead to more physical symptoms such as trembling and shaking. But cut down caffeine consumption slowly, as going cold turkey can lead to withdrawal symptoms.
ADAA also recommends not skipping any meals, to make sure meals are well-balanced, and keep healthy, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
Exercise as well. ADAA recommended per week 2½ hours of moderately intense activity such as brisk walking, 1¼ hours of vigorous intensity such as jogging or swimming, or a mix of the two.
Turn your anxiety into a motivator
People are feeling ground down by the election, to where the demoralization has pushed them into inaction.
“I think people are paralyzed by it,” psychologist Heather Silvestri told Slate. “I see it in myself, too.”
As psychologist Julie Norem told the Atlantic: “If you feel anxious, you need to do something about it.”
Inc.com recommended seeing fear “as a Call to Action.” For fears outside of your control, such as an economic downturn, write down the exact details of a specific plan you’ll use to adapt. Then set the plan aside and forget about it, as “you’ve done what you can; it's time to move on.”
ADAA recommended getting involved in the community, volunteering for a support network and a break from stress.
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