Caring for Yourself During Election Season

According to the American Psychological Association, 68% of U.S. adults are stressed about the upcoming Presidential Election. If this election has you feeling stressed, anxious or depressed here are some ways to care for yourself during this tumultuous time. 

Be mindful of your physical stress cues. Our emotions and our body are interconnected; which means when we experience powerful emotions, we also experience a physical response. For example, after a long day you may have a terrible headache or tension in your shoulders. Developing awareness around our physical cues of pain, tension, or discomfort can help us deal with stress before it spirals out of control.
     Try this: Before you visit social media, check in with your body and emotions. What do you notice? After you close social media, check in with yourself again. Do you feel better or worse? If you feel worse, or are experiencing more tension in your body it’s likely a sign of unpleasant feelings. Practice deep breathing for a few minutes and check-in with yourself again. Hopefully you will feel better.
As you learn to tune into your body’s physical stress cues, you can be intentional in finding ways to care for yourself. 

Care for yourself by setting social media limits. When we are mindful of what makes us feel “good” and what makes us feel “stressed” we can set boundaries to protect our mental health. Care for yourself by setting limits. Perhaps you need to take a break for a few days or set a timer to only allow yourself to scroll through social media for 5 minutes. “Unfollow” or “Snooze” that family member or acquaintance whose posts may be triggering anger or stress. Give yourself permission to set boundaries and protect your emotional energy by acknowledging that there is a difference between being informed, and consuming information that is unproductive or toxic to your well being. 

Interpersonal Boundaries. It’s likely you have at least one person close to you, who disagrees with you politically. Although COVID has limited our ability for large, family gatherings, sometimes the people whom we disagree with the most are family members. If you find yourself in heated arguments with your partner or immediate family members and it’s negatively impacting your relationship, it’s time to set a boundary.
     Try this: Agree with the other person not to talk about politics for a designated period of time. If the other person makes an off-hand comment about a political candidate or tries to get you to engage, take some deep breaths, walk away, or remind them that you both agreed not to discuss politics for now.
It’s also helpful to think of the long term goals for your relationship, if political discussions don’t contribute to your long-term goals or improve your relationship it’s likely not worth dwelling on. Remember, while you can’t control what others say, you can work to control how you respond.  

Focus on what you can control. Feeling overwhelmed is often a symptom of anxiety. However, shifting our focus to what we can control can be helpful in managing our anxiety.
Try this: Take one minute to make a list of all the things you can control, or have a choice in. For example: What you wear, what you eat for breakfast, what route you drive; the list goes on.
We have power in more areas of our life than we are often aware. Grounding ourselves in our power to choose can help when we feel overwhelmed by big things in life that feel out of control. 

Get involved in things you are passionate about. Volunteering our time, energy and resources to organizations and causes we are passionate about is a wonderful way to combat stress and contribute to our community. If you found yourself thinking “why is no one talking about this?”, or “this is a really big problem, someone needs to do something” realize that YOU are that person. Your contributions to your neighbors and your community are invaluable, and can benefit your mental and physical health. 

This year has been challenging. Remember to take a breath and remind yourself that nothing lasts forever. Our emotions come and go and this season will end. If you need additional support in managing your stress or anxiety Nick Finnegan Counseling Center is here to help; call our office at 713-402-5046 if you are interested in meeting with one of our counselors.

By April Henderson, M.A., LPC