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Six ways to lower election stress

For nearly a year and a half, news and social media feeds have been filled with election talk, much of it negative, nasty and fierce: Rigged elections, immigrant deportation threats, sexual assault, corruption, foreign hacking. It’s enough to make even the most well-adjusted people feel anxious.

For people who have endured traumatic experiences, the talk can re-traumatize, therapists say. And for children who are absorbing and observing their parents’ tension and fears, school discussions can upset, too.

Your most important vote is for your own well-being. Your most important vote is for your own well-being.

With the election finally decided, behavioral health professionals say it’s especially important to pay attention to negative feelings that may arise. Unplugging, focusing on self-care, keeping a long-term perspective, and finding personal fulfillment offer healthy ways out of this stressful place, regardless of who won or lost.

The American Psychological Association recently released early findings from its upcoming Stress in America survey. The group found significant reported feelings that the election was a somewhat or very significant source of stress, regardless of party affiliation.

Of Republicans, 59 percent said the election was a somewhat or very significant source of stress. Of Democrats, 55 percent said they felt the same way. And among independents, 46 percent said the election was a somewhat/very significant source of stress.

Of note, people who frequently used social media were more likely to report that the election was a very or somewhat significant source of stress, about 54 percent, compared to 45 percent for others. Younger people were almost as likely as seniors to report feeling election stress. And people with disabilities were most likely to report election stress, with 60 percent saying it was a very or somewhat significant stressor.

Therapists at Chrysalis Health have these suggestions for managing the emotions and concerns of the election:

First, Remember that close to half of the electorate is likely to be disappointed immediately after the election, so sensitivity is in order whether your candidate wins or loses. Maintain your boundaries. If you don’t want to discuss politics with a neighbor or classmate, politely say so. “I’d rather talk about something else. Did you see any movies this weekend?” is one easy way to change the subject.

Second, pay attention to your body. Are your muscles tensing? Is your breathing speeding up, or does your stomach hurt while you’re on social media or watching results on TV? Take a break. Shut it down. It will still be there tomorrow.

Fresh air, sunshine, and exercise are some of the best antidepressants around, and they’re free! Take a walk. Better yet, take a walk with someone you love, and talk about fun things, or make future plans.

Take care of yourself by eating healthy meals and getting enough sleep.

If you’re really feeling overwhelmed, write it down. What are you most afraid of? Make a list. Take that list to your therapist and discuss why those worst fears are unlikely to materialize, and may never affect your family at all.

In the mean time, you can channel your energy and concerns into something positive, like volunteering for a good cause in your community, whether it’s a veterans’ support program or a food pantry.

Remember, regardless of who wins or loses, these strong post-elections emotions are temporary. They will subside, likely within a week, and life will go on.

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