As a psychotherapist and coach, I can say with certainty that many people are more stressed now. The constant chaos around who said what outrageous thing and who is telling the truth is like a thick veil of ugliness weighing heavily on all of us. Maintaining mental health is a bigger project now than it usually is.
Here are 7 ways to cope:
1. Skip or limit the news. I’ve become a little addicted to the chaos. OK … more than a little. I open the internet and seek out what’s happening and who said what outrageous thing today. I crave the intensity I feel about people and issues. It’s like watching a train wreck we can’t quite look away from, but we can. Is there really anything more we need to know about either candidate right now?
2. Increase awareness of our own behavior. I was watching a live report from CNN on Facebook news yesterday, and people were commenting on the candidates and their perspectives. The comments were so raw and hateful (on both sides). It would be hard to imagine these people saying the same things in front of their kids or friends. On social media, we become boldly anonymous in the most public places and as disembodied voices create more negativity than we may really even feel. It’s a feeding frenzy of ugliness. We need to find our way back to civility and mutual respect. That’s better for us and our children.
3. Counteract the ugliness. The brain operates better with regular practice of kindness, gratitude, seeing beauty and finding humor. Take time to point out the positive, share it and also take in the good. Reach out to others who need this even more than they realize. Humor helps mental health, did you see Saturday Night Live’s parody of the debate? Very funny: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/donald-trump-vs-hillary-clinton-third-debate-cold-open/3333588
4. Change and limit our participation in political discussion. How many times do we need to hear the same tired talking points? I’ve made up my mind on the candidate, but today I listened, sincerely listened, to my trainer who has an opinion directly opposite of mine. Rather than choking each other, we both listened. It was good. We also limited the conversation to five minutes.
5. Realize your power and vote. There is a real potential of feeling so worn out and like we’ve already voted because we’ve been over and over the issues and personalities. News flash: you didn’t vote yet but you should. Taking action balances the passive stance that we’ve had to take while being bombarded at every turn with someone’s political message. In taking action, you reclaim yourself.
6. Consider early voting. Reduce the stress of the impending E-Day. Where I live, early voting started on Oct. 24. In downtown Chicago, it started earlier than that. This year, we all must prioritize voting. When we do, it will help give some closure on the whole issue, at least until the election is over.
7. Be kind to yourself. This has been a long, hard slog. Go easy, take walks, try to calm yourself. This is affecting all of us, and we need to balance that with less pressure. Take mindful moments. Create times where you shut everything down, including your own thinking, to just observe your breath. Watch and listen to it go in and out of your body. The world is shouting right now, but you don’t need to listen. Meditation can help you find a way to yourself and have stillness even in chaotic times.
We’re choosing and creating our world here. Let’s choose wisely.
Diane Wilson, LCPC, BCN is a coach, psychotherapist and board-certified neurofeedback practitioner in private practice in downtown Chicago. She writes The Good Brain blog http://www.grimardwilson.com/gb-333blogspotcom/