Just so we’re all clear, this post was written before election week. We don’t know who won, who’s winning, or what’s happening after Election Day. But, we’ve survived enough elections to know that a few outcomes are given: about half of us are excited and the rest are somewhere along the five stages of grief.
No matter what camp you’re in, it’s safe to say you’ve been derailed. Heck, I know I have. Every time I retreat to my productivity bunker, I get the feeling that I’m missing an important update. Intense elections don’t just put our political parties at odds with one another — they put our goals and attention at odds, too.
Well, a mind divided against itself cannot stand. It’s time to get back on track.
Managing and Limiting the Stress
Sometimes we get so invested in the lives of others that we forget about ourselves. While you’re busy getting engaged, it’s important to keep from losing yourself entirely. Elections and politics can be incredibly stressful. It’s worth investing in a few tools to help you manage it all.
To help you manage election-induced stress and distraction there are a few best practices we recommend following.
1. Take a Break from Social Media
When it comes to those who really revel in politics, social media is addictive in all of the wrong ways. In the wake of the election, it might not be that bad of an idea to put your social accounts on pause.
You can turn off all of the politically charged memes, the crazy aunts and uncles, presidents, former presidents, status updates complaining, and status updates asking everyone to get along. It may seem like nobody opts out, but you have the option to leave the discussion. And, judging from the reported drop in users listed in Facebook’s Q3 report, a few million people know it, too.
You don’t have to do it all at once, either. There are degrees of separation when it comes to social media. Instead of just jumping off the social media cliff, you can strategically place steps between you and your social accounts.
The easiest place to start is to simply delete all of your social apps from your phone. Don’t worry, deleting the app doesn’t mean deleting your account — it just means that you’re limiting your options to log on if you have to. In my experience, doing this will dramatically decrease the amount of time you spend on social media. Sure, you can just download the app again if you’re really having a craving, but at least the extra steps and time will give you a moment to consider it.
If you need a little more help getting over your social addiction — download our 66-day calendar and try turning it into a 66 Day Challenge. Every day you hit your goal, mark it down on the calendar. The sensation of seeing your success pile up might empower you to stick with it long enough to break your social media habits.
2. Set Some Boundaries
Sometimes setting boundaries with yourself isn’t enough. If you live with someone else or interact with someone who is just as politically charged as you, it’s easy to unintentionally derail one another.
Growing up, many of us were taught that there are at least three things you don’t discuss at the dinner table: religion, politics, and money. But who’s to say that those same rules shouldn’t apply elsewhere?
If the election or its results have you a little more than stressed, sometimes the best thing to do is to set boundaries for when it’s appropriate to discuss the election. Creating windows with your spouse, roommate or friends to talk politics and dive into the latest turn of events is a good way to limit your stress.
3. Change Your Environment
Our environment not only enables our habits, it helps create them.
If you keep a jar of candy by the couch and eat a piece every time you sit down, try putting the jar somewhere else. The next time you sit down, you might find your hand casually reaching for something that isn’t there.
Pay close attention to your habits around reading or watching the news or engaging in political dialogue and thoughts, and you might notice a pattern. Depending on how long the post-election transition plays out, it might help to keep a thought journal that helps you identify how those thoughts and emotions are triggered. That way, you’ll know what aspects of your environment need an adjustment or need to be avoided.
4. Exercise Your Body and Mind
Working out is a sure-fire way to destress and decompress post-election. Like Elle Woods rightly says in the movie Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.”
If you need to blow off some steam, take a walk, go for a run, lift some weights, or throw down with a punching bag (if you have one). But while you exercise your body, don’t forget to exercise your mind as well. Picking up a book or engaging with a good puzzle are great ways to not only distract you from your stress, but they will also sometimes put everything in a larger perspective.
Personally, I keep a few Rubik’s cubes by the couch for such an occasion, each with varying degrees of difficulty. That way, there’s always something nearby that I can work through just in case I need a good pick-me-up or distraction.
Stay Engaged after the Vote
I’m not going to kumbaya you. Every election matters. While it might be nice to say, “Well, it didn’t really matter anyway.” The truth is it really does. Whether it’s a local, midterm or presidential election, staying in tune, arming yourself with good information, and voting is the basic responsibility of every citizen. It bears real outcomes for real people. And depending on the outcome of the election, you might be compelled to do more.
Don’t waste that motivation.
For most of us, before we can get fully focused on our ONE Thing again, we have to deal with the energy or anxiety that the election season has built up in us. With this kind of energy, sometimes you just have to get it out of your system — forcing yourself to do other things may not be enough. The internal dilemma it creates can show up in your work and your productivity will suffer. To get back into a good frame of mind, find an outlet that can help satisfy your feelings in a healthy way.
The good thing about our political system is that there’s more than one way to make a difference.
The term “Election Day” is misleading. It makes us think that all the action and consequence is confined to a single event, and that’s not true. Regardless of what the result of a single election is, the true change comes in the time after — in the policies that get written. These, in turn, are shaped by people fighting for causes they care for.
If you’re really worried about a particular issue or area of policy, it might be worth seeking out a group that you can support. And believe me, they’ll be hungry for your participation. Non-profit, policy-focused organizations really struggle in the aftermath of major elections. Without the sense of urgency an election creates, they lose funding and volunteers. Now more than ever, they need your help.
Obsessing over the news, coming up with and feeding conspiracy theories, doom-scrolling on Twitter, or yelling at the TV isn’t going to help you or anyone else. It’ll get you jazzed up, but it doesn’t change anything.
Get out and get involved!
So, how are you doing? Do you feel equipped to rebound from a crazy election year? We sure hope so! As you work through these tumultuous times, we hope that you won’t forget about us. Let us know what techniques you personally use to help you get through the stress by posting on our Facebook page.