5 self-care tips to get you through Election Day with your sanity

As Nov. 3 approaches, you may be feeling your shoulders creep closer to your ears each day. Your chest may be tight and your limbs tense, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Coverage of Election Day may be adding to your anxiety amid the coronavirus pandemic and other nerve-shaking events of 2020. As President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden prepare to face off next month and Georgians cast their votes for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s replacement, there are some general self-care tips you can employ to ensure you don’t feel overwhelmed.

“So much of this is completely out of your control but one thing you can control is how you take care of yourself,” Dr. Sherry Benton, a psychologist and founder/chief science officer of TAO Connect, told CNET.

Before you prepare to watch the results roll in on that big Tuesday night, here are five ways you can reduce your anxiety.

Practice meditation

Benton recommended meditation as a way to ease your nerves in the next month. The practice involves focusing on the present and being aware of how you feel in the moment.

“[W]hen we practice mind-body techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and focused intention tasks, we influence brain activity in regions that are involved in reducing psychological stress and increasing the parasympathetic response,” Valerie Knopik, PhD – Director of Research for Yoga Medicine, the Miller Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Purdue University told Psycom.net. "This can, over time and with practice, ease anxiety and increase mood.”

There are many different types of meditation and apps such as Headspace and Calm offer ways for you to practice the techniques.

Back off social media and limit news consumption

It can be difficult to do, but experts say it’s a good idea to reduce how much time you spend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media. It’s also important not to get caught up in watching the news.

“Avoid watching the 24-hour news channels all the time. Really limit your exposure and do a lot of self-care,” Benton told CNET.

Brittany LeMonda, a senior neuropsychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told HuffPost that people should attempt to “take some breaks from inundating with the media. We just have it at our fingertips and it can really be dangerous to have so much access 24/7, so really take some time to unplug.”

If you’re unable to stop yourself from opening apps on your phone, you can opt to delete them altogether and reinstall them after the election.

Try to steer conversations in a new direction

The impending election means many people you speak to may wish to discuss the candidates for light conversation. But if that makes you feel uneasy, you can politely share your preference for a different topic.

Dr. Valerie Braunstein, a licensed psychologist, told Good Day Philadelphia people can use “I statements,” like “I prefer not to talk about that," to make their feelings known.

Share your concerns with family and friends

Speaking to HuffPost, Natalia Skritskaya, a clinical psychologist and researcher with the Center for Complicated Grief at New York’s Columbia University, suggested people find a trusted friend or family member to share their feelings with. Aside from talking to people, you can also focus on happy thoughts by writing them down. A Chinese study published in 2018 showed that expressive writing led to reduced anxiety.

Embrace nature, exercise and therapy

Self-care can extend to treating your body right by being active, eating right and attending therapy when you feel you can’t cope on your own.

Medical director of New York City’s Field Trip Health Dr. Ben Medrano suggested taking charge by getting out into nature, exercising and seeing a therapist.

“All of these have been proven to make our emotional and mental health more resilient, particularly in stressful times,” he told Healthline. “They may even make us more open-minded to opposing perspectives. For many of my patients, I find that this current climate is a profound opportunity to contemplate a deeper sense of meaning in their lives. This could be spiritual, philosophical, or scientific.”

Perhaps all those things could be heightened by spending time outdoors. A 2019 study found that spending at least 20 minutes in nature led to lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol.