It seems that almost everywhere we turn right now—social media, the news, our friends and family—there’s a heated conversation happening around politics. And with the 2020 election being perhaps one of the most heated and contentious elections to date, it’s understandable.
But it gets to be problematic when one political tweet or an ill-timed political meme is enough to ramp up our stress levels and incite fits of anger. Here we look at a few simple, practical actions you can take to boost your resilience and more skillfully navigate the turbulent political climate happening right now.
Election Stress in 2016 & 2020
Coincidentally, a new term emerged during the 2016 election: election stress disorder. It seems to have been first publicly coined by psychologist and author, Steven Stosny, in reference to the heightened amount of stress, anger, and anxiety he saw in his patients. The election was disrupting their lives and they were seeking help (1).
Fast forward to today and the widely-used term (not an actual medical diagnosis) seems to encapsulate what a lot of us are feeling around the 2020 election. We want to stay engaged and informed, but we feel overwhelmed and stressed by the vortex of the 24/7 news cycle.
As a result, it can become a lot harder to be present and engaged with everything else in our life that matters—our well-being, that team project at work, and spending quality time with the ones we love. While we can’t control the election outcome, there are a few actions we can take to make the rest of the election season a bit more bearable.
7 Tips for Coping with Election Stress
Election stress can affect us the same way any other stress can. Moreover, it can lead to everything from sleep issues and anxiety to weight gain and memory impairment (6). Here are five tips to help you de-stress and find your calm through election day and beyond.
1. Edit Your Feed
With the surge in 2020 election content output from your favorite news sources to the friends you don’t quite see eye-to-eye with politically, this could be a good time to unfollow (if only temporarily) any and all accounts on social media that are only ramping up your stress levels (8).
2. Silence Your Notifications
The sheer amount of information—especially in the last phase of the election season—can have your phone pinging you with updates all day long. To avoid a barrage of notifications, silence your notifications, or turn them off completely and choose to check-in when it works best for you (7).
3. Go for a Walk in Nature
Aside from it’s practical function of getting you from point A to point B, walking offers a lot of other brain and body benefits. According to research, taking a stroll out in nature can help you feel more energized and positive as well as reduce tension and depressive feelings (2). For these reasons, it can be ideal to practice before or after any engagement with the 2020 election.
4. Help Someone Else
Aside from a heated election season, there’s a lot of tough stuff going on right now, from rising COVID cases to record levels of unemployment. A lot of people could use help right now. And studies show that lending a helping hand can help reduce stressful and anxious feelings and might even help you live longer (5).
5. Practice Gratitude
Showing genuine appreciation for what you receive, whether it’s a small gift from a friend or praise from your boss, is proving to be one of the best ways to feel better. Growing research reveals that practicing gratitude is consistently associated with greater happiness and has a positive effect on your immune system (3)(4).
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6. Listen to the SOS Election Series on Untangle by Muse
Zen Teacher, Monk, & Author, Koshin Paley Ellison, shares some tools, practices, and inner resources that can help us deal with stressful reactions, especially those triggered by the US election and the many other events we’re all experiencing.
Daryl Davis shares his powerful method for conversing with someone from another viewpoint and how to overcome our divides through respect, patience, and a recognition of shared humanity.
ABC News journalist and author of 10% Happier, Dan Harris, shares how to stay sane during the election and how Buddhist practices can give us a bit of a boost right now.
7. Meditate with Muse
To help you through the 2020 election season, we’ve added additional free meditations to our app. Explore free meditations in our SOS Calm Collection.
Listen Now >
Bonus: Join Muse’s 7-Day Resilience Challenge
Resilience doesn’t mean you won’t struggle and it can go beyond just “bouncing back.” It means learning new ways to move forward—even when it’s hard. Fortunately, simple tools like meditation can help us tap into our calm and boost feelings of resilience during challenging times and when our future feels uncertain. Join our free 7-day Resilience Challenge where you’ll gain access to 14 guided meditations that can help you build your mental strength and internal balance for the times when you need it most.
- Miller, Korin. 2020, October 6. ‘Election Stress Disorder’ Is a Real Thing—Here’s How to Know You Have It. (Blog post). https://www.health.com/condition/stress/election-stress-disorder
- Coon, J. Thompson; Boddy, K.; Stein, K.; Whear, R. & Depledge, M.H. (2011, Feb 3). Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a Greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors? A Systematic Review. ACS Publications. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es102947t
- 2019, June 5. In Praise of Gratitude. (Blog post). https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/in-praise-of-gratitude
- Carpenter, Derrick. The Science Behind Gratitude (and How It Can Change Your Life). (Blog post). https://www.happify.com/hd/the-science-behind-gratitude/
- Narins, Elizabeth. 2013, February 12. Pay It Forward, Live Longer. (Blog post). https://www.prevention.com/life/a20442068/helping-others-reduces-stress/
- 2019, March 19. Chronic stress puts your health at risk. (Blog post). https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037
- Harris, Dan. 2020, November 1. How to Keep Your Sanity Right Now. (Untangle Podcast). https://meditationstudioapp.com/podcasts/921123580
- Dodgen-Magee, Doreen, Psy.D. 2020, October 2. 5 Ways to Prevent Triggering Trauma in Chaotic Times. (Blog post). https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/deviced/202010/5-ways-prevent-triggering-trauma-in-chaotic-times