Mindfulness & Anxiety

Election anxiety is a real thing. Here are 6 ways to reduce stress before an election.

By Kathleen Wong
Elliot Stallion

As the next election approaches, it’s hard to even scroll through your social media feeds without being inundated with tweets, articles and videos about our tumultuous political landscape.

Since the infamous 2016 general election, Americans feel anxious and stressed each time voting season comes back around. In a January 2017 survey by the American Psychological Association, about 57 percent of Americans reported the political climate to be a “significant source of stress.” How come? About two-thirds are worried about the future of our nation while approximately 49 percent are nervous about the outcome of the election. Essentially, the political issues that have surfaced in recent elections, which include terrorism, gun rights and hacking threats, are deep-seated in our own fears and anxieties, according to the New York Times.

Election anxiety is real, and there are scientifically proven methods people can follow to help lower their stress levels as midterms near.

1. Stretch it out

While you might imagine a yogi as someone who likes to drink green juice and run before the sun rises, pretty much everyone could benefit from the ancient practice of yoga. Good thing there are multiple styles to choose from based on your physical ability, and the only real required equipment is a mat. Studies have shown that yoga helps us modulate stress response systems, such as elevated heart rate and blood pressure. We can credit that to yoga teaching us to how regulate our breath, release tension in our bodies, and also be more mindful. Even the practice itself is rooted in the concept of self-acceptance and that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable sometimes (in a pose and off the mat too.)

2. Enjoy the great outdoors

If the weather permits, head outside to drop some stress. Being in the great outdoors has shown to have a restorative, tranquil effect on our well-being. In 2015 study from Stanford, participants who went on a 90-minute walk through a natural environment were shown to have reduced neural activity in the area associated to the risk for mental illness compared with those who strolled through an urban environment. The nature-walkers also showed lower levels of rumination, which can ultimately lead to depression. Just a short walk through nature can be beneficial.

3. Try CBD

As the landscape regarding cannabis continues to shift, more people are incorporating CBD, or cannabidiol, products into their daily routine for a variety of reasons. Not to be confused with the psychoactive compound THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD touts many health benefits, from chronic pain relief to reducing anxiety. Studies are limited but one from 2011 showed CBD to reduce the anxiety in those about to public speak in public. CBD is believed to work with the 5-HTA serotonin receptor and acts similarly to prescription serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, which you may know as Prozac and Zoloft, Eileen Konieczny, RN, and author of Healing with CBD, says. So as more serotonin reaches the brain, anxiety lowers and our mood boosts.

[ Learn about CBD laws in your state ]

4. Exercise

Regular exercise helps you more than just physically, it also helps you mentally.   A study from the University of Maryland School of Public Health found that students who cycled at a moderately intense level for 30 minutes were less anxious compared to students who quietly rested for 30 minutes. Exercise boosts endorphins in the body, which make us feel good and also help us sleep better, and also improves our overall cognitive function for those moments when we’re feeling anxious and distracted at work. Regular exercise doesn’t have to involve weights or treadmills either. There are endless ways to get some cardio in when you don’t even realize it, such as playing fetch with your fur baby or playing some pick-up basketball.

5. Journal

Bridget Jones may have been onto something when it came to jotting down her fears and anxieties. Journaling is an easy and effective stress relief exercise by helping to reduce the amount of worry we keep in our brain and clarify our thoughts. Taking the time to write down our experience also allows us time to process and reflect our emotions. One study linked expressive writing to a significant decrease in generalized anxiety disorder symptoms.

6. Unplug, seriously

The health benefits to weakening your relationship with your phone, whether through not charging it in your bedroom and avoiding that blue light before bed, have been touted again and again—and for good reason. A 2012 British study found that our smartphones, which are constantly tuned into the news and our social networks actually are stressing us out. We’ve become dependent on our phones and the need to constantly check them for notifications, texts, or emails. On the flip side, studies have also shown that living in the moment is what makes people happier, so turning off our phones when at dinner with friends or for an evening might give us the mental break we need.

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