As if 2020 couldn’t be more anxiety-inducing, election time is just around the corner. Regardless of whether you’re on the left or right, everyone is feeling a bit more on edge this election season and really for most of us, the whole election year. With the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, massive job loss, mental illness on the rise, social unrest, and so many other factors, the future of America is at present, uncertain.
Here are a few ideas to ease the tension
SET UP A THERAPY SESSION
Speaking with a therapist offers us the support and validation we all need. Having a space where you can freely speak your mind without fear of judgement is an amazingly healing experience. It is dedicated time just for you where the person sitting across from you (maybe on screen these days, let’s be real) has been highly trained in human behavior and is likely naturally superb at listening and creating a safe space. Therapy gives us a very insightful look into our own mind, our experience and behaviors with the added benefit of increasing our perspective. A common part of therapy is learning skills, tools and coping mechanisms to better deal with the stressors of life and well, this election is a pretty big stressor for some.
GET OUT AND VOTE
Voting is how we can use our voices and be heard. Voting and encouraging others to do the same can help give a sense of impact. Look up when, how, and where to vote in your state and local area.
With so much uncertainty, having a plan for what we will be doing before, during, and after election day can help to ground us and tame our nerves. In a planner or google calendar write out an election day plan. In addition to voting, this plan can include things like a nice breakfast, self-care activities, avoidance of social media and news, a zoom happy hour and getting to bed early. Planning in advance allows for clarity of direction towards the positive and helpful rather than engaging in misdirected activities that may add to our stress.
CONNECT TO A GROUP
Surrounding ourselves with like-minded people helps with the feelings of isolation and helplessness. Hearing others talk about their lives, struggles and successes can put things into perspective. With quarantine and social distancing still in action, online therapy, support groups and book clubs are the way to go.
INTENTIONAL SELF CARE
Now is the perfect time to start or revamp your self-care routine. Having a good go-to self-care regimen can help lower cortisol(the stress hormone) levels and it’s the perfect break from the concern and stress that is building for so many right now. Self-care activities can range from time alone to going to the doctor, either way, intentionality is key. Eating our favorite foods, watching a funny movie, taking a technology-free walk and journaling are great examples of self-care when stressors are coming from a national and global level. Meditation is also a great way to tame intrusive thoughts, you know, thoughts like, “If _______ is elected, ________”.
Election grief is the post-election experience that results in heavy feelings of sadness and despair. This form of grief is legitimate and occurs following most if not all elections. Therapists saw this in session in droves in the months after the 2016 election. We can expect to go through the same five stages of grief that occur following other loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages can come on at any time and in any order and may look different from person to person and loss to loss.
Diving Into Your Daily Affirmations
Struggling with mental peace not only affects our self-esteem but also our productivity. It’s hard to get through the day constantly thinking about past transgressions and the uncertain future. Quite often we turn to outside means such as the approval of others, distractions, shopping or even substances to try to calm the storm within ourselves. Truth is, everything we need, we already have and everything else is just an extension of the joy we have access to inside.
Keep reading to dig into:
What are affirmations
Why affirmations are a daily necessity
Creating your own affirmations
Getting into the habit
WHAT ARE AFFIRMATIONS
Affirmations are stated or written statements of emotional support or encouragement. We can think of them as a form of self-care that works for our self-esteem and self-concept. They can serve as an anchor when we feel as if we are getting carried away in a sea of negative emotions. They often help to center and remind us of our value and humanity when things start to feel out of control.
Some great examples are simple statements such as: I am worthy, I am valued by my family and friends or My body is strong and healthy, or even, I have a nice smile.
WHY AFFIRMATIONS ARE A DAILY NECESSITY
We have about 90 thousand thoughts each day, more if we struggle with anxiety! 90,000! Of those, for most of us, a majority of those thoughts are negative or at best neutral. If you add to that all of the negative content we get from our environments, the media, and our history the need for daily affirmations becomes more and more apparent to provide some level of counterbalance to the waves of negativity that cross or lay on our mind.
CREATING YOUR OWN AFFIRMATIONS
Writing an affirmation is simple but can feel quite difficult until you get the hang of them. Start with “I” or “My” then follow it up with something positive about yourself. There are so many phrases we can say to help soothe our minds and block out or replace the intrusive discouraging thoughts that weigh us down. It is best to avoid words like can’t or don’t as these words can bring in negativity. Affirmations can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be.
When trying to come up with nice and positive things to say about ourselves is harder than we might like it to be, use the following prompts or others like them to get you started:
When I was a kid I…….
I’ve always been good at…….
My friends like me because……..
In college I……..
Identifying a timeframe or a specific topic can help narrow our focus and make finding an affirmation easier when we’re not faced with plucking one thing out of our overall history of experience.
GETTING INTO THE HABIT
Repeat your affirmations each day and add a new one each day. Overtime you will have a lengthy list to refer to. The goal is to remind ourselves of the greatness that we hold inside that gets bogged down by obsessing over the things we cannot control, comparing ourselves to others, or just feeling hopeless.
To get in the habit of practicing affirmations, set an alarm to remind you of the task or pair it with an activity that you do every single day such as brushing your teeth or drinking water. It takes about 21 days to establish a habit, so patience is important in this process. These moments of positive thought may feel short lived but the more we practice the better they will stick.
We can also say affirmations throughout the day to ground ourselves if we are starting to feel frustrated at work or while trying to manage a difficult task. Coupled with deep breathing, affirmations slow down the heart rate and improve focus. Your therapist will likely have more specific suggestions about how to develop and incorporate affirmations into your daily life based on their in depth knowledge and understanding of who you are.
Insider Tips From Our Psychologists: