Let me get straight to the point. It’s election week in the US, and tensions are HIGH. So many people are feeling anxious and angry as we await the results and anticipate the next 4 years.
I suspect that wait is going to extend well past Tuesday night if the predictions I’ve heard are correct. It could take days or weeks to get the final tally from all of the ballots. That means that those tensions, that anxiety and anger, are likely to stay…and maybe even escalate. Here are 5 tips for surviving election week.
1. Learn the difference between News and Noise.
There’s going to be a lot of the latter coming at you. News is factual, unbiased information whereas Noise is a distraction. It’s loud and unpleasant and causes a disturbance. It’s irrelevant though it can sound important.
Noise includes the speculations, predictions, assumptions, and opinions coming at you from news broadcasts and TV programming, articles, your social feeds, your neighbors, your family, even your own mind.
So much of human suffering comes from the “extra” we add to situations, from our minds’ commentary. Remember, that’s just Noise. And over the upcoming week(s), other people may get loud with their Noise and project it onto you. Noise commands your attention, but you don’t have to give it. TUNE IT OUT.
2. Compassion is the antidote to hate and anger.
Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you fall on, you may have some strong feelings toward the other side. While the right kind of anger can be motivating, some anger is unnecessary and unhelpful, meaning that it can detract from your well-being and that of others. Compassion is the key.
To tap into your compassion this week, keep in mind that we have FAR more in common than it might seem. A recent study looked at the similarities among people across the globe and found that we’re overwhelming similar – on average upwards of 90% similar in attitudes on a range of things like human values (e.g., independence, achievement, conformity, tradition, benevolence, power), moral attitudes (e.g., dishonesty, domestic violence, purity), and trust (in other people, science, and the government).
More than 90% similar. Let that sink in.
At our core, we all value the same things like education, security, and morality. Our current political system, among other contributing factors, amplifies differences, and our brains, with their information processing glitches, run wild with them. We fall prey to the Us/Them bias, black-or-white thinking, mind reading, name calling, and judgements, just to name a few. It’s your job to keep your mind in check, and this week is going to be a real psych strength challenge (If you need to shore up your own psych strength skills, our Ascend program can help).
Try to put yourself in others’ shoes and see the world from their perspective. Try to understand rather than judge. Try to find some common ground that can be a unifying force. Try to let your values guide you, not your fear or anger.
3. Play nice.
I get that you may be passionate about the issues that speak to you, and you may feel compelled toward action. You may want to bring others to your side, and you may find yourself in heated discussions, in real life or online. Before you react, though, take a pause. Ask yourself what you really want from this interaction. While it may feel satisfying to unleash on someone else, to tell them how and why they’re wrong, that’s unlikely to end with them changing their mind. In fact, they’ll likely dig in more, and you will have actually just helped to strengthen their resolve. Think about it. When was the last time someone came at you, telling you that you’re wrong, perhaps tossing out a name or two, and you said, “You’re right! Thanks for helping me see the error of my ways”?
Changing someone’s mind starts with understanding their mind first. Starting at that common ground and operating from a place of compassion and respect, you may be able to guide them to a new way of thinking. Shouting, arguing, name calling…that’s all just Noise.
4. Practice gratitude.
No matter what happens Tuesday or in the following weeks, there is a lot to be grateful for. Don’t lose sight of that. When you find yourself feeling anxious or angry or overwhelmed or disillusioned, take 60 seconds to find something IN THAT VERY MOMENT to be grateful for. Tapping into gratitude – really feeling it – can be a powerful way to tame internal Noise and find some calm in the chaos.
5. Finally, be sure that you are taking some time to unplug, to breathe deeply to calm your nervous system, and to take care of yourself.
If you missed it, our Tips to Survive and THRIVE Through the Political Season podcast episode may be worth a listen.