Social media is buzzing with opinionated posts regarding this 2016 presidential election. Many of these posts are laden with expressions of disappointment and anxiety around what the future of our country holds. Though the decision of who to vote for can be weighty or, as has been expressed by many, depressing to those feeling as if they are forced into choosing "the lesser of two evils;" the need to maintain our own sanity regardless of what is to come will be vital for getting through today and possibly even the next four - eight years. So what can you do to manage stress and stay positive during taxing times? Here are some researched suggestions to lift your spirits on difficult and stress-ridden days.
1. Breathe. Ah, yes. It really is that simple. Taking a just few moments to focus on your breathing can ground you in the present moment and bring you to a more relaxed state. Taking deep, slow breaths (a three-count in and a three-count out) has actually been proven to reduce stress hormones in the body.
2. Laugh. Whether watching your favorite stand-up comedy performer, viewing online cat videos, or just sharing jokes with a neighbor, laughing, too demonstrates scientific evidence of lowering cortisol levels in the body and even increases our immunity and infection-fighting antibodies, working to keep us healthy, not just mentally, but physically too.
3. Exercise. Of course it is important to make certain you are cleared by your doctor before doing any physical activity, but even low intensity exercise such as walking, light lifting, biking, or jogging has proven to boost endorphins and lower our stress and anxiety. Physical exercise is one of the best treatments and protective factors for those at risk or suffering from depression or anxiety.
4. Connect. We all need human connection and face time with others, particularly friends or family we can trust. Social media helps, but it is also important to get out and get together with others in order to meet our needs for attachment and fulfill our sense of purpose and meaning in life. Human connection is also one of the most powerful things to relieve our fears of the unknown and the related stress that we feel when we try to go through difficult times alone.
5. Flow. One of the best practices for reducing anxiety involves the mindfulness meditation and body awareness that one experiences in the practice of yoga. This is a powerful stress-relieving activity as it combines deep-breathing techniques with mild, moderate, or even intense physical activity to provide a one-two punch of lowering cortisol with deep breath and gaining endorphins from the muscle strengthening poses.
6. Create. Something as simple as listening and singing along to your favorite tunes, or coloring a page in a coloring book can activate the creative side of our brains and take attention off of the stress centers of our brain. So get those creative juices flowing in your favorite artistic past time, craft, music, writing, or other.
Don't let the anticipation of what is to come get you down. Together as a society we can accomplish anything, so let's team up, encourage one another in maintaining healthy bodies and minds that can keep us sane no matter what political shifts are to come!