5 Ways to Deal with Election Stress

fraught electionCould this election be any more fraught??

Don’t answer that—if the answer is yes, I don’t want to know!

One thing I do know for sure is this:

No matter what happens on Tuesday, we have to keep talking to each other. Here are 5 simple ways to do just that. (Click to Tweet!)

  • Ask questions
    Keep the phrase “Curious, not furious” top of mind, and if you find yourself yearning to make declarative statements—“She’s a crook!” “He’s mentally ill!” “You’re crazy if you’re voting for him!” “You’re evil if you’re voting for her!”—think question mark, not exclamation point. When you can stay curious, you’re suspending judgment—at least for the moment. Ask, “How long have you been feeling this way?” “What makes you say that?” “Can you tell me a little more about that?” Questions change the conversation.
  • Look for similarities, not differences
    No matter how different your politics may be from someone else’s, there are millions more ways the two of you are alike than you are different. The human mind is just wired to look for the differences, and make them mean something important, but we’ve got the em-PHA-sis on the wrong sy-LLAB-le. When we remember the ways we’re similar, we can find common ground.It’s like the old saying your grandpa probably told you when you confessed to being intimidated by someone—“They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you do.” Look for your commonalities, whether it’s physiological (you’re both human), emotional (you both want what’s best for your children), cultural (you both love Friday Night Lights), or literal (you’re both wearing a blue shirt).
  • Imagine the folks on the other side of the ballot as being happy, free, and at peace
    Short-circuit judgment against the folks who are voting differently than you (or not voting at all) by sending them good wishes. It can be as simple as saying “Bless your heart” at the start of your comment on their Facebook rant, or as profound as sitting quietly and sending them a little loving-kindness by imagining their face and silently saying May you be happy, may you be free from suffering, may you be at peace. Compassion is true force that helps reduce suffering, including your own. Use these stressful times to get better at invoking it at will.

  • Remember we all have the right to our opinions, and this includes you
    You don’t have the right to shove your opinions down someone else’s throat, but you do have the right to express your views. I know a lot of people feel it’s not safe to say what they think, or it’s socially unacceptable or awkward. But hiding is stressful too. You don’t need to announce to a large rowdy group of Trump supporters that you’re with her, but do find people you can feel comfortable sharing your views with. Not necessarily someone who sees things exactly like you—maybe someone of a different generation, race, or class. (Having a dog is a great way to strike up a conversation with folks you might otherwise walk right by.) And when someone else shares their opinion, try not to go in to immediate shut-down mode (number one can help with this).
  • Look others in the eye
    Maybe this seems too tiny to do any good, but trust me, it matters. I lived in New York City on 9/11, and in the days afterward, everything felt OK because everyone who passed each other on the sidewalk or the subway platform looked at each other and met each other’s gaze. It’s intimate, yes, but the discomfort of vulnerability quickly dissolves into a warm, cozy feeling, like snuggling up in a quilt your grandma made. We are all inherently connected, all descended from the same ancestor, all made of stars and germs and bones, and when you look someone else in the eye, you remember that connection. And it feels so good. It makes you feel seen and valued and it can go a LONG WAY toward healing what feels like an uncrossable divide.

Sending you strength, an open heart, and lots of deep breaths between now and Wednesday, November 9th!

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