Three Ways to Reduce Election Stress

Your mind is like tofu: it tastes like whatever you marinate it in.

Dr. Robert Waldinger, Zen practitioner and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development.

We are all soaking in the constant information pollution of an incredibly polarized political environment. Anxiety, fear, and the feeling that things are out of our control are affecting an enormous number of Americans.

Even people who say they don’t follow politics are still having negative emotional responses to the election.

Melissa DeJonckheere, Assistant professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor

A recent article by the American Heart Association cites numerous medical studies that align election noise with mental stress and physical distress. Being fatigued, being depressed, even suffering from constant nausea.

Tens of millions of people say I’m losing sleep because of politics. I’ve lost friends because of politics.

Kevin B. Smith, The Leland J. and Dorothy H. Olson chair of political science at the University of Nebraska Lincoln

Our very real fight or flight physical response to the Coronavirus sets us up to be easy targets of campaign fear-mongering.

We kind of know what NOT to do, as in avoiding the 27/7 news cycle around us. So, what CAN we do?

Stay active

Incorporate exercise into your daily schedule. Find something you enjoy — go for a walk with a friend (don’t talk politics!) or a dog (Kumba has no interest in the election). It’s a great time to take an exercise class — on Zoom or YouTube — because no one can see you.

Any kind of moving counts, and more vigorous movement will count a bit more. Remember: There’s no better feeling than finishing a workout!

Notice nature

Years ago, I took a writing class at the on Cape Cod. We were assigned the twenty-minute task of leaving the classroom, walking 100 steps in any direction, and then taking notes on everything around us. Go for a walk alone with your camera so you can observe and record nature. Tuning in to the natural world is a great stress reliever, and a great reminder of what is real.


Much like physical activity, personal engagement in a community activity is a great stress-reducer. It is an excellent reminder that we have so much in common with each other. You can even combine exercise and civics. Find a community walk that is raising awareness on an issue you care about. Can’t find one? Start one! FUNDly has these ideas.

Step up and volunteer. My sister in Colorado is dusting the shelves and organizing books in her local library as it prepares to open after being shuttered for months. A friend in Delray Beach is sorting canned goods for local soup kitchens with Feeding South Florida.

Feeding South Florida

I am more comfortable staying home, given the Coronavirus. So I have found a house-based volunteer activity that really inspires me during these stressful times. I’m putting about 8 hours a week into making telephone calls to Spanish-speaking voters on behalf of Biden/Harris. I wasn’t at all sure it was going to be a good idea — I mean, do YOU answer your phone if you don’t know the caller? I don’t.

But over the past couple of weeks I’ve spoken with such enthusiastic and positive people who are super-charged to go to the polls or mail in their ballot. “¡Si, como no!” Yes, of course I’m voting! Even the handful of Republicans have been gracious. Short, but gracious, which works out fine. Here’s where you can find out more.

Move, get outside, volunteer

We can lock ourselves inside despair, or we can carry each other forward. Ready? “¡Si, como no!”

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