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How to Cope with Election Anxiety All Day Long

If the 2016 presidential election has turned you into a ball of nerves, you're not alone. A survey conducted last month by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that the election has been a significant source of stress for more than half of Americans. Luckily, the race will soon be behind us, but there's still one last hurdle to overcome: Election Day. So, what's a nasty woman girl to do on November 8th?

"Getting through the day stress-free isn't realistic," says David Shen-Miller, Ph.D., chair and associate professor of the department of counseling and health psychology at Bastyr University. So, you should expect some stress. But if you're intentional throughout the day, you'll be able to better manage your anxiety, he says. Here's your morning-to-night GP.

When you wake up…

Hit snooze. Okay, so there may not be a ton you can do about this one if you only clocked six hours and it's time to get your day started, but if you can get a little extra shut-eye, it may be worth it. That's because those who sleep at least eight hours a night report lower stress levels than those who get less shut-eye and tend to be less irritable, says Shen-Miller. Getting a good night's sleep can also help you regulate your emotions, he explains, which seems pretty useful for the emotionally charged 24 hours that is Election Day. 

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Avoid checking social media. If you're reading this story you probably already failed at this (whoops!), but you can still make an effort to limit your media exposure throughout the rest of the day to keep your stress in check. (In general, people who are more dialed-in to social media have more distress in their lives, says Shen-Miller. Plus, one study even found that news-induced stress can have a major impact on your mental and physical health.) If you really want to look at the news go ahead, but just expect to see something you may not agree with, he says (and while you're at it, maybe just steer clear of the Facebook comments section for everyone's mental health).

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Call a parent or friend. If you're freaking out, chances are your best friend or sister is too. Getting on the phone with a loved one to talk it out can help you relieve anxiety after waking up, Shen-Miller says. If that sounds like a terrible idea that will leave you more stressed out than when you started...

Meditate. This is another activity Shen-Miller suggests to help calm the mind first thing in the morning. Makes sense—on top of decreasing anxiety, mindfulness can help make you more self-aware and compassionate (like maybe toward supporters of the candidate you aren't so keen on) and has been shown to help you feel calm when faced with a stressful task, like [cough] voting. (Check out our Facebook Live for a 20 minute-beginner meditation class with MNDFL, a NYC-based meditation studio—and Instagram-dream). 

Swap your coffee for tea. This may be tricky depending on your level of coffee addiction and how much sleep you got the night before. But since caffeine can increase anxiety and make you jittery, you should monitor your caffeinated beverage intake on Election Day morning, says Shen-Miller. Opt for an herbal tea if you can.  

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Get some exercise. To increase your energy and lower your stress levels, try to get in some exercise before you head to the polls, like with these eight moves designed to wake your body up or with some stress-relieving yoga poses. (Or, if it's not too chilly, take a walk outside, which can help relieve stress on top of a ton of other built-in health benefits.

Before heading to work…

Go vote—duh! Whoever wins the election might be out of our control, but the one thing we can control is getting out there and voting, says Shen-Miller. "There's a connection between feelings of helplessness and depression," he explains, "so being active in the political process and feeling like your voice matters and can make a difference is really important for your overall well-being."

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Reward yourself. "After you cast your ballot, reward yourself. Having something to look forward to after you vote can help ease your mind during the voting process," says Shen-Miller. Well, that's easy—$5 latte here we come!

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Stay positive. Making a conscious effort to stay positive during the voting process can also help relieve stress, he says. Focus on what's important in your life, like your family and friends, and know that you (and the country) will get through whatever happens.

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When you get to work…

Avoid toxic encounters. This could mean avoiding communal areas in your office where you know people are going to be talking about the election, says Shen-Miller. On the flipside, if hearing about it helps you relieve stress, then by all means, go to the kitchen where people are talking about the polls. But you know, maybe try to get some work done today, too.
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And if you do get stuck in a debate with your feisty coworker…  Agree to disagree, suggests Shen-Miller. Clearly, you're not going to persuade someone with opposite beliefs to change their mind at this stage in the game, so try to find common ground on an issue you both care about. If that doesn't seem possible, simply avoid political conversations altogether, he says. 

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When watching the election results…

Expect distress. Yep, this is actually the advice straight from Shen-Miller. It sounds gloomy, but it's important to expect some level of helplessness and lack of control, he says. "Just remember, you did your part by voting."

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Set limits. Obsessive-compulsive poll-checking disorder is actually a thing mental health professionals are worried about. To keep your stress levels from soaring, don't stay glued to your TV the entire night. It won't change the results, we promise.

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When the next President is finally announced… If your candidate of choice wins, you might be feeling relieved and thrilled! But, regardless of the outcome, know that everyone will get through it as a country and in your community, says Shen-Miller. "Keep the conversation going with loved ones you were at odds with and try to take their perspective into account. Focus on what happened locally in addition to nationally as this may have a more immediate effect on you personally," he says.

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