Raise your hand if you’ve gotten into a Facebook comment feud regarding a political meme. Stand up if you’ve screenshot a family members politically-charged post. Jump up and down if you stopped watching the debates because you recognized the toll it was taking on your mental health.
If you’re feeling overly anxious or agitated recently, you’re not alone.
The negative effects of this presidential election cycle on our health have been well-documented since as far back as March – and are, you guessed it, peaking right about now.
A recent study from the American Psychological Association shows that more than half of all Americans report that this election is stressing them out. It’s gotten so bad that therapists have coined the term “Election Stress Disorder” to characterize what they’re seeing in patients.
Why this election in particular? It’s a bit of a perfect storm – the combination of the 24 hours news cycle, the ubiquity of online platforms, and the polarization of candidates. I’ve heard many friends lament their Facebook feeds and brag about their bold de-friending of anyone on the other political side. Trust me – I GET IT. But something about this doesn’t feel healthy. When did we lose the ability to calmly and openly hear the views of those whose opinions differ from our own?
To start, let’s take a look at what happens when we feel anxious or stressed:
“When people feel anxious they move into a reactive mode. As a result anxious people tend to be less flexible and less open to new experiences and points of view. They’re more likely to oversimplify what’s upsetting them and view life through a binary lens.”
WHOA. Sound familiar?
Here’s what we can do about it: slow down and become mindful. The best way to do that – MEDITATION.
We know regular meditation practice offers some amazing benefits – disease and pain management, better sleep, sharper decision-making, greater productivity, control of emotions and stress relief… the list goes on. Basically, a regular meditation practice allows your brain to develop new pathways that are not the well-trodden anxious trails. The mind becomes able to experience itself without being overtaken by anxious thoughts and feelings.
So, let’s get started. If you can, take a meditation class, held in studio and led by a trained meditation instructor. But, if that’s not accessible at the moment, try the meditation below – made specifically for beginners, by the experts at AM Yoga: