A steady diet of negative news can negatively impact stress levels. To see how it might affect you, check out this piece on election stress disorder and tips from Alyssa A Rheingold, Ph.D., a psychologist with the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina, on how to best cope.

Ten Stress-Busting Tips for Election Day and After

Managing stress may be different for each person, what works for one person may not always work for another. That being said, there are a number of strategies that have been found effective for coping with stress and anxiety. Here are 10 tips to manage stress:

  1. Watch intake of food, caffeine, alcohol and drugs. What you put in your body can have an impact on stress response. Eating healthy and limiting caffeine can decrease fatigue and irritability. Limiting alcohol and drugs not only helps with short-term stress response, but also decreases the potential for longer-term health consequences.
  2. Catch some ZZZs. Making sure you get enough sleep is crucial to stress management. Lack of sleep can impact concentration and increase irritability.  Having a set bedtime each night, practicing good sleep hygiene (no TV in bed!) can help your body unwind and settle down each evening. Sometimes stress can cause insomnia. If insomnia becomes a chronic problem, there are brief cognitive behavioral strategies that can help. Seek a professional for guidance. 
  3. Practice relaxation exercises. Learning to focus on one’s breath and practice deep breathing can slow the physiological reactions of stress down. Other relaxation exercises that may be useful include progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery.
  4. Become present focused.  When we are stressed we often tend to focus on things that have occurred in the past or worrying about the future. When this happens, we are missing out on the here and now. And today is what truly matters. Learning to engage in the present and focus our awareness to the “now” can help let go of stress or even view it differently.
  5. Pay attention to thoughts. We all have a running inner dialogue called “self-talk.” We often accept this self-talk as truth because they are our thoughts. Why question it? When we become stressed or anxious, these thoughts can often be negative and usually not completely realistic. By paying attention to our thoughts, gently challenging them, and creating more healthy - thinking approaches can decrease stress.
  6. Get active. Exercise has been found to be an excellent stress management strategy as it releases chemicals in the brain that can relax us. Getting out of the house and go for a walk around the block both provides your body with activity but also clears the mind with a shift in focus to different surroundings.
  7. Lean on support. Talking to a friend, going for coffee, or just being with someone who you find supportive can improve functioning. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone that cares for you can be helpful and combats a sense of loneliness and isolation with a sense of connection.
  8. Have fun! Doing something that provides joy can help ground and refocus someone with stress. Sometimes when people get stressed they tend to withdraw from activities. To manage this, scheduling fun activities and formally penciling them in a schedule book can encourage follow-through. These activities can be small simple things like having a cup of tea on the porch or going to lunch with a friend. Go bowling, see a movie, get out in nature or go fishing. Whatever provides a sense of relaxation or a good laugh can be an excellent stress management strategy.  
  9. Do something of value. When stressed, we often operate on autopilot, going through the motions of each day. Taking stock of what provides meaning and value can help refocus what is truly important in life. Once you clarify your values, commit to action. Do something each day that is of purpose and value.
  10. Get involved. When we become stressed from external events such as the election or other world events, we sometimes have a sense of powerlessness. Getting involved in social action and volunteerism can increase a sense of power and control that even small actions in the world can make a difference. Find a cause and get involved.