This year’s presidential election, probably more than ever before, stirs up strong emotions in most people, including the candidates. While the primaries turned out to be a terrifying parade of insults, low blows and extreme perspectives, once the candidates were crowned, the emotional dust didn’t settle. Every day we are inundated with breaking news of how far two people can go to discredit each other, all in the attempt to look more electable to us voters. Imagine you would in an interview spend most of your time bashing the other applicants, rather than pointing out your expertise and why you would be the best person for the company. Chances are you would stay unemployed, because who wants to hire such a negative person.
Now, no matter which candidate you support, you are probably worried and concerned about what will happen if your man or woman doesn’t win. The potential consequences for the economy, the environment, the relationship with the rest of the world and so on may cause you sleepless nights. And as the anxiety is mounting, you feel increasingly powerless and out of control.
So what can you do – besides casting your vote?
Start with a healthy dose of self-compassion. It is completely normal that you may feel anxious and stressed during this time. Rather than attacking yourself for your emotions, accept that your mind, in particular your subconscious mind, got triggered by what has been unfolding on the political stage. Self-compassion stops an energy-draining cycle, where your mind has to protect itself from your own judgment and negativity.
Stop your news binge. We are all bombarded with fear and anxiety inducing messages, from the candidates, who aim to motivate their voters, and from the media outlets, who know that fear sells. Make a commitment, like you may have done with your kids, to reduce your screen time to just one hour per day. It is a misconception that the more you know, the calmer you will feel. The fact is, that your mind can only compute a limited amount of input, before it gets overwhelmed, confused and henceforth anxious.
Shield yourself from negativity. Part of your anxiety may be due to the strong emotions of others, which your subconscious mind absorbs in osmosis-like fashion. You may be dealing with your uncle Bob, who exudes anger and resentment when he talks about the election; or your friend Mary, who predicts that the sky will fall, if her candidate should lose. Limiting your exposure to people, who are run by their emotions, can help you to stay more grounded and centered within.
Meditate. I invited motivational speaker and teacher, Sister Jenna to talk on Empowerment Radio about her inspirational movement Meditate the Vote . Unfortunately, a sudden death in her family, prevented her from joining me. Meditate the vote is a call for a more reflective approach to this year’s election. The goal of this initiative is simple is to encourage people to meditate, pray or be mindful in whatever way works for them and then, from a calm state, engage in meaningful and insightful conversations. As Sister Jenna says: “We do not endorse any specific candidate. We simply ask people go inside, evaluate options and in November vote from the quiet truth of their own heart.”
Take action. The notion of being powerless is one of the strongest anxiety triggers; and the longer you just ruminate the more you feel paralyzed by your emotions. Yogi Bhajan, one of my great teachers, used to say “When the pressure is on take the first step. No matter how small it is, you will feel the pressure immediately start to ease up.” As you are taking action you are getting back into the driver seat and start taking your power back. This can be as simple as journaling about your thoughts, worries and feelings, so that they are no longer just stuck in your head. You can make a list of all the reasons why, even if the “other” candidate wins, his or her power are limited by all the checks and balances our constitution put in place. The next step could be to vent on social media or join discussion groups of like-minded voters, who make you feel that you have a voice and that you are not alone. And of course, you can increase your donations or volunteer for your candidate or grass-roots organization, which support your ideas.
Stick to your values. Reflect on the core values that make you a decent citizen and human being. Values such as truth and honesty, respect for nature and all beings, caring and compassion, peace and justice, openness and love. And then vow to defend, live and share those values with the people around you. By doing so, you remind yourself that certain aspects of life are more important and powerful, than who will sit in the White House for the next four years.