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Managing Election Panic

By: Martin Bernstein

We are living through a significant and uncertain time in the history of our country.  Information flows to us effortlessly, bombarding us from every direction.  Making it feel challenging to get away from the election.  But in reality, when are times not uncertain?  The state of the world and the universe is in constant flux, situations in our lives could change at any moment.  Finding methods to cope with uncertainty can help prepare us for the changes that could arise in our lives.

Let’s take a stream for example.  Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine a stream of

flowing water, listening to the soothing sounds, allowing it to calm you just for a moment.  At first glance, the stream looks as if it is unchanging, just water moving from one place to another. Each moment there are constantly new molecules of water moving into the spot in front of you, rocks are moving at the bottom.  Each moment of the stream is a constant state of change.  When you walk into a stream, as water flows around you, the very spot you are standing in is changing form constantly.

Where am I going with this metaphor?  Well, I think right now we’re standing in the middle of the stream as the water is flowing around us.  In fact, that is where we always are.  Take a moment to reflect on your life, prior to the pandemic if possible. (Time still exists before the pandemic right)?  I would guess that you have become pretty well-versed in handling some of the challenges life has thrown your way.

As parents, you are probably better at adapting to changes than you think you are!  For starters, I would imagine your life before your children were significantly different and you had to adapt to changes after your children were born.  Spending time living with teenagers in the desert, I understand that kids can be full of surprises and we need to be able to roll with changes in how they are feeling – both physically and emotionally – so that we can be there to support them in the best way possible.  As parents maybe it feels like you are swimming upstream sometimes, but give yourself credit, you are great at adapting to change!

Things around us are always changing.  If we can find a way to accept that change is going to occur, life and stressors that are outside of our control will seem a bit more manageable.

In finding my own strategies for managing transitions and uncertainty, I have found a few useful tips along the way that I am happy to share with you:

1. Unplug!!

Get outside, get away from the news, don’t check social media.  Find a way to dedicate

some time away from your devices – even if only for one hour each day.

2. Go for a nature walk. 

There is plenty of research available that demonstrates the benefits that spending time

in nature has on our mind and body.  Take some time to walk in a park, or just walk

around your neighborhood.  Nature is all around us!

3. Practice mindfulness. 

Finding a way to take some time for yourself and practice mindfulness is really beneficial

to handling uncertainty.  Meditation, yoga, and mindful walking can all be helpful

(amongst other practices). 

  • If you are going for a walk in a park you can take a few moments to just stop and look at a tree to appreciate it – noticing the patterns in the bark and enjoying the colors of its leaves

  • Insight Timer is a great app to try if you would like to get a meditation practice started!  There are hundreds of guided meditation options and also just a timer that allows you to choose a soothing sound as you meditate

  • Mindfulness can be found in every activity we do throughout the day!  From washing dishes to playing with your child, being mindful just means we are being fully present in whatever activity we are doing

  • When you are walking around your home, see if you can just notice each point of contact you make with the ground beneath you.  We can cultivate mindfulness in every moment throughout the day.

4. Call a friend. 

There is nothing wrong with leaning on our support networks when we are having

difficulty!  Sometimes just chatting and laughing with a close friend can be really

refreshing.  Given that most people are feeling some anxiety around the election, it

might be helpful to set a boundary that you will not discuss the upcoming election on

the phone call.

5. Accept that the election results are largely outside of your control. 

No matter which candidate you vote for, there are millions of other folks who also have

voiced their opinions in this election and the election results are largely outside of our

control.  And while the results may impact you directly, they are not something that you

can control in the immediate world. 

I hope that you all are able to take some time to yourselves as we anticipate the results of the upcoming election.  While the election is important, we cannot neglect to care for ourselves and our own mental health and wellbeing!

Martin Bernstein, MS is currently an MSW student at the University of New Hampshire, and one of the newest interns at YHAV.  He worked as a Field Guide in a Wilderness Therapy program over the past year.

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