How to Hang onto Your Friends After Nov. 8
And ride out the tumultuous election season with your values and beliefs intact
Unless you’re really careful, it’s easy to get sucked into the November election frenzy — and maybe you’re already caught up in the whirlwind. We humans love emotion and drama — that’s partly why we go to movies and sports events, read books, and watch reality TV.
But when emotions rule us, we can become agitated and anguished, sometimes very quickly.
An invigorating bout of political banter with a colleague or family member can be enjoyable. But when the internal experience begins to feel like anger (or even rage), beware — you’ve crossed the line.
Here are a few tips to avoid unnecessary and unpleasant stress during this election season — and keep your home life on an even keel.
1.) Keep your most important values front and center.
Write them down if necessary, and paste them on your desk or fridge as reminders. “Respect for friends, family, and others regardless of political opinions” — write it down. Other people have valid points of view, so don’t destroy important personal bonds over this; it’s not worth it.
If you’re getting caught up in the rhetoric and heated words of the candidates, you may feel stressed — but don’t allow yourself to be drawn into the ugliness. Checks and balances aren’t only for government: While the candidates may be bashing one another’s views, we don’t have to do the same with the people in our lives. Agree to disagree with others without taking their opinions personally, and be responsible in how you express yourself.
Overall, keep the banter light and fun, even if it gets a little heated. If you can’t manage this, don’t banter at all — and congratulate yourself for having the control to step away. Remember what’s most important, which is likely to be a happy home and keeping yourself healthy.
2.) Take breaks from the news.
Don’t allow yourself to engage in election discussions around the TV or on any other media if you’re upset. Participate only if you’re centered and can breathe deeply with a healthy perspective.
A neighbor of mine feels obligated to watch or listen to the election news at least three times a day. By the end of each day, he is angry and frustrated, and will often loudly express his disgust for “the other side.” When I once asked him why he does this to himself, he seemed stunned; he said he needed to be plugged into the news on a regular basis in order to be informed.
It’s smart to check out of the media now and then in order to retain one’s balance and sanity.
3.) Laugh as much as you can.
There’s nothing like humor to keep a healthy perspective on life. Smiling and laughing will raise your endorphins and lower your stress. Misery loves miserable company — so turning up the corners of your mouth is a “stay away” sign to those immersed in seriousness and negativity. They will gravitate to like-minded, wound-up individuals — which is better for you anyway.
Along with taking walks, sleeping well at night, nibbling healthfully, and drinking enough water throughout the day, seek out upbeat and relaxed companions (pets are great for this, too).
If meditation or spiritual writing speaks to you, indulge. With these steps, you can keep yourself in a healthy mindset.
Despite the fear-mongering around us, life will continue regardless of who’s elected. It doesn’t matter how angry, upset, or stressed we become over election developments — our mood won’t change the results. So ask yourself, “Would I rather be stressed right now, or enjoying my day? It’s up to me.”
Dr. Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and keynote speaker, guest lecturer, and radio host based in Orange County, California.