- Election Day may have passed, but the nation is still waiting to see who will be president.
- This new uncertainty can add stress to an already difficult time.
- But with a few helpful strategies, the stress of uncertainty can become much more manageable.
If there’s one thing 2020 has had plenty of, it’s uncertainty.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended much of our lives, creating financial, social, professional, and economic turmoil.
The election is no different, and as hundreds of millions of Americans wait to see who will be the next president of the United States, and which candidates will take a highly sought after seat in Congress, uncertainty is at an all-time high.
The good news is that uncertainty often wanes and dips, and with a few helpful strategies, the stress of uncertainty can become much more manageable.
Here are six techniques mental health experts recommend trying if you’re living with uncertainty.
If the election’s waiting game has put you on edge, it’s probably worth stepping away from the news for a bit.
The constant 24/7 news cycle can be draining, especially since it could be a few days before we have a clear outcome.
Rather than constantly refreshing your news apps or being glued to the TV, walk away from it and check in on the election every couple of hours. The results won’t change dramatically every 5 or 10 minutes, says Benton.
“I would definitely not recommend just continuously having news on in the background,” said Alisa Ruby Bash, a psychologist in Malibu, California.
It’s also crucial to recognize that the election is currently out of our control.
“Hopefully, we did our part by voting, by getting out there, by spreading a message that we wanted to be out there, but at this point it is now beyond our control,” said Brittany LeMonda, PhD, a senior neuropsychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
LeMonda says people sometimes feel as though worrying about something can provide a greater sense of control, so it’s important to recognize that worrying won’t change the outcome.
Try to acknowledge and accept that you’ve done your part, and look toward the things you can control in your life rather than the things you cannot.
Bash recommends carving out some time to think about past successes or things you’re grateful for.
Doing so won’t only replace negative emotions with love and gratitude, but it’ll remind you that you’ve overcome tough times before and can do it again.
“A success means that there was a challenge and you faced and you overcame it, and that’s essentially what we’re doing right now,” Bash said.
Benton says one of her best tips is to stay physically active when dealing with uncertainty.
Exercise is a natural mood booster and is known to lower blood pressure and heart rate.
Investing your time in physical activities can distract you from dwelling on who is going to be the next president or senator.
“The best thing we can do is to turn off that cortisol system and really work our bodies to the point that we’re earning that adrenaline and we’re reducing that cortisol level so that we can sleep better, eat better, and so that our whole body feels better,” Benton said.
In times of uncertainty, it’s important to be kind to yourself.
Be patient and gentle with yourself, and practice self-care, whether that’s reading, playing a round of golf, baking, or doing a craft. “Do whatever it is that takes you away from all of this,” Benton said.
When we do something that makes us happy, our body releases endorphins, which help reduce pain and boost pleasure.
“There’s something to be said about endorphins and getting a little break from the stress and the cortisol,” LeMonda said.
LeMonda says it can feel as if the nation were hanging in purgatory right now. There have been so many emotions leading up to the election, and now all we can do is wait.
For many people, the uncertainty of the present moment can be more stressful than the outcome itself, regardless whether it’s a negative or positive result for them. It’s that waiting period that’s often the most challenging to bear.
LeMonda recommends taking a step back and recognizing that this moment will pass.
“[Let’s] remind ourselves that we’re very close to the end. A lot of times things can feel more stressful before they suddenly feel less stressful,” LeMonda said.
As Americans wait to hear who the next president of the United States will be, uncertainty is at an all-time high.
Managing chronic uncertainty, as many have done throughout 2020, can fuel anxiety and depression and speed up disease progression.
The good news is that uncertainty is often temporary, and there are many strategies that can help us cope with living in the unknown.