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A Wellness Expert Gets Real About How to Handle Election Week Stress

We’ve been through quite a year. The speedy shut-down of supermarkets and stores (and essentially the whole world), left us to scramble for Bounty and Charmin Ultra Soft. There were the days where we hesitantly got out of bed, only to make a trendy Tik Tok whipped coffee and binge watch Tiger King in plaid button-down pajamas. There was the endless marathon of Zoom meetings, turning our cameras back on to wave and say “thank you!” to the professor you’d been tuning out for an hour. 

And now, we’ve just made it out of the frantic 2020 presidential election – out alive, to our disbelief.

From pandemic pressure to the weight of worry about the White House, this year has been a telethon of tremor. Luckily, Wellness Expert Kama Hagar has mental health memos for you to take note of, to aid coping with post-election stress calmly and mindfully.

Schedule in your social media time

As the workflow continues to be remote, it’s simple to reach for your cell phone and scroll on social media. Hagar believes more than half the chaos and tension in life comes from things that are out of your control.

“Scrolling through social media for political updates, watching or reading the news and hearing endless streams of opinions and drama isn’t going to keep you calm,” she says. “The news and social media have been proven to lower self-esteem, trigger feelings of isolation and stress us out.”

To be protective of your mind, Hagar recommends scheduling in screen time throughout your day to reach a peak of productivity and peacefulness. She recommends noon and 6:00 p.m. for no more than 30 minutes each.

Move your body each day

Exercise has been proven to alleviate stress and cortisol levels, increase blood flow and energy, and boost your mood. Despite the added health benefits (which we all need right now, as snacking at our bedroom desks has been the move lately), it’s easier than ever to hit the snooze button, roll out of bed at 9:59 for that 10:00 a.m. class, and push a pilates workout to ‘next week.’ But, let’s be real – the same hopping-out-of-bed-one-minute-before-class cycle is going to prevail week after week.

Yes, college students juggle multiple assignments and responsibilities throughout the week, especially as Zoom fatigue is *truly* one step away from being a diagnosable condition. But Hagar doesn’t want exercise to be something you stress over, as she advocates there is plenty of that in today’s educational, cultural and political climate. She stresses that working out is fun and a stress-reliever of its own, even if you only get up and get moving for 10 minutes.

“Make it fun: turn on music and dance in your room, go on a quiet and mindful walk in nature, kick up into a handstand and take soothing stretch breaks,” she offers. “Whether you find a free class on YouTube or freestyle, do it every day and make it feel good.”

Manifest, manifest, manifest

Though we don’t have the power, besides voting, to determine the overall outcome of the election, it certainly can feel that way when we are hit by a throng of Democratic and Republican opinions adding a few coins to the political stress meter. With the Black Lives Matter movement, equal pay for women, abortion rights, college debt, climate change and all other causes to be a strong voice for, it can feel draining to debate (or even discuss) these crucial matters to a close-minded individual, or to someone who simply doesn’t share the same views. But we do have the power to decide how we act.

“Visualization is one of the best ways to stay focused, driven and hopeful – not to mention, manifest your dreams,” Hagar says. “During tricky times that feel like there’s no end in sight, hope and inspiration are beautiful (and scientifically-proven) things to have, so get crafty, cut up old magazines, print out Pinterest images or Photoshop up your dreamscape life.”

Just like Marie Kondo (who we all adore), Hagar wants us to ask, “What brings you joy?” Add all the creative elements that make you want to keep going (even when you feel like giving up) on your board. Manifest your hopes, goals and wildest dreams. And hey, it’s a great addition to keep in your bedroom to kickstart the New Year.

Spread a voice of love, not hate

In such turbulent times, it’s normal to become agitated with the state of our country, disappointed in the state of the world because of COVID-19, and worrisome over when things will return to a state of normalcy. It’s even normal to wish we were back to the whipped coffee days of quarantine, where things seemed to be a *little* more predictable. Cherishing your communities through love and support, however, is the catalyst for change, according to Hagar.

“This is cliché, but we must be the change,” she says. “It starts with you. Instead of posting about a political candidate you’re against and all he or she has done wrong, try posting about [the] one you support and all the ways he or she can do us right. Lead with love and only love.”

She recommends asking if your posts and actions come from a place of love. And if it doesn’t, don’t initiate a chain of hate.

Understand you can still make a change, regardless of presidential outcome

Regardless if you are Team Trump-Pence or Team Biden-Harris, it is important to understand that the President of the United States is not a be-all, end-all situation for the country. Recognizing this piece of assurance will alleviate election-associated stress and instill peace within your mind.

“It’s important to remember that the president is like the house you live in,” Hagar says. “Yes, it affects you – it shelters you, it may confine you in some way or another, but ultimately, there are multiple rooms within the house that are more specific to you. These can be your state and local governments. These are important to vote on, write letters to and stay active as well.”

And, because it is “closer to your backyard,” as Hagar also puts it, you have more power than you may realize – power you didn’t even know you had because of the suffocating circulation of politicized social media posts. 

The election cycle, more often than not, evokes stress to (specifically) college-aged individuals. We have been change-makers, doers and dreamers since the late ‘90s and early 2000s and feel as though the country is ours to guide, to influence – or it’s game over. But that’s not the case. We can be dignified in the face of disaster, whether that comes from a global pandemic or a political representative in local, state or federal governments. Not to mention, we survived the disaster we called “nationwide March shutdown,” proving to our colleges, families and the world that we can adapt to changing times.

It’s all about what we believe, what we tell our minds to believe and how we can continue to set positive intentions for each day.

“The greatest power you have is that of your own mind,” Hagar concludes. “You are in control of you no matter what your political structure or house looks like. Choose peace and you will have peace.