Whichever candidate they support, Americans can at least agree on one thing--tonight is going to be unbelievably stressful. With stakes sky-high and the pandemic scrambling usual election procedures, just about every expert out there is warning we're likely in for a long, bumpy ride.
How can you survive the stress coming our way? The positive psychology experts at the University of California, Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center suggest that while you can't do much to change how the election plays out (except voting. Everyone voted, right?), you can adjust your frame of mind to help stay sane.
The best way to counteract your stress and helplessness, they say, is by asking yourself questions like these:
1. When do I feel good about the election?
If your first knee-jerk answer to this question was, 'um, never,' I can't blame you. But Greater Good suggests that's at least in part because the media has such a strong bias toward reporting the negative. You need to counteract all the horrible attention-grabbing headlines by actively searching out evidence that there is still plenty of good in the world.
"When do you find yourself tearing up or smiling? Who is working for goals that you think are important, who seems to be effective and successful? Where are the solutions? Perhaps you heard a speech that inspired you," suggests Greater Good. "When you find good news, then let yourself feel good about it."
2. What am I grateful for today?
Again, this might seem like exactly the wrong question to ask in 2020, but psychologists insist that counting your blessings is even more important in dark times. Not only does it give your mood a much needed boost, it also gives you the resilience to get back up and work to make the world a little less dark.
Greater Good sums this up with a quote from gratitude researcher Robert Emmons: "In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope."
3. What future would I like to see--and what steps am I taking today to make that future happen?
Presidential politics can make you feel small and helpless. You're not. Remembering that the future is not written and you have the power to shape the world around you can help you fight election night anxiety (OK, sometimes full-on panic).
"When we look to the future--a process scientists call 'prospection'--the present moment actually becomes more meaningful," Greater Good explains. "Though it might be hard right now to think beyond November 3, it's worth trying. Numerous studies show that envisioning a positive future makes it more likely to come to pass--and prospection can make us more resilient in the present."
So think about what you would change if you could wave a magic wand and then take some small step to make the world look a little more like that. Nothing beats back despair and disillusionment like action.
Still in need of more election-night coping strategies? Greater Good offers five more to help get you through this unusual time sane here.