It's going to be a rough October.
People feel on edge to me. There’s a tempo to my daily conversations that has been moving out of the calm, summer exchanges into more a more heated, frustrated direction. And it’s not just me. Lots of colleagues are reporting it: more intense exchanges, increased anxiety, demanding clients, less patience, more emotion.
Smells like the four weeks before an election to me.
Let’s face it, this one is hard on all of us.
Wherever you fall on the Donald Trump/Hilary Clinton lineup, one thing is very clear — this is a divisive time. The media is screaming with accusations about “latest thing he or she said” and much of it is worrisome, anxiety provoking, and alarming.
According to The Atlantic, appointments with personal therapists are on the rise and discussion around the election permeates the dialog. Many people are dealing with what has been termed as “election anxiety."
So, in an effort to cool my own jets and also offer some support to anyone who is also feeling this same level of yuckiness, I thought it prudent to take stock of a few coping skills that will help you make it through the next few pre-election weeks in one piece.
1. Remember there is an endpoint to the question of who will win and who will go home.
And, while many people have pervasive fears about the “what if” scenarios if their candidate loses, dealing the reality instead of the unknown is ultimately easier.
When you’re living in the unknown, it’s easy to manufacture what I like to call “boogeyman” fears that feed off your emotions. By getting to the answer, you know with certainty what is in front of you and, even if you don’t like it, when the truth is out there, you can find ways to deal with it.
2. Give yourself a reality check about the emotions you see (and feel) in others.
When someone’s feelings do not match up logically to the facts around them, something deeper is going on. In this climate, fear is pervasive and we all need to take a chill pill around reacting to other people’s emotions.
This is especially true when it comes to judging the people you love. So your Dad loves Trump. Does that mean your Dad is a bad guy? Not at all.
Be careful of how you let your feelings interfere with your sense of judgment. And don’t let a leaky comment slip out that you will live to regret later. Shaming and embarrassing people for their beliefs is something that will stick long after the election du jour has passed. Sometimes, it really is OK to disagree to disagree.
3. Do NOT fuel your own fears.
If you’re affected by the rhetoric, turn the TV off. Clearly if your feelings are coming up, you have a sense of where you fall on the deciding line. You don’t need more evidence to build your case and you’re not likely to change your mind.
Stop feeding the beast by binging on Facebook or watching every video you can about Trump’s latest wack-a-doo comment or revisiting one MORE story about Hilary’s hacked emails. You know what box you’re checking on November 8th, let that be enough to keep you on track and find a way back to your more rational self.
4. Monitor what your kids are being exposed to.
They are little sponges to your behavior, and politics can be very ugly stuff. Pay attention to how much you expose them to, what kinds of discussions you have in front of them, and what they need guidance to understand.
It’s really hard to explain certain things to young children. Hearing the man who wants to run the free world speaking about women with such vile language is really challenging for a little mind to understand. But it’s just as hard for them to understand their parents' level of arguing, anger, and sometimes hatred towards each other or someone they love in their family who happens to fall on opposite party lines.
Keep in mind — your kids are kids. Exposing them to too much robs them of their innocence and gives them adult thoughts to worry about that they may not be ready for. Don’t you remember what it was like to worry about Russia? Or the bomb? Or AIDS? OR Y2K? As parents, we have to ask ourselves how much exposure is too much. Perhaps it’s better to follow #3 and take your kid out for ice cream and a chat instead?
5. Finally, be patient with yourself and others.
Everyone seems to be affected by this election and it’s causing stress, which shortens tempers and causes mistakes. Give yourself a little extra time to get to work, go to bed a little earlier, and eat good food with the people you love.
There isn’t a cure to make the time pass faster, but, if the last few months are an indication, we’re going to come screaming into the finish line next month. We are going to need every ounce of positive energy to not let the turkeys fueling this election get us all down.
Surviving this election season really comes down to one thing — the more you can find compassion, patience, and empathy for your fellow human being, the better.
Because we’re all in this together.
Perhaps the politicians are not, but we are. We’re Americans. Moms, Dads, hurricane survivors, employees, friends, and family. We can’t allow this election to force us to lose our humanity and dip into meaner or more hateful ways of being without it having consequences in the future.
Remember that the next time your crazy uncle or hippie college roommate posts something on Facebook that makes your blood boil. Perhaps you can simply hit the button to “hide” them for a while.