There is no denying that 2020 has been quite a year. To top it off, we’re in the thick of an election season that is causing substantial stress and polarization. According to the American Psychological Association1, 68% of Americans identified election-related stress as having a significant impact on their lives. All year long, I’ve been stressing to clients that self-care needs to be a top priority, but those words could not be truer than they are today. As we prepare to celebrate International Stress Awareness Day on November 4 (they did that on purpose, didn’t they…c’mon, the day after the election?!?), take a moment to take stock of your stress level and consider what you can do to take even better care of yourself. Here are some ideas to help you weather the stress of the election, COVID-related restrictions, difficulties working from home, teaching your children, really just any and all challenges in life:
1. Take moments of self-care.
- When most people think of self-care, they think of extended, extravagant activities that make them completely refreshed and rejuvenated. Heading to the spa, golf course, or out with friends hasn’t been feasible for much of the year. This year, we’ve been forced to focus on what we can reasonably and realistically do. It may be stepping outside to take a deep breath of fresh air. It may be taking 3 slow deep breaths. Perhaps it’s doing a guided meditation. Or maybe it’s mindfully noticing the essential oil that you diffused in your kitchen, office, or bedroom.
- Here are some quick, helpful resources you can tap into during your moments of self-care:
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2. Create healthy boundaries.
- Unfollow individuals, groups, or pages that cause you distress or trigger negative reactions. You don’t have to unfriend someone or cut them out of your life, but it’s perfectly healthy to take a break when your life is stressful – especially if they’re contributing to your stress!
- Limit your consumption of media in all formats. Information is readily available at our fingertips, bombarding us with any and everything we could want to know (and even some we’d rather not know). Set a timer and peruse your preferred news source until that timer beeps. Once it does, move on to another activity.
- Limit interactions with triggering people. The election is divisive. Spending time with people who are like-minded helps you to feel grounded and safe. It is perfectly acceptable to choose to spend your precious time with those who don’t cause you stress.
3. Take care of your body to take care of your mind.
- Get good quality sleep! Sleep is critical to our mental health. Prioritizing your sleep will help you now and in the future. Here are some good sleep hygiene practices:
–Set a bedtime and a wake up time, and hold yourself accountable to those times.
–Create a bedtime routine – change into comfy pajamas, brush your teeth, turn down the lights, do some quiet activities that encourage your body to wind down.
–Turn off your devices! Screens can inhibit our bodies’ natural ability to induce sleep through the hormone melatonin. Allow at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime that are screen free.
–Be sure that your bedroom is sleep-friendly! Are your pillows and mattress comfy? Do you need blackout curtains? Consider using a fan or sound machine to drown out sleep-interrupting sounds.
–Be sure you’re getting your fill of Vitamin D. Head outside as much as possible. As the days get shorter, consider using a light box. Be sure to consult your doctor to determine if supplements and/or phototherapy would be beneficial for you.
–Cut down on caffeine and alcohol consumption in the evening.
–Get regular exercise.
–Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
- Move your body – whether you’re going for a walk, riding your Peloton, chasing your kids around the house, or doing a Pilates video in your living room, physical activity helps moderate your stress hormones.
- Try to make healthy food choices – let’s be real, a lot of us are comfort eating right now. Being mindful of our choices when it comes to food can impact our stress level. Try making it a goal to “eat the rainbow” every day – fruits and veggies are a great place to start!
4. Pour into positive, enjoyable activities.
- Dig into your hobbies – whether it’s knitting, painting, DIYing, stamp collecting, or videogaming, reintroduce yourself to the creative, fun parts of yourself that help you focus on positive experiences.
- Journaling can be a helpful way to get your thoughts and ideas out and let them sit on the paper, rather than circling back to them continually.