This time of year always make me a little crazy. The hot whipping Santa Ana winds just fray my nerves. Smoke and ash raining down, banks collapsing, retirement funds dwindling, and this god-awful never-ending election are all conspiring to put me in the madhouse. The year 2004 was contentious enough; I still have the pink Pepto stains on my John Kerry T-shirt to prove it. But this election cycle seems to have started way earlier and angrier, and Nov. 5 can’t come soon enough for me. The Sunday morning pundit jam sessions get my heart rate up enough that I have been counting it as exercise. I knew I was in trouble when my friends started talking to me like debate facilitators: “I’m sorry Lisa, but I’m afraid your 30 seconds are up.” Seriously, it’s enough to make a person physically ill.
Before I give myself an ulcer or incite a road-rage incident, though, I thought I would see what an expert has to say on the subject. While most of his patients are dealing with much more complex issues, local psychologist Dr. Kent Coleman puts some perspective on the pressures we perceive in an election. “It’s more of an external superficial stressor.”
“I listened to the debates . . .. There’s very little substance,” says Coleman, adding that it’s important for voters to clarify their own values in relation to the candidates’. He also says that we need to come to terms with and accept that there really is no ideal candidate for every individual.
When the debates are over and it’s just the voter and his or her ballot, there are some harsh realities to face, and one of them may be that there really is no end to all of this. “It’s learning to handle the anxiety of the lack of closure,” says Coleman.
Here are a few healthy coping tips (I call them survival strategies) to get you through this election season:
Limit your news intake. We are being inundated every second of every day with candidate statements, propositions, polls, op-eds, yard signs and recorded robots. Resolve to, at least for a period of time, step away from the computer, turn off the TV, turn off the phone and turn off the mail (seriously, go to www.usps.com and do a mail hold for a couple of days)!
Watch the caffeine, junk food and alcohol; don’t allow the election to feed an addiction. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables whenever you start to feel your blood boil.
Take a chill pill. No, I don’t mean you should self-medicate! Do something calming, like breathing, and take your thoughts to a place without controversy.
If you find yourself embroiled in a heated debate, consciously steer the conversation to a more innocuous subject, like what smells better, puppy breath or cut grass?
Go for a walk or a run. Exercise brings endorphins, and endorphins just make everything about your mind and body feel good and right.
Wash your hair. Get out of the house. Feel the hot Santa Ana winds on your face.
Do something meaningless and mindless, like watching a rerun of Seinfeld, then do something meaningful and mindful, like calling your mother (just don’t talk about the election) or volunteering (but not as a pollster).
And lastly, accept that many things are out of your control, but know that you can absolutely control how you respond (by reaching for the Pepto).F
Lisa Snider is a local freelance writer. For more, go to www.LisaSnider.com.