Dear Christine, Anxious in Ann Arbor

Dear Christine,

Do you have any suggestions for helping decrease my anxiety during this election time? I can’t sleep and my doctor had to increase my blood pressure meds. She offered sleeping aids but with my substance abuse issues, I was afraid to go down that path.

What can I do to relax and ease this anxiety? I know it’ll be ok if Biden wins, but if he doesn’t, I feel like I’ll really be a mess and I know I’m not alone in these feeling.

Thanks, Signed, Anxious is Ann Arbor

Dear Anxious,

I hear you loud and clear.  A recent report I saw today said that 70% of the American voting public is very anxious about the election on Tues, Nov 3, 2020.  I hear most of my clients echoing your (and my) anxieties.  I feel like I have been holding my breath for 4 years!

What I see campaign officials from the Biden campaign say is “if you are anxious, get to work.”  There are things you can still do:  donating money to candidates that you support, contact their local offices to see if you can join in door knocking, phone calling and emailing those few people who are undecided and haven’t voted early.  Check out if you can volunteer at a polling site, or if you can let your friends and neighbors that  know that you can provide rides to the polls.  I see some people offering that on the NextDoor app, but it also would be coordinated by the campaigns of your chosen candidates.  If you are so inclined, pray, send love and peaceful energy to everyone!

The other thing to do is to try to distract yourself.  Try taking a walk/run/bike ride.  Do something physical.  I just raked leaves into bags and then dumped the bags on my back yard gardens to mulch them.  I had no leaves, so I took them from neighbors, where they had raked them into the street.  Now, I feel physically tired, which  helps my body feel less anxious.  Exercise also gets you to take deep breaths, which are calming.

As you try taking some slow (5 second inhale, 5 second exhale) breaths, imagine that you are inhaling love, peace, light and calmness.  Imagine that breath circling around inside your whole body to each extremity.  When you exhale, imagine that you are releasing any tension in your muscles, any anxieties in your mind.  After at least 30 seconds of deep breathing, or up to 10 or even 20 minutes if you want to do it longer, stand up and shake off your body.  Brush off the air just above your head, shoulders, arms, chest, hips and legs.  Imagine brushing off any fears or negativity, allowing you some peace.

Try to limit watching news and doom scrolling.  All the social media and cable news shows are full of toxic screeds right now, incomplete information, partial truths and complete bunk.  Remember that this election, it will take at least several days for everyone’s votes to be counted.  A lot of citizens voted early, and many states count those ballots after those cast on election day.  With all the confusion around this election, be prepared to take early counts and estimates with a grain of salt.  Just wait, let the count proceed and breathe, exercise, distract yourself from information overload and speculation.

When the votes are in, we may be in for some tumult due to the count or problems with the count or all kinds of reactions to whoever is eventually declared the winner.  Whatever we as a people decide in this vote, take comfort that you have been doing your part.  History shows the pendulum swings to one extreme and eventually back to the center, then off to the other extreme.  Trust the process.  Take each day one day at a time.  Trust yourself that you will be fine.  We will all get through this difficult, anxious, scary time.  And if the vote goes the other way from your choice, rest assured that many people will be protesting and you can vent your opposition publically and/or privately if that time arrives.

Meanwhile, be gentle with you.  Don’t beat yourself up for feeling anxious, not sleeping,  needing more blood pressure meds.  This too shall pass.  So, stand up, take a walk around the room, or around your neighborhood.  Hydrate, eat some healthy food, and practice deep breathing to release the anxieties of this moment.  And then repeat.

Take care,

Christine Cantrell, PhD,

Fully Licensed Psychologist

Christine C. Cantrell, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Prism of Possibilities Psychotherapy
1026 W. Eleven Mile Road, Suite C
Royal Oak, Michigan 48067
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