Election, coronavirus causing stress? Experts say to limit news consumption
“Anxiety is worry about things that are in the future – what might happen. Could happen. Should happen. It’s frequently accompanied by a tendency to fear the very worst – to catastrophize,” Dr. Robert Bright, psychiatrist at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, told Fox News in an emailed statement. “Having these types of thoughts does not, actually, change the future. It just makes you miserable in the meantime.”
Focus on the present moment, and note what is in your control, such as voting, Neda Gould, director of the Mindfulness Program at Johns Hopkins and associate director of the Bayview Anxiety Disorders Clinic of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, wrote to Fox News. She suggested spending 10 to 20 minutes a day jotting down a list of worries, and for the rest of the day, redirecting the mind to the activities at hand.
“Mindfulness can be a very useful strategy to return to the present moment when the mind begins to get caught up in negative thought cycles and catastrophic thinking,” Gould said. “Take a few deep breaths and notice your senses to ground yourself back into this moment.”
Experts also advise remaining informed of the news while limiting news consumption; checking back just once or twice daily.
Instead, self-care interventions can engage the relaxation response, Ellen Slawsby, director of Chronic Pain Programming at Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Fox News in an emailed statement.
“Reflect and put it in perspective: we know the election can’t be over right now, but it will be over,” Slawsby said. “Everything does come to an end: this stress physiology is real, but it will change.”
Experts advise engaging in healthy, pleasurable activities, like exercising, eating well and getting adequate sleep. Try a warm bath, gardening, listening to music, making artwork or taking a walk under the fall foliage. Cook a delicious meal and savor the sights and smells – this brings the mind to the present moment.
“Avoid talk of politics or the election. Focus on your other mutual interests, and do activities together that bring you joy,” Bright said.”Game night! Watch a movie together. Book club. Look through photos of a trip you went on together and plan your next adventure.”
Experts also know that maintaining social connection plays a major role in keeping stress and anxiety at bay.
“Find social supports where you can share similar beliefs; become involved in a grass roots organization – sending emails or making phones calls that’s a prosocial behavior that can not only connect you to others of similar mindsets, but give you a sense of control in having a hand in shaping the future in a positive way,” Slawsby said.
Nevertheless, those experiencing serious anxiety and depression should seek professional help.
“Between the election and the pandemic, this is a time of uncertainty,” Bright said. “And uncertainty is a petri dish breeding ground for anxiety. As humans, we want to be in control of what is happening and will happen. Anxiety is the tension that lives between that desire and the simple fact that much in life is beyond our control.”
“So focus on what you can control.”