Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Election 2016 and Your Health: The Good, The Bad, and The Nasty

     Unless you have been "living under a rock" as the kids would say, you are already aware that this election has been unlike any other in our lifetime. Not only has Election 2016 been more stressful then years past but it was also longer. And if you consider the 24 hour cable news cycle along with social media its a 24/7 596 day affair that we can consume on our phones, tablets, laptops, satellite radio and yes, television anytime we wish.

 Gone are the days of our childhood where the election news was watched in the evening on our televisions or listened to on our radios and then discussed at the water coolers allowing us a respite from politics for the majority of our day. Don't get me wrong I have no desire to go back to those days and in full disclosure, I am a politics geek & history buff who thinks a romantic getaway is a trip to Historic Williamsburg or Washington D.C. to look at the monuments. So what do I suggest to survive the constant barrage of Election 2016 which can be a stressor for many of us? Balance.

Five Tips For Reducing Stress During Election 2016

1. Take A Break From The Media (yes, including social media): I am not saying to throw away your phone but to know your limits as there is a difference between being informed about Election 2016 and being stressed by it. Some suggestions are: 
  • Limit your news, try reading the news instead of watching, don't drive while listening to the news during your commute to/from work and turn off devices when you eat or at least put them in another room.
  •  Schedule breaks from social media. For example, put down your twitter feed for a few minutes several times a day, take a mini vacation from Facebook several times a day, and turn off the notification on your phone so you don't hear the alerts . You can also choose not to debate with others on Facebook or twitter, or as I like to say- Don't Dance.
  • Try not to sleep with the television on as it will disrupt your melatonin and effect the quality of your sleep. If you can't fall asleep without the t.v. use the sleep timer so it turns itself off after a few minutes.

2. Take a Walk: Or even better unplug and take a walk. Take your dog for a walk if you have one. Take a quick walk during lunch with a friend from work. Walk after dinner with your spouse, friend or neighbor. Enjoy the crisp autumn air and the beauty of the season. And don't think or talk about the election.

3. Just Breathe: Breathing Exercises can be a simple and quick way to relieve stress. If you are unfamiliar with breathing exercises you can start with this one: Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale slowly out through your mouth. Feel better? If you want to try more breathing exercises several of my favorites are some of the ones suggested by Dr Weil: "The Stimulating Breath", "The 4-7-8 Exercise", and "Breath Counting" (my personal favorite). Instructions and videos for each of these can be found on his website

4. Are you drinking enough? Stop laughing, I am talking about water. Hydration is essential for good health. Stress can cause dehydration & dehydration can cause stress. It's a vicious cycle so break this cycle by taking a water break. Carry water with you and keep it next to you as a visual reminder but make sure it's filtered & the container is BPA free.

5. Eat Comfort Food: I mean real food or as I like to refer to it as "foods that our great grandmothers ate". Choose real whole foods instead of junk food, fast foods or highly processed food. Looking for ideas? The following foods are said to reduce stress: oatmeal, blueberries, bananas, whole grains, greek yogurt, almonds, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, cantaloupe, green tea,  oranges, raw cashews, peppers, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and my personal favorite dark chocolate (in moderation). Remember as always to eat with your individual health in mind avoiding foods you can't tolerate or are allergic to. Avoid alcohol, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, high fructose corn syrup, excessive salt & sugar, and trans fats as these items are not only detrimental to our health but are said to exacerbate stress symptoms.

Remember whatever happens on Nov. 8th, life will go on and the sun will still rise on November 9th and yes, our country will have a new President-elect. Whether it is the person you voted for or not, remember our political system and our three branches of government will assure that there are checks and balances in place. Most of all avoid catastrophizing and try to maintain a balanced perspective while maintaining a balanced lifestyle. And remember no matter who becomes our next President, feel free to use these tips Post Election too.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, B.Sc., P.T.A.
Health Coach