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Susan Smalley, Ph.D. Headshot

Election Anxiety: Kill It With Kindness

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In the last week of the election, anxiety in our country is palpable. But I also am starting to realize that it is how we think, feel, and act after the election that is really important. Whoever wins, someone loses and that group of people will feel sorrow and disappointment (and anger, fear, etc.). It is how we act before and after this election that will shape the direction we take as a country in the future.

It seems to me that kindness may be the best antidote of sorts to both anxiety now and the emotions that will arise in the aftermath of the election.

1. Be kind to your body. Notice your body a little bit more this week with a kind eye, not a critical one. Watch when the physiological symptoms of anxiety are increasing. When you notice that your stomach is 'tight' for example, pause and breath into it a bit, calm it, and then go about doing what you were doing. I heard a Buddhist monk say that he overcame his social anxiety by stopping himself every 2 minutes throughout the day to detect its physicals signs earlier and earlier (stomach tightening) and to breath slowly until it subsided.

2. Be kind to your mind. Perhaps reduce, rather than increase your viewing or listening time to the polling and pundits. Rather than watch more and more as the race comes to an end, be selective (and watch less), take a walk, meditate, listen to music, paint, visit friends, or do something to help someone else. Get out of the environment that fuels your anxiety and spend time nurturing yourself or others. You can also volunteer for your political party and take action rather than think about it.

3. Be kind to the world. Pay attention to other things in the world. I saw an Indian anchorwoman the other night saying that the people of India really don't care who wins our election, they are much more focused on what's happening in their own country. Remember that this election - while of great importance to us - is one of many many events affecting billions of people other than ourselves.

4. Kindness is on the rise. While humans share a biologically rooted self-centered drive to survive, there is an emerging recognition of our deep interconnectedness (biologically, ecologically, and consciously). It is in this latter awareness - once realized by all - that will lead to a world of compassion and kindness. Until we get there, we can each play a part in its revelation by attending to our individual awareness, acting in accord with it, and being patient in the process. We cannot force it or make it happen faster than its natural pace (evolution is generally relatively slow).

5. Kindness trumps everything else. Practice compassion toward yourself and others, especially in this last week and in the aftermath of the election. To be compassionate requires that you be kind, be mindful (attentive to the present experience) and remember that we are all part of the human condition.

Henry James once said, "Three things in human life are important:

The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind."

Now is the time to practice all three.

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