Okay. The election is over and we reluctantly or eagerly head back to some older routine, perhaps -- like work, play, shopping, reading fiction, exercise, sleep. It has been a relentless process, sandwiching real life between polls, debates, rallies, canvassing and just worrying. With the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, let's take a real look at how we handled these last few weeks in particular.
Did you find yourself compulsively checking your favorite election blog sites (up to 10 or more times a day?)
How many hours each day did you listen to talk radio or 24 hour news stations?
Do the number of forwarded emails/videos do you still have on your computer with Sarah Palin as the subject threaten to swamp your laptop?
Was your sleep pattern disrupted by late night coverage and SNL?
Did your stimulant and depressant intake increase (i.e. coffee, tea , Red Bull vs. alcohol or sleep meds)?
Did you find yourself a bit snappish at your partner or work colleagues.
Are you behind on projects at work and home?
Does your sleep-deprived mind act like a sieve unless it is processing the electoral vote map?
How many times have you misplaced your car keys or cell phone in the last 60 days?
If these questions are hitting close to home, then take note and learn about how you typically handle stress over the long-term. Awareness is the first step to making a change. Everyone has coping strategies for mitigating pain, anxiety, or any strong emotional responses -- some healthier than others. For a short term crisis or events, those strategies may be just the thing to help us through a few hours or even days. But it is the journey, not the destination that really counts.
The election season has been a long and sometimes difficult journey. Many of us have been training our minds and bodies to get into some pretty self-defeating habits.
Why wait until the New Year to start making and breaking resolutions? You can get a 7 week head start and channel some of that adrenalin addiction into something that might make a difference in your life. Don't think of it as selfish. Caring for ourselves makes us much better at taking care of others. Here are a few strategies for de-toxing and de-bugging our personal operating systems.
Go cold turkey for 24 hours. I dare you -- no phones, media, computers or newspapers. Silence or uplifting music or the sounds of nature are in order now.
Treat yourself to a little nurture: warms baths, sunshine, massage, yoga, candlelight, walks in the woods or park. You've been through a lot. It's time to re-boot.
Cut the caffeine and alcohol. Watch out for withdrawal symptoms. You may have to do this over several days. Notice that your body may bark back at you with a little more agitation. That's a sign that there is a definite dependency that developed during the last few months. Remember, you don't really need those things and your body already knows how to balance itself. It just needs a chance.
Make some soup, bake some apples, take time to enjoy and taste some really simple fresh food.
Straighten your desk. Purge your computer. Clean out the refrigerator. Nothing brings in new energy like removing clutter and restoring a little order. If it seems overwhelming, just pick one thing each day.
Watch the leaves turn or the snow fall. To everything there is a season. Don't miss out on life by spending it all in your head wondering "what if, what next, what the bleep?"
Read a really good fiction book.
Don't approach changing your recent habits with the same obsessiveness and anxiety that created them.
Get a grip (on yourself) and let go.
Kay Goldstein, MA teaches meditation and writes poetry, fiction and articles addressing the challenges and joys of daily living and spiritual practice. www.kaygoldstein.com