One of the most contentious and anxiety-producing elections in recent U.S. history has ended. If your candidate was on the losing side, you may be feeling a sense of profound disappointment, anger, even a sense of hopeless about the consequences of the election result. Even if your candidate won, you may feel a need to wind down from weeks or months of stress and anger. The technique of mindfulness—living in the present moment with openness, curiosity and willingness—is an excellent antidote to the stress of modern times.
Diana Winston, director of mindfulness education at UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center, can discuss ways you can respond to those feelings of anxiety and stress brought about by the election:
1. Take a mindful breath
Mindfulness and meditation take practice. To start, the simplest thing to do is to focus on your breathing. When your attention wanders, bring it back to the sensations of your breath. Over time, it gets easier to stay in the present moment and not get too caught up by the stress of the election.
2. Notice your body's sensations
When you're in the middle of a heated conversation or, notice what's going on with your body in the present moment. That means feeling your feet on the floor, feeling your heart racing, or noticing that you're having a feeling of irritation. You don't have to act on that thought or feeling. You can be aware of the sensations without getting caught in the irritation and letting it take you over.
3. Put your thoughts into perspective
When your thoughts go to worst-case scenarios, revenge fantasies, obsessive thinking, or any other troubling thoughts, remember it is merely a thought and that you can notice it without acting on it. Thoughts come and go. You don't have to put credence in every thought you think. With mindfulness you can be aware of the thought and refocus your attention on the present moment: your breath or body sensations such as your feet on the floor.
4. Don't just hear others - listen to them
Try to listen to another person, even if they have a differing opinion, with wholehearted attention. Commit to listening until the other feels fully heard. You can practice being mindful of your own thoughts, judgments, and reaction, by noticing when they arise in your mind, taking a breath and returning your full attention to the other person.