Gretchen Rubin

Staying calm: Four tips for dealing with pre-election jitters.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: 4 tips for dealing with pre-election jitters.

The presidential election has everyone nervous. No one is confident about the outcome, and it could potentially be a very, very long night next Tuesday. Emotions are running high.

So how can you deal with pre-election jitters?

1. Don’t stay plugged in every minute. With all the news and opinion outlets out there, you can make yourself crazy by trying to keep up. That’s fine if you have nothing else to do, but if you fall behind at work or neglect the people in your life, you’re going to see some unhappy consequences. Also, you might find your mood jerked up and down as you follow the good and bad news. Remind yourself that unless you’re actually employed by a campaign, you don’t have to process every scrap of information. Set aside certain times during the day to check in, and don’t let it take over your life. At the same time, when you do engage in the political conversation…

2. Keep the level of your conversation high. One of the most fascinating insights from my happiness-project research is that although we often think we act because of the way we feel, we often feel because of the way we act. So if you’re spewing vitriol anonymously on the internet, if you’re screaming at the TV, if you’re insulting your relatives for their political views, that ugly behavior is going to blow back on you, and make you feel more mean and angry. If you speak respectfully, you’ll feel more respect for yourself, and you’ll contribute to a more thoughtful level of political discourse. What’s more…

3. Do more than pontificate. You may feel like you’re participating very actively by doing a lot of reading and a lot of talking. Fact is, although every citizen has a duty to be well-informed, there’s a lot more to civic participation than just talking about it. You can volunteer to help a campaign, or contribute, or be a poll watcher, or be a poll volunteer. Especially if you’re feeling frustrated, taking an active role will give you a reassuring sense of having done your best to help. And, zoikes, at the very least…

4. VOTE! In 2004, I was absolutely flabbergasted when a good friend, a political nut, told me casually that he didn’t vote, because it wasn’t worth his time to deal with going to the polls. “My vote doesn’t make a difference in New York,” he explained. This is a guy who is consumed with politics. I was so shocked, I couldn’t think of a thing to say – and that doesn’t happen to me very often. Call me sentimental, but I think if you can vote, you should! I love to vote.

Voting will make you happier, too. The subject of self-esteem has generated a fair amount of controversy, but one thing seems clear: you don’t get healthy self-esteem from constantly telling yourself how great you are, or even from other people telling you how great you are. You get healthy self-esteem from behaving in ways that you find estimable. In other words, the best way to feel better about yourself is to do something worthy of your own respect. By making the effort to do something worthwhile, like voting, even if it’s inconvenient, you will raise yourself in your own estimation.

How about you? Have you found any good strategies for staying calm as we enter the last week before the election?

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