In these last few days of the election, it feels like the air is thinner, and like the stakes have never been higher. According to the American Psychological Association, the election is a source of "significant stress" for 52% of Americans. Another poll, from the University of Minnesota, found that 93% of people surveyed agree this is the worst election ever. It's no wonder that we're so stressed out, says meditation expert and therapist Ralph de la Rosa. As a result of this particularly vicious election, "friendships are ending, people are blocking each other on social media," he says. "Emotions are so hot right now that we’ve forgotten how to disagree with each other in a mature way." Part of that is because our political views have become such an important piece of our identities these days. So when your high school BFF disagrees with you (possibly in a less-than-polite way) and denies that part of you, it stings. "Which is understandable to a degree," de la Rosa adds, "but it's eclipsing our ability to engage in critical dialogue without ending friendships." We're anxious about possibly saying the wrong thing or lashing out at someone we care about. But the alternative — bottling it all up inside — isn't helping us either. So, now that we're in the home stretch, we asked de la Rosa for a little advice to help keep things from getting out of hand in the final countdown. He recommends this four-step process for dealing with those tough feelings — without letting them take over or get swept under your emotional rug. With these tips, we're sure to get along a little better — no matter who wins. In the next few days, you can turn to this meditation when you're really bugging out:
1. Simply make yourself aware of how you're feeling. Whether you're so angry you could scream or so happy you're ready to throw it in every Facebook friend's face, take a moment to pause and check in with your emotions. In political arguments, especially, you may not realize just how emotional you're getting in the moment. 2. Next, stop. "Excuse yourself to the restroom or get off the phone if you have to," says de la Rosa. "The logic here is that if you’re really in an emotion, nothing you’re going to do is going to be productive." 3. Now that you know what you're feeling and you've got some space, direct your attention to your breath. Start taking deep inhales and exhales (about six seconds each). Repeat this pattern for about two minutes. You can also use a mantra here if you'd like. We're big fans of the metta meditation, which means repeating the phrase, "May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be peaceful" a few times before moving on to repeating, "May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful." Then, as a final step, when you're ready, you end on, "May all beings be happy, may all beings be healthy, may all beings be peaceful" repeated a few times. If that doesn't feel right, de la Rosa says deep breathing alone works great, too. 4. Finally, zoom out and remember the big picture, meaning who you are, what your values are, and what kind of person you want to be. Chances are, your ideal self isn't someone who yells at her friends. And, although this election feels like it could be apocalyptic, it's good to remind yourself that's not actually true: "Your candidate isn’t going to necessarily accomplish everything they say they will, and neither will the other candidate," says de la Rosa.