10 Ways Cope With Election Night Anxiety- Without Alcohol
First, I want to directly state that this post offers suggestions for the management of stress and anxiety symptoms in the short term. I understand to the best I am able that many marginalized populations feel as if they are watching their rights be taken away. These are systemic issues that require advocacy, allies, and institutional change, and I do not want to in any way imply that I am suggesting that my ideas are a fix for centuries of systemic invalidation and discrimination. Those are very important, real concerns for many people and will be the subject of a later post.
Tonight I want to write about how to de-stress without alcohol.
The use of alcohol as a coping tool for stress is ubiquitous in our society. From a shift beer at the end of a long night working in a restaurant, a glass of wine for stressed-out moms, a professional happy hour, or commiserating over a drink on the rocks with friends, the connection between alcohol and unwinding is everywhere. TVs, movies, Facebook posts, and even memes reinforce this message that relaxation = alcohol.
Put simply, coping with stress without using alcohol is all about self-care. This is harder than it sounds.
Many of these suggestions may seem overly simple, common sense, or "duh!"- but those are the kind of things that are often most difficult to identify and implement when we are stressed.
Take a bath with essential oils, bath salts (my favorite are these from Words to Cleanse By- a small, black-owned business), or scented bubble bath. As you sit in the bath, focus on the water's feel and the pleasant scent. Take a moment to engage in Progress Muscle Relaxation- a fancy way of referring to tensing and releasing all of your muscles, starting with your feet and ankles, and moving all the way to the neck. You can actually do this one wherever you are- even if not in the bath!
Stay off social media! For those that must use Facebook, consider utilizing the "Unfollow" feature- you can prevent posts from specified people and pages from showing up on your newsfeed. This is great for that colleague you can't unfriend but are tired of seeing 10 million pictures of their dog every day. Instagram has a similar feature called "Muting." Election post, annoying pictures, hurtful updates- Gone!
Another alternative- look at dog photos! Or pictures of pasta- try searching for things that make you feel happy using hashtags- like #dogoftheday, #food, #sewingprojects, etc. (Confession: I am that person who posts a million dog photos- #sorrynotsorry and that's my dog in the link!)
Snuggle with a loved one! A child, a partner, a spouse, a friend, a cat, a dog or talk to your fish (I cannot be the only one who does this!) Try taking just 5 minutes to turn off the outside world and focus on being close, feeling loved, and feeling safe.
Reach out to friends over the phone, via text, or a video call. Simply acknowledge to each other the level of stress you are feeling. Offer support without any suggestions (unless they are asked for.) Sometimes just knowing someone else is in the same boat or feels the same way is invaluable.
Watch a favorite TV show or movie you've seen a million times. For me, it's Gilmore Girls. What's yours?
Look at silly videos or memes on the internet. The more ridiculous, the better. I personally love videos of people falling into fountains from the olden days when we still had shopping malls- probably because it's something I could completely see myself doing :)
Create a favorite meal from scratch or order from your favorite take out place. Do not watch tv, look on your phone, or do anything else while you eat other than focus on the food. Focus on the flavors, the scent, the texture. Keep yourself only in the moment and enjoy every bite!
Journal. Sometimes the act of putting your feelings in writing calms your mind and body. There is actually some science behind this which I'll explain in a later post.
Set a timer for an hour and spend that time on the favorite hobby with no interruptions. As I write this, my husband is lost in a video game. When I'm done, I'm going to read. A book. The old fashioned way. With no media interruptions. What will you do?
One bonus suggestion. If you are in recovery and the election-related anxiety and stress you are experiencing is causing difficult cravings or urges, and reach out for help! Attend an online 12-step meeting, reach out to your sponsor, sober coach or sober friend, or your counselor or therapist. I will be offering free mini-check-ins via Zoom with my current clients, and many other therapists will likely be doing the same thing.
My belief is that many substance use problems persist because the use of alcohol, marijuana, and other substances serves a very real short-term purpose, such as alleviating anxiety or making symptoms of depression more manageable. It's unrealistic to engage in recovery planning and relapse prevention without acknowledging this reality- therefore it's important to identify alternative ways to meet those needs that don't involve substances. I plan to elaborate more on this in the future, but my hope is at least one of these ten things can help tonight, even for those who don't identify as having any substance use issues.
Did I miss any, or do you have any suggestions for me? Let me know in the comments!