The 2016 election left many feeling depressed or anxious about what the future holds. Having a nation so divided and so heated on many of the important issues in politics is unsettling. A poll taken last fall found that 90% of the respondents were experiencing emotional distress due to the election regardless of their political party. No matter what your opinion of the candidates might have been, there are still terrifying things in the world that leave most of us feeling uneasy: there is still conflict in the Middle East, mass shootings happen at an alarming rate, and many of the top superpowers of the world struggle to get along. I’m not here to tell you all this just to make you upset; I’m here to tell you how to stay calm when we live in such a confusing political climate.
The simple secret is: Instead of focusing on what you cannot control, focus on what you can control.
Don’t just take my word for it. I have the Dalai Lama to back me up. In a recent article from CNN about facing uncertainty in the future, the Dalai Lama told the news outlet that we all must focus on our own mental state first. He said that if you stay honest and truthful, you can find happiness “no matter what (the) surrounding situation.” It’s important not to let things out of your control interfere with your mental well-being.
Below is a list of the areas in your life that you can control and how focusing on them can help you feel better in these uncertain times.
1. Your physical health
You may not be able to prevent every disease or illness, but there are simple things you can do every day to improve your health. Exercising and eating a balanced diet are essential to feeling good both mentally and physically. Instead of using your energy worrying about what the future holds, use exercise and healthy cooking as means to distract yourself. You may not be able to make all the choices for humanity but you can make a choice about how you spend your time and how you treat your body.
2. Your relationships
Instead of getting upset over the political opinions of strangers or the personal lives of politicians, focus on the people you know and love. You have the ability to choose how much time you’re spending with your loved ones. Instead of turning down invitations in favor of watching TV at home, take time out of your week to be with the people you care about. Take an old friend out for dinner, have a few neighbors over for a small get-together, or take your family out to do something fun like ice skating or seeing a local play. The time you spend with your loved ones is something that no one could ever take away from you. In these uncertain times, focus on those you love, not those you hate.
3. Your media usage
I’m not about to be a “Media Scrooge” and tell you to never go on social media or a news website ever again. But I am going to tell you that you can decide what content you view online. Don’t scroll through Facebook if you know many of your friends will be posting heated political statements. If you see a terrifying news story, don’t click on it. Instead, look for content online that will improve your life. Search for inspirational quotes or positive news stories. Seek out information on a hobby or interest you have been neglecting. This way you’re increasing your knowledge instead of the anger and anxiety that comes with reading others’ political status updates or hashing it out with a troll in the comments section.
4. Your community involvement
If you still find yourself upset about the direction the world is heading, turn that anger into positive action. Volunteer for local charities or donate to a cause you support. Find a way to connect with like-minded people. Maybe you can get more involved at your church or join a Meetup group that does volunteer work on weekends. It won’t do you any good to sit at home stewing in your own negative emotions. You will be surprised how great it feels to know you’re making a difference.
Golden Takeaway: The future may be uncertain but it won’t do anyone any good to worry about it. Turn your thoughts away from anger and anxiety and focus your energy on what you can control.
Subscribe to our e-newsletter for more mental health and wellness articles like this one.