Jay Shetty shares tips for dealing with election stress and anxiety

The former monk offers advice to people who are experiencing stress and anxiety on Election Day.
/ Source: TODAY

More than two-thirds of Americans are stressed about the presidential election, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Now that Election Day is upon us and votes are being cast, that stress can be overwhelming.

Former monk-turned-purpose coach Jay Shetty appeared on TODAY Tuesday morning to discuss how people can manage the stress and anxiety of the election and cope with the upcoming results.

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How can people release tension?

Shetty said that on a stressful day like Election Day, it's important to check in with yourself. Ask yourself these three questions whenever you need to take a minute:

  1. What am I grateful for today?
  2. What can I do to feel healthy today?
  3. What do I need to do today to make it a great day?

"Usually our stresses and pressures are things that are beyond us," Shetty said. "These three questions make it about things we can control and start doing right now."

How can people overcome anxious, negative thoughts?

The weeks leading up to the election have been extra stressful, on top of an already worrisome year. Amid the coronavirus pandemic and fears of civil unrest, Shetty said it can be helpful to stay in touch with yourself and communicate with loved ones.

"Try and take a step away today and write about all the things that are worrying you," he said. "Write them down. Make a list, make a note, make a letter."

Once you understand just what you're worried about, find a loved one or trusted person who you can speak openly with.

"Reach out to someone to have a conversation with them about it, but try to explain how you feel," Shetty said. "Don't just express your stress and your pressure, but explain it and communicate it and articulate it."

Finally, decide what you can and can't take action on, and act accordingly.

"See and discuss with people around you, what are some of the smart ways that you can turn that anxiety away from that worry into a mode of action, so you can do something about it together," he said.

How can people manage feelings of anxiety and panic?

As Carson Daly pointed out, anxiety is more than just thought processes: It has physical feelings that can cause distress and discomfort. To mitigate those physical effects, Shetty recommends using your senses to relax.

"Playing a good song has a great physical impact," Shetty said. "Breathing in a calming scent, a scent that viscerally cools and calms down your whole body (helps)."

Again, connecting with a loved one can be a great stress reliever, especially if you feel comfortable expressing your fears with them.

"Calling someone up and letting it all out — I think it's OK to allow yourself to cry, to share that, to feel those feelings. I don't think we need to stop and block them today. I think we need to allow ourselves to feel them," Shetty said.

He also recommends visualization. For some people, it's better to think about what the best-case scenario might look like; for others, like Savannah Guthrie, it can be helpful to think about what the worst case might look like while still reminding oneself that things will still be OK afterwards.

"Visualizing and allowing yourself to go down each of those paths, depending on your own level of stress tolerance, is a great way of looking at it," Shetty said.

How can people manage concerns about civil unrest?

Many businesses are preparing for unrest after the election, with stores around the country boarding up their facades. Shetty said that it can help to think of those images as precautions, not a guarantee that something will go wrong.

"It's a good reminder to see that cities are taking action earlier and that way, we can feel safer and feel that it's a proactive approach," he said.

How can people find peace in a stressful year?

Beyond the election, 2020 has been a stressful time, with the pandemic causing economic uncertainty and fears about our own well-being. According to the APA, eight in 10 adults say coronavirus is a major source of stress in their lives.

Instead of getting fixated on one winner or loser, Shetty recommends keeping your own purpose in mind.

"We always look at winning or losing as the end, when the truth is, when we really believe in something, when we stand for a cause, when we have a deep purpose or a mission in our lives, it has no end.

"And I think recognizing that win or lose, there is no end, it's just a continuous cycle of standing up again, committing for what we believe in, and taking a stand. I think as long as we realize that the desire to improve the world, the desire to improve our cities and to provide the best for future generations, is something we need to commit to for the long term, win or lose."

Shetty shared a final deep breathing exercise that people can carry with them into the days and weeks to come.

Place your left hand on your stomach and your right hand on your heart. Breathe in through the nose for four counts, then breathe out through the mouth for at least four counts. Repeat until you feel more calm.