Fox News (which I’m afraid I view as a major source of stress) reports that therapists are seeing a lot of people stressed about the presidential election. Not surprising, since there’s a widespread sense that things have gone out of control – a sure indicator of high stress.
“I’ve never seen this level of stress and anxiety over an impending election in my 26 years (of practicing),” said Nancy Molitor, a clinical psychologist from just outside Chicago.
What do counselors suggest? Yoga. And turn off the news.
The benefits of practices like yoga are clear, but I see it as a partial solution. When things feel out of control, we also need to reconnect with people and values. We need to build and nurture relationships in three dimensions – people, practices and values. Research suggests that social support actually has the strongest correlation to resistance and resilience under pressure.
This is a bad time to try to carry it all by yourself. My advice is to set politics aside much of the time and seek to find common ground with friends. The election is important, but there are more important matters, after all.
Nichol Bradford, CEO of Willow, published an insightful article today on SingularityHub advocating for “inner wellbeing” and the ability of a new generation of sensors and data analysis to bring harder science to the formerly touchy-feely world of studying emotion.
“Too often, the tools for developing mental and emotional wellbeing are mistakenly thought to be solely subjective, shrouded in mystery or religion, or dependent only on luck or human willpower,” she writes. “This blind spot is dangerous. The lag between our inner well-being and outer abilities results in tremendous social and individual stress. Worldwide you can see people who are overwhelmed by the change.”
I titled an earlier post “We are so desperate to connect with others that we will risk our own lives and those around us to exchange 140 characters while driving.” (which the observant reader will have noticed is 136 characters).
If texting while driving is an indication of hunger for connection, driven by stress-induced mind/body imbalance, then we should expect stress management techniques to reduce the urge to text at inappropriate times. Sure enough, a study of 231 undergraduates at at Simmons College showed that those who scored higher on a mindfulness scale were less inclined to text while driving.
However, to be fair to the researchers, they didn’t see the problem entirely as one of disconnectedness. Their focus was on self-regulation of emotions and attention, which mindfulness has been shown to improve. However, two of the study’s three emotion-regulation questions were clearly relational:
- “When I am feeling upset, I send or read text messages to distract myself.”
- “If I am bored or annoyed with the people I am with, I will text someone else.”
Another study, which looked at the social influence on texting while driving among teens and young adults, found that “the more a person believes that their friends and peers approve of and engage in texting while driving, the greater their intention to engage in these behaviours .” Social pressure matters. And so do values, the same study concluded – those who believed it is morally wrong to text while driving are less likely to do so – and the moral influence against texting seemed to be stronger than the social one in favor.