Not happy with the state of politics? You aren't alone. If you find yourself angry or stressed out due to recent events, try these somewhat unconventional but proven techniques to help manage the feelings.
Our diaphragm, the muscle that controls the depth of our breath, helps stimulate the vagus nerve, a component of our parasympathetic nervous system, which is key to helping the body calm down. If you're not sure you're breathing deeply enough, find out with this helpful breathing exercise.
Sing whenever you can, because belting out loud definitely calms the stress response. Studies have shown singing to be as calming as yoga and a powerful defense against anxiety and depression.
It's essential to get more rest. It is during deep periods of sleep that your mind and body renew, refresh, and regenerate themselves on a cellular level. Everything is better when you've had enough sleep.
Find ways to connect with others on a deep, emotional level that has nothing to do with the election. Doing so helps stimulate the vagus nerve, helping to mitigate or stop the stress response.
Get involved in helping others. Altruism, or doing selflessly for others, is a scientifically proven way to alter the stress response in your body. Start with these 13 organizations that may need your help.
What are adaptogens, you ask? They're super herbs that adapt to what your body needs. Take adaptogenic herbs like Asian ginseng, holy basil (also called tulsi), and astragalus root to help stop that stress response in its tracks and help you to be more calm and rational. You can also look for a combination capsule of different adaptogens at your local health food store.
Exercise helps us manage stress because it produces endorphins, those "happy hormones" that make us realize that it really will be OK. By moving our muscles, we stimulate nerves. When we stimulate nerves, that stimulation goes all the way to the brain — that central command post of the nervous system. Our bodies are perpetual motion machines inside, and moving them is an important part of keeping that flow of electromagnetism smooth. Exercise is "meditation in motion." When we exercise to fatigue, we are concentrating on one thing only — getting through it!
Stop Talking About It
. . . if it's bothering you. Talking with your like-minded friends or talking with your un-like-minded friends will not automatically cause stress or relieve stress. It depends where they are and where you are inside. This election has called up a lot of fear and dread in people with both sides playing to those fears; it has been said that we hate what we fear, and we fear what we don't understand. So if talking with friends leads you to more understanding, then go for it. But if talking with others who are in a limbic state agitates them or you, it's best to stay silent for a while.
What is a limbic state, you ask? When we are stressed, our limbic brain or reptile brain is activated. This is the most primitive and unevolved part of us. It acts on emotion and is irrational, childish, and afraid. It can be rude and boorish, and sometimes even cruel. If you are in that place, or your friends are in that place, it's just better to pull back and remain silent on the subject for a while. No one is listening anyway, because they are all talking at the same time.
Eat the Right Foods
Some foods cause stress, other foods reduce stress. So how do you navigate? Sugar and starchy foods in particular stress the body and cause inflammation. That includes hidden sugars in sauces, sodas, and alcoholic drinks.
Was a cup of coffee your consolation post-election? Most people were hitting the caffeine hard on Wednesday morning after staying up all night to watch the election results. Caffeine in moderation is OK, but more than 12 ounces a day can stress your body out. Watch for hidden caffeine in sodas, teas, chocolate, energy drinks, and even some over-the-counter headache remedies.
The same goes for the booze. Alcohol is a toxin and makes it hard for your liver to get rid of other toxins because it is dealing with the immediate assault of the alcohol. Don't drown your frustration!
Instead, look for superfoods to help manage stress, because when the body is under stress, it is both toxic and deficient. Superfoods give you mega bang for the buck when it comes to helping your body be nourished and detoxified. Here are my favorites:
- Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables boost glutathione in the body, helping detoxify it.
- Tree nuts or nut butters.
- Organic turkey breast, pumpkin seeds, and free-range organic eggs are rich sources of tryptophan.
- Kale and other leafy, green vegetables are rich in folate and help your mood-regulating neurotransmitters including serotonin and dopamine.
- Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, etc. are high in omega-3s and vitamin D — both of which help battle depression and help with cognitive functioning.
- Fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchee heal the gut, creating better moods.
- Organic, dark chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao makes you feel calmer because it stimulates anandamide, a neurotransmitter in the brain that temporarily blocks pain and depression.
Remember You Are Not Powerless
Powerlessness is a real feeling after the election for everyone — not just those who voted for Hillary Clinton. Lots of people disliked the Republican candidate but may have felt compelled to still vote for him because of their conservative values. But power is an illusion, and so is powerlessness. We have no real control in this world over what comes to us in the form of circumstances. We only have control of one thing: our reactions to those events. Like an airplane that can't control the force or direction of the wind but can course-correct by the tilt of its wings, we humans can transcend the tragedies of politics by our responses.
It also helps to disconnect. It's important to stay educated, but when we are always plugged, the worldwide scope of injustice, war, and suffering can make us feel powerless. We can't do everything, but we can do one thing. We can't help everyone, but we can help someone. I especially like this quote from John Wesley: "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." [Editor's note: This Wesley quote was also used by Clinton throughout her presidential campaign.]
Author Dr. Pete Sulack, doctor of chiropractic, is the founder of StressRx.com, an online destination to expose, treat, and increase the body's resilience to stress.