The Most Stressful Game Ever Played and 5 Ways to Beat It
photo by: Farsai Chaikulngamdee
As I write this, millions of people around the world are playing the same game. No, I am not talking about Halo or Call of Duty. I am talking about the “waiting game.” We all have experience with waiting in general. We wait in grocery store lines and at red lights. Before COVID-19, we waited to get into midnight showings of blockbusters and outside ticket booths in hopes of getting our concert tickets before they sold out.
Frankly, we have been waiting since kindergarten, where we had to line up and be quiet before we could go back inside after recess. No, waiting is not the problem. The real issue is the knowledge that like college acceptance letters and marriage proposals, where we go from here could impact our lives not only for the short-term but for forever. Our planet, our beliefs, our rights…tick-tock, tick-tock. No matter which side wins this 2020 election cycle, the waiting game serves up a platter of anxiety and stress that impacts all sides of the political arena. These feelings are intensified by the reality that whatever happens next is out of our hands. If you were one of the millions of people that voted this year, the only thing you can do now is wait—your job is done.
This fact can create all kinds of feelings of helplessness or, as one famous proverb put it, “hope delayed makes the heart sick.”
*So*, with so much on the line, what can we do to protect ourselves mentally and emotionally? Here are five healthy ways to manage our stress while we all play the waiting game together. 1. Exercise Your Mind and Body Whether we prefer to run on a treadmill or to pose on a yoga mat, exercise is the key to kicking those crazy stress hormones like cortisol to the curb. Queue up your favorite workout soundtrack and watch the endorphins help you elevate your mood. 2. Unplug but Don’t Isolate We talk a lot about unplugging from our devices to decompress, but there is more involved than just sitting in silence with our thoughts. Use the time to talk to your friends and family about something other than politics. Dream together, prepare a meal together (COVID-19 rules apply), laugh until your side hurts. By unplugging, we push aside worry and negativity and fill ourselves with things that restore our minds and hearts. 3. Shift Our Focus Use a little of the time today that might have gone to pundits and election statistics to send flowers to someone who feels isolated, prepare a meal for an elderly neighbor, or volunteer at a food bank. We survive the waiting by remembering that no matter the outcome, there is always more work to be done on behalf of others. 4. Discover Something New One of the best ways to work through our stress is to give our brains something else to chew on instead of our worries. From starting a new novel to building something with our hands, there is an abundance of creative and industrious things to do to take our thoughts off waiting. Or, we can give our brain a different challenge by reaching out to someone we have not talked to in a long time—let ourselves be absorbed in their world for a few hours. 5. Don’t Hide from Yourself We must be careful in times of increased stress that we do not fall into the habit of hiding from ourselves. We have all had experiences where we push through stress with one more cup of coffee or one less meal, but in our vigorous efforts to keep it all together, we have to be careful that we are not betraying ourselves in the process. We need to rest, eat plenty of nutritious foods, and talk about our emotions. If we cannot form the words, journaling is a great tool to process everything that has happened this year. Whatever we do to cope, outrunning the stress we are building up inside is not always the best option.