15 Stress Relievers To Try on Election Day

woman listening to music and drawing

Pekic / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • The 2020 election cycle has been emotionally fraught. It’s normal to feel anxious.
  • Set aside time to examine your feelings and de-stress.
  • Certain activities can help you simultaneously relax and focus on something other than politics.

It’s finally here. After months of speculation, polls, and sponsored advertisements, it’s the last chance for Americans to cast their vote in the 2020 presidential election. With a promise from the White House to challenge votes they deem to be suspect, the result of the contest likely won’t be known for a few days—or weeks. For those living with anxiety, it’s normal to be worried about the outcome. Here are some ways to fight the stress on election night.

The biggest tip? Uninstall social media from your devices, even if just for one day. According to Janice Presser, PhD, who specializes in human infrastructure management and relationships, it will make you feel powerful.

“You might reinforce your power by chanting whatever has meaning for you while you delete apps," Presser tells Verywell. "Think something like, 'POOF! I send you into the world of invisibility!' You are a superhero just for dealing with these extra stressful times.”

Acknowledge Scary Thoughts As They Occur

It’s understandable that you’re anxious. “The first step is to notice catastrophic thinking,” Debra Kissen, PhD, MHSA, CEO of the Light On Anxiety CBT Treatment Center, tells Verywell. “This type of thinking is normal. It’s the brain trying to turn its attention to surviving—it’s thinking of different scenarios so it knows how to react.”

Take a moment to acknowledge your worry and to remember a time when your worst-case scenario did not come to fruition. “When we avoid exploring our fear, it’s like watching a scary movie with our hands over our eyes,” Kissen says. “It’s much scarier when we block it out. But if we watch the movie head-on and look at our fears, over time, it becomes less and less scary.” 

Practice a Yoga Breathing Technique

Pranayama, also known as yogic breathing, is the practice of controlling your breath. Slow and thoughtful breathing has been shown to relieve stress and anxiety. The aim is to slow your mind and control your breath. The thoughtful breathing technique also supplies oxygen your brain.

Try this: Take a deep breath through your nose, allowing the air to fill your lungs. Hold your breath for a second, then expel a small amount of air from your mouth. Next, exhale slowly through your nose.

Surround Yourself With Lavender

When you need a quick burst of calm, try using lavender to lessen anxiety. Studies have shown the scent of lavender can help mild anxiety. Light a candle scented with the herb, or slather a lavender-laced lotion on your forearms. 

Cook Something

A preliminary study from 2018 found there may be therapeutic benefits to cooking. What you make doesn’t matter—it could be chocolate chip cookies or filet mignon. The clear methodology of cooking may help self esteem and quality of life.

Sip Hot Chocolate

This sweet drink is rich in flavanols, chemicals that can help reduce blood pressure. If you can, make the drink from scratch to reap the benefits of cooking.

Listen to Lo-Fi Music

YouTube has several channels devoted to calming low fidelity music. Studies about the music are preliminary, but research shows the digital beats stir up a sense of nostalgic calm.

Think About Tomorrow

When the news is overwhelming, it can be helpful to think about the immediate future. If you find yourself in despair, think about what you’ll wear tomorrow. Or what you’ll have for breakfast. Taking yourself out of the immediate moment can remind you how anxiety can be fleeting.


Give yourself permission to doodle or draw. Print a sheet or two from a website like Super Coloring and let your mind wander as you complete the picture. Creative activities can help ease anxiety, and a picture is something you can complete in a short time.

Clean and Organize

If you’re feeling worried about a loss of control, try cleaning a small section of your space. If you don’t have the mental bandwidth to do a complete closet overhaul, that’s fine. Start by sorting mail or by clearing out your inbox.

Legs Against the Wall

Iyengar yoga pose Viparita Karani, otherwise known as "legs against the wall," is a popular yogic stress-relieving pose. When you place your legs against a wall with your hips resting on the floor, circulation to your head improves, which can feel refreshing. Try a five-minute Viparita Karani pose to ease your election anxiety.

Ground Yourself

Take a moment to do a grounding exercise. “Feel the weight of your feet on the floor, experience the way you’re sitting in your chair,” Kissen says. “This will bring you the present moment instead of imagining a future catastrophe.”

Take a Dance Break

Turn up the music and start dancing. A recent study suggests dance movement decreases depression and anxiety and increases quality of life, as well as interpersonal and cognitive skills.

Do a Jigsaw Puzzle

The act of placing puzzles pieces together can lower stress—both short-term and long-term. Working through today’s stress with puzzles can also help with cognitive training, which can prevent age-related cognitive decline.

Pet Your Dog (or Cat)

Researchers discovered that a 12-minute interaction with a dog helped heart and lung function by lowering blood pressure, diminishing release of harmful hormones, and decreasing anxiety among hospitalized heart failure patients. In fact, patients who interacted with dogs fared better than those who had human volunteer visitors.

No Pet? Look at Pet Videos Instead

Start scrolling through #dogsofinstagram. A study by the University of Leeds found watching video of quokkas (a cousin of koalas) for 30 minutes can reduce stress up to 35%. Not into quokkas? Kittens, puppies, pandas, or giraffes will do. The San Diego Zoo offers several webcams which show live or recorded video of animals being adorable. Pick any animal you like, as long as you find the creature cute, it doesn’t matter what species you watch.

What This Means For You

Stress is normal, especially when it comes to the 2020 presidential election. Allow yourself the freedom to worry, but take part in activities meant to alleviate stress. Reach out to your friends and family. They want to help.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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By Erica Gerald Mason
Erica Gerald Mason is an Atlanta-based writer with a focus on mental health and wellness.