Staying Sane in an Election Year

With Election Day not far off, tensions are continuing to worsen between American voters. Recent data suggest that our country has not been this divided since the late 1800’s. Whether you are on Facebook or overhearing conversations at Starbucks, everyone seems to have a strong opinion on the Presidential race.Unfortunately, political discussion mostly consists of repeating sound bites heard on television and a refusal to understand opinions that oppose our own. It doesn’t help that major news networks, which are supposed to give us unbiased information, have resorted to sensationalism and presenting the most insignificant events as earth-shattering news.MORE: Hone Your CharismaBy now you probably know that all of this political debate and relentless news coverage can be a major source of stress, preventing you from feeling happy and content. Here are a few tips for getting through election season with your mind at peace and your sanity intact!Tolerate The Opinions of OthersAmerica is a great place to live, but we need to remember one of the key principles on which this country was founded: freedom of speech. This means that, although we may not necessarily agree, we must learn to tolerate the opinions of other people.If you find this particularly difficult to do, realize that this is mostly for your own benefit. It would be great if everyone agreed with your opinions, but they don’t! Therefore, you have two choices: get upset about all the “crazy” people who disagree with you or peacefully accept that you share a country with others who have opinions different from your own. Unless you plan on leaving the United States, there is nothing you can do about those who think differently, so why let it bother you?Avoid Exessive DebatingWith social media at the center of our culture, there are countless opportunities to express our political opinions. Unfortunately, this often leaves us feeling frustrated, angry and exasperated. This happens even if we converse with people who agree with us; inevitably we’ll start grumbling about the foolish people who think differently and wonder how they could possibly be so delusional.COLUMN: How to Deal with Know-It-AllsFeel free to express your opinions, but learn to choose your battles. Does it really make you happy to launch into a debate at every given opportunity? How do you feel afterward? If you feel anything less than tranquility and contentment, perhaps it is time to watch the arguments from the sidelines. Or better yet, don’t watch at all!Minimize Your Exposure to News MediaThere is nothing wrong with relying on news outlets to get facts about the election and learn the agendas of each candidate. Unfortunately, this simple information is surprisingly scarce on news programs. Instead, news coverage tends to manipulate our emotions, making us feel fear, outrage and desperation. Even worse, they convince us to stay tuned for more information that we supposedly need to know.Even with such a pivotal election upon us, there is no need for 24-hour news updates. Get your daily fix (this normally takes no more than 10 minutes) and turn your attention toward more pleasant matters. If you are a “news junkie,” do some searches for the top election stories from six months ago. Do these old discussions have much relevance today? Do people even talk about these particular stories that seemed so important at the time? Would people even know about them if they hadn’t been presented as “breaking news”? Consider the difference between stories that contain relevant information and those that are much ado about nothing.QUIZ: Are the Elections Stressing You Out?Regardless of whom you support for the Presidency, this upcoming election is bound to stress you out, unless you do something about it. Take a moment to step back and identify the ways that you can minimize this stress. By becoming more tolerant of different opinions, avoiding upsetting arguments and focusing only on substantial developments in the 2012 campaign, you’ll spare yourself a lot of unnecessary suffering.Now please excuse me while I change the channel and watch some Seinfeld re-runs.

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