One word to describe this election cycle? Brutal.
Presidential politics bombarding news feeds and newspapers is enough to make anyone fatigued. The worst part is that there's still a long way to go until November. As such, many people may get burned out -- or worse, apathetic -- before we even reach the general election.
"It's easy to feel like the sky is falling during elections," licensed clinical psychologist Stephanie Smith told The Huffington Post. "There's a general irritability associated with this time."
While Smith has never seen anyone develop clinical, major anxiety over an election period, it's not inconceivable that the stress is real. The comments, tweets and Facebook statuses about the insanity of the race and the state of the country may be hyperbolic, but there's still a valid, underlying worry to them.
Many people offer empty threats to move to Canada if the election doesn't go their way, but for millions of Americans, even joking about heading north isn't an option. Public policies -- and the leaders in charge of them -- exert real control over people's livelihoods. Politicians' decisions can affect the quality of life for a lot of residents, and that is truly stressful.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, there are some ways to manage the unsavory emotions that come from a nasty election cycle -- even one as toxic as this. Below are a few tips from Smith to keep in mind:
Disconnect when you can.
You're probably constantly diving into your device for the latest updates, or getting push notifications every time a candidate steps up to a podium. Because society is dealing with an unprecedented level of technology compared to just four years ago, it's important to take mindful breaks from it, Smith says.
"Take a break from Facebook, from your TV, from your apps," she advised. "Unplugging is super important."
Educate yourself on the candidates.
The best armor against a deluge of stories and false information is knowledge. Get informed about which politicians most accurately align with your values and learn as much as you can about their visions for the future. Are social issues important to you? How do you feel about immigration? The economy? Take time to know yourself and what you really want from a leader. It'll make it a whole lot easier to wade through the other nonsense.
Remind yourself of the good.
A little compassion goes a long way. Research shows that generosity is cyclical: Kindness makes you happier, and happiness makes you kind. Try to engage in that behavior when you're stressed about the negativity of the news. Volunteer at a local charity, like an animal shelter or a food bank.
"There are still a lot of wonderful things happening in the world and people making positive change," Smith said. "That's hard to remember when candidates rip each other apart, so actively remind yourself of that."
Put everything in perspective.
Tumultuous periods are scary, but it's important to maintain a big-picture attitude.
"There have been contentious elections before, and we got thorough them and we will this time, too," Smith explained. "Perspective is important when it comes to stress."
Seek help if stress becomes overwhelming.
If you're feeling chronic stress -- for any reason -- it's always a good idea to check in with a medical professional, Smith says. Excess anxiety can lead to high blood pressure, heart problems and a host of other issues.
If your worries seem to spike after watching a debate (whose wouldn't?) try one of these calming tricks in order to relax. The most important thing is to be in touch with your emotions and be cognizant of when you're feeling off balance, Smith says. This is especially important during stressful periods like work deadlines, big changes in your personal life and, well, elections.