A few ways to calm yourself, even if only a bit

By Diana Pearl
Updated November 11, 2016 02:33 PM
Woman in lotus position practicing mudra meditation

In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, many people are feeling anxious and lost, with skyrocketing stress levels.

While, of course, issues of mental health like anxiety should be left up to a medical professional, there are things people can do to help their current stress levels, even if in a minor way. If you’re looking for a way to feel even just a little bit more at peace over the next few days, try a few of these proven at-home remedies. While nothing may be a cure-all, even a few minutes of calm can prove useful.

1. Meditate.

Perhaps the most obvious option when it comes to at-home stress relievers is meditation, which is recommended by the Mayo Clinic. This state of deep relaxation is said to help give a fresh perspective and lessen feelings of anxiety or stress. Antonio De Filippo, Medical Director at Ocean Breeze Recovery, tells PEOPLE that those who are new to meditation should look online for meditations that they can use as a guide.

2. Do yoga.

Combining two stress relieving techniques — exercise and meditation — is yoga, which can encourage participants to focus on the moment, rather than what’s going on in the world around them. “The breathing you do in yoga changes your brainwaves,” De Filippo tells PEOPLE. “It makes them more relaxed. It’s the same with meditation.”

3. Exercise.

In a more general sense, just staying active will help with stress levels, too. Even if you can’t make time for a trip to the gym or a workout class, going for a walk or just dancing around your house for a half-hour can make you feel better, according to the American Psychological Association. De Filippo says that the repetition involved in activities like running or cycling can be especially helpful. “Because it’s a repetitive behavior, it kind of puts a rhythm in your brain,” he says. “It helps you put perspective in your life.”

4. Listen to this soothing song.

Marconi Union’s song “Weightless” is eight minutes and nine seconds of pure calm. After measuring the blood pressure, heart rate and rate of breathing in listeners, researchers at Mindlab International found that hearing the song reduced overall anxiety by as much as 65 percent. The song was composed with calm in mind: Marconi Union worked with sound therapists to create the soothing melody.

5. Breathe.

For a quick fix, altering your breathing patterns can help reduce physical signs of stress, too. Taking deep breaths from the diaphragm can slow down your heart rate and help you feel a greater sense of calm in the moment, according to Psychology Today.

6. Talk to others.

There’s a reason therapists exist: Talking to someone about your problems really does help you work through them. Whether it’s a colleague, a parent, a partner or a psychologist, speaking about your concerns can help you to process them. “Therapy is the best luxury you can give yourself,” De Filippo says. “If you need that level, it’s a wonderful tool to help you deal with stress.”

Dr. Pete Sulack, America’s Leading Stress ExpertTM and founder of StressRX.com tells PEOPLE he recommends trying to talk about something else in the wake of the election. “Try to connect with others on a deep, emotional level that has nothing to do with the election,” he says. “By toning the vagus nerve that runs through the heart, you mitigate or stop the stress response.

7. Find a puppy.

When all seems lost, dogs make things better. Head to your local animal shelter — or just your friend who has a pet’s apartment. According to Animal Smart, playing with dogs really does help bring down stress. It increases levels of oxytocin, which is an anxiety reducer.

8. Eat your vegetables.

While you may be tempted to reach for comfort foods like mac and cheese and ice cream in times of trial, you should be sticking with your greens. There’s folate in vegetables, which produces dopamine, which sends pleasure signals to the brain, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Researchers at the University of Otago have even found that eating greens can is linked to happy feelings as soon as the next day.

Another tip? Lay off the sauce. Sulack says that processing alcohol makes it difficult for your body to deal with anything else. “Don’t drown your frustration!” he says. “Alcohol is toxic, and makes it hard for your liver to get rid of other toxins because it is dealing with the immediate assault of the alcohol.”

9. Drink tea.

In particular, chamomile and green tea. Green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which helps to moderate your heart rate and blood pressure. Chamomile also has compounds that can help with anxiety, according to Mol Med Report.

10. Color.

Remember the adult coloring book craze? Turns out, it has benefits beyond an afternoon trip down memory lane. Multiple psychologists recommend coloring as a stress reliever, as a sort of escapist technique. “We can use it to enter into a more creative, freer state,” psychologist Antoni Martínez tells The Huffington Post.

11. Take action.

While you can’t change the outcome of the presidential election, you can support causes you care about. Consider making a donation to or volunteering with an organization that works to enact the change you wish to see in your country, or the world. It’s certain to raise your mood, Sulack says. “Altruism, or doing selflessly for others is a scientifically proven way to alter the stress response in your body.”

De Filippo agrees, saying that doing so can help you feel a greater sense of purpose in the world: “Whether it’s donating your time or money that gives you a feeling of being in control, it gives us a feeling of being responsible for ourselves.”