Your Brain Is Probably Pretty Stressed Right Now

Your brain deserves some R&R. Here are a few simple ways to calm your mind and body.

Dana G Smith
Elemental
Published in
4 min readNov 3, 2020

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Image: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

This is a modified excerpt from Inside Your Head 🧠, a weekly newsletter exploring why your brain makes you think, feel, and act the way you do, written by me, Elemental’s senior writer and a former brain scientist. Subscribe here so you won’t miss the next one.

How’re everyone’s anxiety levels doing today? Rhetorical question. Mine are through the roof, as I imagine most American’s are. So instead of writing another explainer on the neuroscience of stress or citing the “fight-or-flight response” for the hundredth time, I’m just going to offer a few tips on how to ever-so-slightly untie the knot in your stomach.

First, go vote if you haven’t already. Seriously. Not just because it’s your democratic responsibility and the future of our country depends on it, but because it’s one of the few things you can do that gives you some control over today and tomorrow and how the pandemic will end and the next four years of your life. And having control over a situation makes it less anxiety-inducing.

Once you’ve voted, try to accept that things are out of your hands and try not to worry. Easier said than done, I know. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Worrying doesn’t change the outcome of an event. And it doesn’t make a dreaded result any easier. Bracing yourself for the worst possible scenario won’t make you any more prepared or less upset if it comes to fruition, it just means you’re miserable twice as long.

In a great article about how to deal with Election Day uncertainty, Elemental writer Markham Heid explains that “dread does not make a dreaded situation any more tolerable if it comes to pass. [In fact, by anticipating] that something will be negative, it often makes that negative outcome worse.”

Need something more proactive to do right now? Try one (or all) of these calming techniques.

A full-body guided meditation

Also known as progressive muscle relaxation therapy, the technique “teaches you how to relax your muscles through a two-step process,” explained Mohammad Jafferany, MD, a clinical…

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Dana G Smith
Elemental

Health and science writer • PhD in 🧠 • Words in Scientific American, STAT, The Atlantic, The Guardian • Award-winning Covid-19 coverage for Elemental