How to Stop Election-Season Emotional Eating 

Seven ways to stop stress eating through the election.

Posted Oct 21, 2020

 iStock, used with permission
Source: iStock, used with permission

Are you stress eating more in the last few weeks? If so, you aren't alone. This election season, unlike any other, has been emotionally taxing, draining, and charged with heated emotions.  

A national survey of U.S. adults by The Harris Poll for the APA indicated that more than two thirds (68 percent) of voting-age adults reported that the November 3 presidential election is a significant source of stress.*

Overall, this statistic was up from 52 percent in 2016. This is compounded by the stress induced by the ongoing pandemic.  

The result? For many, there has been a spike in emotional eating. Eating when you are upset or anxious is an easy, quick way to soothe or escape difficult feelings in the short term. 

As the election continues, consider healthy ways to soothe your stress during the next few weeks besides munching.  

  1. Acknowledge what aspects of the election are triggering your stress. Are there certain issues that are very emotional? Do the issues hit close to home? Be aware of and clear about what aspects of the elections cause you the most distress. Know your emotional buttons.  
  2. Be mindful of your media consumption. Set limits or specific times in which you feel ready to view the media about the elections. If it causes you a lot of anxiety, it may be best not to read articles or flip on the TV first thing in the morning.  
  3. Choose your discussions carefully. Certain friends and family can entertain a healthy and productive political discussion. Others can't and it spirals into anger and fights. If you start to feel uncomfortable, it's OK to steer the conversation in a different way or to acknowledge your discomfort. It's important to use your voice and speak up. Find a safe place to do so!
  4. Focus on stress managementIn my book, 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, I talk about numerous free, natural ways to calm your nerves without eating. This includes everything from how to change your mindset, calming breathing exercises to forest therapy (20 minutes of time outside in a green space has been shown to lower your blood pressure and reduce your stress level).  
  5. It's not what you say, it's how you say it. Notice how you express your ideas and how others are talking to you. It may not be the difference in opinion that it is getting to you, but how it is being communicated. Be sure to model a calm and soothing tone when talking about tough topics. A calm tone helps to keep your body from triggering cortisol, the stress hormone that triggers emotional eating.  
  6. Focus on what you can control, not what you can't. Stress is triggered when we feel that things are out of control. Draw two circles. In a big circle, write down the things that are in your control about the elections (going to vote, reading articles, whether you get on social media etc) and draw a second circle and fill it with things that are out of your control (how others vote, what people post). Ask yourself, "Is this in my circle of control or not?"
  7. Cortisol Reducing Foods: Power up on healthy foods, particularly those that have been clinically shown to reduce your cortisol levels. Research has shown that dark chocolate, bananas, and pears black or green tea, probiotics in food such as yogurt, probiotics in foods containing soluble fiber help to keep your stress hormone in check. 

For a free Mindful Eating download, click here.