“Empowering Ways to Spend Inauguration Weekend” – SHAPE

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The best way to handle this serious time may be to actually lighten up a bit.

If you’re unhappy with the outcome of the election, you might have a difficult weekend ahead of you. But the best way to handle it may actually be to lighten up a little. “This is a heady topic, but it can be helpful to do something that takes your mind off the issue and replace it with something upbeat, fun, different, or interesting,” says Loretta LaRoche, stress expert, humor consultant, and author of Life Is Short—Wear Your Party Pants.

Whether you’re watching the inauguration on Friday, participating in women’s marches all over the country on Saturday, or trying to tune it all out and save your sanity, everyone has a different way of coping, and that’s totally okay. But if you need some ideas, we’ve rounded up a few healthy ways to offset the negativity.

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1. Watch the inauguration with friends.

Many of us will tune in despite the emotions it’ll stir up, so make sure you’re watching it right. Gather a group of like-minded friends and watch (or re-watch) the noon ceremony in the p.m. along with the inaugural balls. People who spend unpleasant experiences around their best friends produce fewer stress hormones than those who weather the storm alone, according to a study in Developmental Psychology. And instead of focusing solely on desperation, focus on empowerment, advises Ben Michaelis, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, and author of Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy. “Tuning in can help you store up the energy you will need to fight. Use the moment as a time to reflect and remind yourself that even if there isn’t much to do right now, you will have your chance soon enough,” he says. (On the verge of a freakout? Try these tips to calm down.)

2. Hit your local trails.

Take a hike on Saturday morning, suggests Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love. A study from Japan found that trees actually emit organic compounds called phytoncides that help lower your blood pressure and cortisol levels, among other perks. And people who spent 90 minutes walking near grass and trees had significantly less activity in the parts of the brain that dwell on negative emotions compared to those who strolled near a busy road, says a study from Stanford. “Both exercise and nature have been demonstrated to reduce stress, so use this one-two punch on your anxiety,” Lombardo adds. It’s how Hillary handled her post-election blues, after all.

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3. Go dancing.

It may feel weird, almost wrong, to try and be happy and carefree during such a heavy time, but dancing is a good way of de-stressing and reminding yourself about the fun side of life, says Michaelis. Grab your S.O. or your girls—people who went dancing with a partner had lower stress levels and felt both sexier and more relaxed, says a German study. (Working out also has a tonnn of mental health benefits.)

4. Disconnect.

“One of the best ways to get through this weekend is to power off so that you can retain your power,” says LaRoche. Turn off the TV, laptops, and phones. Embrace isolation for the evening or the weekend. Read a book, enjoy a mindful meal, have a glass of wine, and go to bed early. If you want to watch the inauguration, consider disconnecting the rest of the weekend instead of the day of—the barrage of political coverage is sure to be full-force Saturday and Sunday and can exhaust even the apolitical. “When you remove yourself from the constant assault of information, it allows the brain to regenerate, like a mini-vacation,” she adds. (For real; your cell phone is ruining your chill time.)

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5. Sign up for a Saturday morning volunteer shift.

“Do a good deed for someone else—this will help focus your energy in a positive way and remind you that, even if you are unhappy about national politics, there are local things that you can do to make a difference,” Michaelis says. Even doing something small, like dropping in on a lonely neighbor or calling a friend who needs a pick-me-up, can help you feel happier since it helps another out, Lombardo adds.

6. Have a happy meal.

No, we’re not sending you to Mickey D’s. Gather a group of friends and have a meal one night this weekend that centers around happiness. When you sit down to eat, have each person be the center of discussion for five minutes. Everyone at the table will share characteristics they appreciate and admire about that person. It may sound cheesy, but we not only reap a ton of benefits from being around friends, but gratitude is a great way to reduce stress and feel happier, Lombardo points out. (You know what else makes you happy? Puppies. And these things that everyone can agree are amazing.)

7. Queue up the comedies.

Turn off the news and give yourself permission to plop on the couch and get sucked into a good rom-com, Lombardo suggests. “Whereas listening to negative commentary about what is happening in the world can increase stress, laughter is a great way to decrease stress,” she says. Even just having a movie night on the books can help, as studies have shown simply anticipating a good laugh reduces our stress hormones.

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8. Host a Not-the-End-of-the-World party.

No matter your political affiliations, there’s at least one truth: Trump is going to be our president and we’re going to have to continue our lives in that world. Getting together with friends or family to eat, drink, and be merry can help downplay negativity, LaRoche says. Plus, changing your focus can help distract you from the negative thoughts that may be overtaking your brain, she adds. Do it your way: Host a wine tasting, have a progressive dinner party, or throw a no-reason bash for the kids in the neighborhood. Make a rule to leave political talk at the door if you want, or encourage the discourse. Whatever your choice, LaRoche suggests some kind of party game, since engaging in playful activities helps us become more childlike and carefree. (Bonus points for serving patriotic AF food and drinks.)

This article was originally published on SHAPE

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