Updated: Nov 11, 2020
If you are anything like me, this year’s election has come with a tidal wave of anxiety (and nerves and stress). And we are not alone. According to the American Psychological Association's Stress in America survey this month, nearly 70% of US adults say that the election has been a cause of significant stress. Here’s some tips to help you cope with election anxiety:
Cut down on “dooms scrolling” (or watching): I know it may be hard but try to avoid media or social media news binges. You may want to read just enough to be informed but cut down on looking at 24-7 news or at least turn off your news feed and give yourself specific periods of the day as “election-free” zones for things you enjoy. For example if news is stressing you, and talking to a friend makes you feel better - proactively give yourself time to do the latter (or any other self-care activities, as mentioned below). "Invest your time in things where you do feel like you have meaning and stability," Afton Kapuscinski, director of the Psychological Services Center at Syracuse University said.
Focus on self care and daily moments of joy: You could make a list of things that bring you joy and calm. Anything could be on this list, having your favorite tea, taking a bath, diving into a book or movie/tv show you’ve always wanted to, catching up with friends/family, meditation, playing music, going for a hike or walk. Then, make a point to do at least one thing on that list every day. And remember to try to sleep and eat well too.
Channel your stress into something productive - and what you can control: Sometimes feeling like you are making a difference can help manage stress or make you feel better. You could focus your time on helping with the election for example, registering at the polls, encouraging others to vote or casting your own vote. And/or you can volunteer or focus your time to help out causes and activities you are passionate about. It is all about knowing what you can control and accept that you are doing what you can to make a difference - as psychologist Meghan Marcum said “recognize without shame that you’re doing all that you can and be comfortable with that reality.”
Resist political conversations: As emotions may be heightened this week, you may think about not engaging in political conversations with people you disagree with during or immediately after the election. If you do, or have to, focus on trying to understand their point of view, rather than trying to convince them - making conversations about friendly discussion than debate. (Look out for our blog in the next week about how to have political conversations with people you disagree with)
Prepare for uncertainty: This year, experts say that there might not be a winner on election night. Preparing yourself to be alright with that uncertainty and prioritize your mental health (and things that bring you joy) for the days ahead can help.
Avoid catastrophizing - and “all or nothing” thinking: Psychologists say that when we stress or get anxious, we are likely focusing on worst case outcomes and all or nothing scenarios. Take a moment to pause, reflect and understand that whatever the outcome, we will still have (as Barack Obama said) “ the audacity" to hope.
Reach out if needed: If your stress is still having a significant impact on your life, consider reaching out to a reliable & compassionate friend, family member or expert like a therapist for professional advice and tips to help you navigate this time and these emotions.
Hope this is helpful, and if you have any tips, feedback or ideas of other blogs, please contact me at email@example.com
The author of this blog, Asini Wijewardane, is the co-founder of Unmute, a free service that helps connect people seeking therapy to therapists quickly and easily.
Note: This article covers general information & guidance. If someone you know is in crisis, please call the emergency services or the national suicide helpline: 1-800-273-8255.