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Election Anxiety

September 15th, 2020

Have you given much thought to the upcoming election? Many people on both sides of the political aisle have. Plenty want the current administration to remain for another 4 years while just the same amount of people are geared up towards change. Regardless of where one stands, one thing is for certain: people have always worried about politics, voting, and elections. It comes as no surprise if these events bring about feelings of uncertainty, angst, and anxiety. A survey found that 52 percent of Americans said the election “is a very or somewhat significant” source of stress in their lives, as conducted by the American Psychological Association in 2016. These feelings have recently been termed “Election Stress Disorder,” and are felt equally by people from both sides. 

With 2020 specifically, tensions are already high from the coronavirus outbreak and the plummeting stock market, making the election just another stress in people’s lives. A recent survey found that 47 percent of workers are distracted from their jobs by the upcoming election, according to Gartner. Further, 38 percent said they’ve avoided talking to colleagues because of their political views and 33 percent have begun getting their political news at work. 

As with many anxieties, there are also numerous ways to cope. If you are experiencing this kind of stress, below are some ideas to help you during this time.

For starters, many of us may start to forego our normal routines when we obsess during election times. However, it is still quite important to keep good habits of eating well, exercising, and sleeping enough. In addition, it can really make a difference if you surround yourself with people who aren’t so concerned about the election. This way, your anxieties are not aggravated by the stress and anxiety of others. Likewise, it would also be in your best interest to avoid people who are overly opinionated or trying to impose and project their agenda onto you. Politely avoiding such crowds or saying “I’m not interested in discussing this” should be your best measures if you know having these conversations will only further your stress. 

The next major way you can deal with election anxiety is to effectively manage your daily sources of information concerning politics. If you get your news from television, try to keep it to a minimum— say, 15 to 30 minutes. One source to definitely avoid or keep to an even smaller minimum than TV would be social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter. These two platforms are notorious for having attack ads, sensationalized posts, and of course, fake news. It may just be in your best interest to go off the grid for a bit. A final strategy to get a good handle on your information sources is to, as previously mentioned, refrain from engaging with overly opinionated people. Other people are often the greatest exacerbators of anxieties, with political anxiety being no exception.     

Another strategy to quell general political anxiety is to break free from your normal surroundings and distract yourself with pleasant experiences. This could take the form of going out in nature, such as going on a hike or taking your dog for a walk through the neighborhood. Even if you’re not an outdoors enthusiast, you could just as easily derive the same pleasure from watching animal or nature videos. Other great distractions could be to watch comedy movies or pick up a new hobby that works your brain, such as learning a new language or developing a new skill. 

While the negativity in politics and American history is rampant, there still are plenty of transformative moments to celebrate and revel in. This year we are celebrating 100 years since women were granted voting rights. Furthermore, our population is as diverse as ever, and the medical field has made so many advances in improving the quality of life we have. In terms of the political process, American elections and campaigns give constituents ample opportunity to express their beliefs and change their communities the way they see fit.

The most counterproductive way of handling a future task is outright avoidance. For a lot of people with anxiety concerning certain events, projects, etc, a solid way to handle these stresses is to just go through with it. In our case, this means voting as soon as you possibly can. Once you’ve cast your vote, there won’t be anything left to do on your end, and it’ll be out of your control from then on. Afterward, you’ll feel empowered from doing your part and will have that task completed on your mental checklist. Acknowledging what you have control over and what is out of your hands helps to reframe your election anxiety.

Some final advice is to take a step back, ground your perspective, and look to surround yourself in positivity. Keep taking care of yourself and family, don’t do anything rash in your anticipation, and find time for relaxation and mindfulness.