It’s been a challenging year, and now with election season in full swing, many people are reporting feelings of stress and anxiety about the future.
According to a study released by the American Psychological Association last fall (before the COVID-19 pandemic was even on our radars), 56 percent of U.S. adults considered the 2020 presidential election to be a “significant source of stress.”
Add in the uncertainties of the health crisis, racial unrest, natural disasters and a struggling economy, and there is little doubt that those numbers have spiked in recent months. According to the APA, in July, 77 percent of Democrats surveyed, and 62 percent of Republicans said the political climate was a significant source of stress.
It’s normal to feel anxious before a presidential election, especially at a time when politics are so divisive. But too much stress can be bad for your health. A study published by the journal PLOS ONE found that roughly a fifth of 800 respondents reported losing sleep, being fatigued or suffering depression because of politics.
The good news is, you can manage your election season stress.
Here are some basic coping strategies:
- Talk it out – Talk about your feelings with a friend or loved one. It helps to vent.
- Take a social media break – It’s easy to fall down the social media rabbit hole, especially when all of our feeds are full of political ads and opinions. Unfollow negative feeds or people or disconnect for a while so that you can focus on other things.
- Limit your news exposure – The same advice applies. Take time away from your screens, particularly if you find yourself becoming distraught, anxious or emotionally reactive.
- Set boundaries for political conversations – Heated disagreements that only serve to make you angry or upset, are not helpful. Sometimes it’s best to agree to disagree and move on.
- Channel your concerns – Put your energy in something you can control. Writing postcards to undecided voters, calling congresspeople, donating, or volunteering can help you feel like you are accomplishing something instead of frustrated or hopeless.
- Take a timeout for self-care – Exercise, meditate, eat healthy, get out in nature, spend time with loved ones – all of these strategies are effective ways to manage stress and improve emotional and mental wellbeing.
- Keep a healthy perspective – Remind yourself that life will go on. Avoid catastrophizing. No matter the outcome in November, there will always be another election.
- Seek professional help – When coping strategies aren’t working and election anxiety is impacting your relationships, job performance, or daily routine, it may be time to talk to a mental health professional.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, I’m here to help. Contact me to learn about therapy options.