As election day creeps closer, for many, anxiety mounts. Issues such as the economy, the coronavirus pandemic, racism, LGBTQ rights, climate instability, war on terrorism, and numerous others are among the personal and societal stressors. Add on the inability to escape constant political ads, endless news stories, social media feeds, disagreements with friends and family members, and it is easy to see why election anxiety is surging.
This very real issue known as election stress disorder, is affecting Americans on both sides of the political spectrum with many describing 2020 as “the worst year ever.” In a year filled with sickness, job losses, and overall disparity, election stakes are high because the president deeply influences how we address each issue and every crisis. Regardless of which candidate you are voting for, it is undoubtedly a scary and stressful time.
The Entire Nation Is Nervous
For those struggling with new or intensified anxiety, know that you are not alone. A recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 56% of those surveyed identified the upcoming election as a major stressor. Furthermore, this summer the CDC reported rising stress and anxiety levels among young people and people of color. According to the study, anxiety symptoms in 2020 are three times higher than those just a year earlier. Those in certain minority groups, especially highly educated, higher-earning black males, face even greater depression and anxiety, due to blocked opportunities this year. With so many issues on the line, the entire nation is bracing for the election outcome.
Political Differences Increase the Divide
Despite differing political opinions among partisan party lines, anxiety is a commonality both parties share. For most people, the election is just one of the worries on their already filled list of concerns. Juggling hectic schedules, childcare and virtual learning, paying bills, all while staying free of the coronavirus infection are issues for everyone. Yet, each individual has their own opinions about how to handle these issues. These often conflicting views can often lead to arguments between family members and even the best of friends. For those who have lost friends due to political differences, the severity of stress, anger, and despair hits even harder. The looming election may even cause physical symptoms in conjunction with psychological symptoms of anxiety, such as having trouble concentration, feeling tense, insomnia, and a number of other uncomfortable cause behavioral changes.
Tackling Election Anxiety
So with the election just weeks away does one survive the days to come and the outcome (if the elected candidate isn’t your choice)? The following are ways to feel less anxious and cope:
Take Care of Yourself
Often those with anxiety and depression feel so overwhelmed that they shut down from the world. Dealing with the world around them simply becomes too hard. Do your best to not let the hysteria of the election get you to that point. Instead, take care of the basics each day by taking care of yourself. Be sure to eat well and get enough sleep and regular exercise. You may even try to go for a walk or jog when you feel like you want to escape. Staying in a routine can also help avoid depression.
Do a Digital Detox
Staying informed is one thing, but engaging in comments and posts on social media can cause unnecessary concern, anger, and anxiety. Go off the grid for a while and avoid Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to eliminate stress triggers from the strong opinions of friends, family, and complete strangers.
Eliminate negativity from your life by engaging in activities and with people who don’t always talk about the election. Instead of listening to the latest poll updates, try listening to music or a new audio book. Turn off the news and explore nature. Do your best to scale back, breathe deeply, and go for simple ways to stay focused on your own mental health.
Keep Everything in Perspective
No matter how much you try, you cannot singlehandedly change the world. Take care of the things you can control and focus on yourself and your family. Focus on what is happening now and try to stay grounded and keep everything in perspective.
Seek Professional Help
If you find that your anxiety feels much greater than you can personally handle, it is time to get help. While the above tips certainly can relieve stress, they are not a substitute for professional mental health treatment. Even in an election year, you deserve to live a life free of ongoing anxiety. Do not be afraid to ask for help. A good counselor can help you get the professional treatment you need to tackle your anxiety and the difficult emotions that come with them.