Feeling anxious about how the election will turn out? Are you dealing with election stress?
If the stress of the upcoming election has you tossing and turning at night or occupying your thoughts most of the day, here are four ways to cope.
Recognize elections are inherently stressful.
One of the reasons elections create stress is that they are, by design, uncertain. We intentionally upend our government, we don’t know who will win, and that uncertainty triggers stress. Democracy in action seems pretty stressful right now when placed on top of a continuing pandemic, inflation, and global supply chain issues. That is a giant uncertainty sandwich! All that stress can negatively impact your well-being, relationships, and performance.
In 2020 an American Psychological Association survey found that nearly 70% of American Adults said the presidential election was causing significant stress. People can experience sleeplessness, anxiety, situational depression, digestion distress, and headaches. When these symptoms prevent people from performing daily living tasks and work, it is often called Election Stress Disorder. Take a moment to reflect on your feelings and recognize any symptoms of election stress. Stress has a way of creeping up on us by slowly increasing over time. Noticing your stress level can give some relief when you recognize that you aren’t being lazy, for example, when you struggle to complete a complicated task. Your brain is busy dealing with all of the stress!
Take control of something.
Your brain perceives uncertainty as unsafe and potentially painful. Whether the situation is predictably positive or predictably negative, your brain prefers something familiar to something unfamiliar. Uncertainty triggers stress. One of the ways we can calm the anxiety of uncertainty is to take control of something or put something in order. One of the ways to take control of election stress is to vote.
You might also find relief in putting your physical space in order. Tidying your desk or kitchen can soothe the mind during uncertainty. Rearranging your living room furniture or cleaning out a closet can also do the trick.
Disconnect from Election Messaging.
Constantly scrolling through social media sites or watching non-stop television news coverage keeps your stress reaction firing. Election messages are designed to create an emotional reaction. From the music and graphics to the carefully chosen words, video and audio messages are particularly effective in triggering a stress reaction.
Constant exposure to election messaging increases your stress, whether or not you are actively watching or listening. Choose your engagement. Staying informed is essential; however, constant exposure isn’t productive. Select two or three trusted sources of news and information and check in a couple of times per day. If something significant happens, you will know about it.
Reach out and honor relationships.
Connecting with people on a human level can decrease our stress, but not when we must be vigilant about what we say. Remember, we are so much more than our political affiliations. Our democracy was designed to embrace differences of opinion. It is how it is supposed to work. We can be friends or friendly and vote for different candidates. You may find this article on how to cope with the stress caused by other people helpful.
As you cope with election stress, it is important to talk about what you are experiencing. Knowing you aren’t alone in the experience is helpful. Just connecting with other human beings reminds us of the kindness that exists. If you have a circle of support, reach out. Ask them how they are doing. Talk about what is helping you cope. If you don’t have a circle of support, consider serving in your community. Helping others and meeting others who serve are great ways to connect and build relationships.
If you are experiencing election stress or stress from any significant source that prevents you from enjoying daily life, reach out to someone trained to help you. You can find mental health resources here:
Finally, remember when the election is finished, the sun will still come up, children will still play, and we will all find a way to cope with the result.
I wish you low stress and great success.