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Ways to Cope with Election Anxiety/Stress

The last few years have tested the resolve of many people. The uncertainty and continual “curveballs” has created levels of unease around the world not experienced for a long time. For Americans, the contentious 2016 and 2020 presidential elections helped take anxiety and stress to unprecedented levels, making every political contest from City Councils to Congress seemingly loom larger, and continually rise with trepidation every election thereafter.

Compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, racial unrest, natural disasters, and a struggling economy, current elections have been like none in recent memory as Americans try to cope with problems many of them have never faced.

Do you feel significant election anxiety? Well, you’re definitely not alone.

A survey from the American Psychological Association and Harris Poll found that 68% of American adults said that the 2020 U.S. presidential election was a significant source of stress in their life. To put that in context, ahead of the 2016 election, only 52% of Americans said the election was a “somewhat significant source of stress.”

So then, what can you do to reduce that strain and improve your mental health? First, don’t panic — take a deep breath. Pausing for a moment to slow down your heart and lungs will go a long way toward creating a peaceful mind.

Your breath isn’t just part of your body’s stress response, it’s key to it. In fact, you can induce a state of anxiety or panic in someone just by having them take shallow, short breaths from their chest. That means that purposeful deep breathing can physically calm your body down if you’re feeling stressed or anxious. (How to practice deep breathing + breathing tips)

Read on to learn more about coping with election anxiety/stress.

Is it normal to be really stressed or anxious about elections?

Yes. Each election impacts our future, which is why voting is so important. Since the 2016 election, however, it seems our nation has been filled with its own unique challenges. Strong, divisive opinions are so prevalent. We are not able to go one day without being reminded, even if we are alone in our homes. So, if your usual go-to way of destressing is to avoid thinking about something, then you are stuck. We are being bombarded with TV ads, political push cards, social media ads, and social media feeds, not to mention the opinions of anyone we talk with.

Are there any tips you can share to help me get through waiting for the election results?

Absolutely. Anxiety is a natural stress response. It is important to keep a few key points in mind.

1. Be aware of feeling stressed. When we know what is happening inside of us, we are then able to be mindful of how we respond to situations. Frequently, taking a few deep breaths can go a long way toward lowering stress.

2. Look at this election realistically. We each have the right to cast our vote. This is how we have control of this situation. Believing we can control situations past reality is what results in feeling “stressed out.”

3. Acceptance is also key. We also each have a right to our individual opinions. Keeping this in mind can help with being respectful of one another. We do not have to act like the presidential candidates did during the first debate. Their distress is not ours.

What do we do with all this stress we are feeling if the person we voted for does not win?

Live with a “one day at a time” attitude. If our political history provides any clues, then it is valuable to keep in mind that the wheels of our government turn slowly. Life will not suddenly be different when we know who our next President will be.

However, if your stress, worry, or anxiety is so high that you believe you are not functioning well, it is probably important to seek professional help. Mental health therapists are trained to assist you with research-based tools that will help. Click here to get in touch with us.