Election Stress? Five Tips To Handle It

According to the American Psychological Association, the 2020 Presidential Election has been a source of "significant stress" for Americans this year more than any other year. Here are some tips to handling it.

Election stress - it doesn't need to be this way

With the election days away, a lot of individuals may be experiencing such stress and anxiety. These emotions (this condition) may be on display in our behavior: irritability, anger, shortness with others, lack of motivation, heated political arguments, shutting down, or avoiding others. Other times they may manifest in our mind: rapid worrisome thoughts about the aftermath of the election, catastrophic worries about the future, ourselves, or others. In some cases, stress can show up physically as well as emotionally, possibly through headaches, low mood, frustration, poor sleep, fatigue, and sometimes even pain.
You are not alone, as this is entirely natural, given the current circumstances. This election may well be one of the few times in our lives that the U.S. political climate has gotten this intense.
Let’s not forget all of this is happening during a pandemic! Hence, being human and exposed to so much information, mainly grim and challenging, our brains can only take so much. Believe it or not, we mostly still have the same brain we had when we were cavemen; it has not been “updated.” Therefore, taking on so much in such dire times is extremely hard.

Five ways to manage stress during these days

1. Limit social media and media exposure

As we all know, social media and media, in general, have had almost blanket coverage of the election. As much as it can be informative and helpful, it can also be extremely anxiety-provoking, especially when so much of the information delivered is grim, confrontational, and doom-mongering.

 

Then there is the partisan nature of most mainstream media channels. Each channel’s coverage will make one side feel validated while the other side feels vilified, which only adds to frustration, irritability, and anger.
Add to that the electoral stream of Memes, Youtube videos, Reels, Ticktocks, Twitter debates it’s easy to become overwhelmed with election stress.
You might even go on Instagram or Twitter to just “relax” and take a break from a hard day of work and find yourself fatigued after 20-30 minutes of scrolling on social media.
Dr-emrani-election-stress

2. Live in the moment

Try to practice mindful living. When you wake up, do not check the news right away. Focus on waking up. How does your body feel? How does it feel to be in bed and warm? Just sit and take a deep breath. Name things for which you are thankful.
Start your day by enjoying that cup of coffee, tea, or breakfast while doing NOTHING. Be bored and stare at the fridge for a moment. It is OK! Life awaits, and you can always get on that phone. These little steps go a long way and may add a little bit of calm to your day.

3. Distraction helps

News or political conversations may impact you; the election stress may hit your body. It is OK. Try to acknowledge the feeling and then move toward something else: another conversation, noticing the painting on the wall, noting things around you, even the color of items. Start a new small project, organize your cabinets, clothes, or something around the house or the office, which demands you to be away from your phone and possibly TV for the next few days. Listen to funny podcasts or start new shows that hooks you. Plan Zoom meetings with friends or small get-togethers over a glass of wine or two, with one rule: NO ELECTION TALK. If election talk does come up, try to set limits: “hey guys let’s talk about this for ten minutes and move on.”

 

4. Practicing acceptance

At the end of the day, the election will conclude, and someone will be President. Accepting this truth will be easier than not. The President has a 4-year term to serve and accepting the outcome frees you from over-predicting or catastrophizing.
Acceptance can be hard, it may feel like defeat, you might feel helpless, and none of us like to feel that way. But guess what? When we hit a dead-end, we must change direction, and at that moment, we move on, start afresh, and new paths open. Just remember, feelings are just feelings NOT Facts.

5. You are not alone, this is not forever

We are all in this together, meaning there are defeats for some, and victories for others, but life is never as black and white as the results state or the media projects. Reality lies somewhere in-between, and whoever wins, we are on a journey together. There is so much more than we see and do. It takes practice to see beyond a result, accept that we are all part of a changing world, and embrace the future.
As one of my wise mentors once mentioned: “change is the only constant in our lives.”
As much as we can be unhappy or dissatisfied with the outcome of a life event, an election, or the impact of COVID-19, change is inevitable. Knowing we are not alone, adapting and moving on is the only way forward. For some it will feel good, and for others, bad, but as we progress through life, the stress disappears, the anxiety passes as new opportunities for change emerge.
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