Election season is upon us and you might find yourself wondering how to cope with some of the added election anxiety and stress on top of daily life. Perhaps all of us can understand why someone might be having a hard time coping – and everyone deserves to know about some positive coping skills during this time.
Keep in mind, this article is for all people dealing with election anxiety and stress, and will not present any political views.
Why is This Election So Stressful?
There are several factors that might make this election cycle seem particularly stressful: stressors from a hectic, uncertain year, seemingly endless political advertisements on multiple media sources, and tensions between different politicians and the people that support them.
Social Sorting/Identity Politics
Social sorting is a way of grouping people into certain categories based on their political ideas. This, combined with identity politics, or an assumption that certain demographic groups will have certain political ideas based on their various marginalized statuses, can make any election seem divisive. With social sorting and identity politics more present in the 2020 election than previous elections, disagreements about politics can feel like personal attacks.
What’s at Stake
The election decides who the President and Vice-President will be for the next four years, but also various state and local representatives, state questions, and other positions (such as the school board).
Making decisions about who to vote for can bring about some anxiety on how the next few years might go. Additionally, the deep divide of political ideology can lead each side to feel threatened if their party does not come out on top. This can cause a significant amount of stress.
Length of Campaign Cycle
The United States has a longer campaign cycle than many other countries. This means advertisements and political campaigns begin earlier, which can lead to seemingly endless vies for your attention and financial support.
What might be a fleeting stressor for some, the lengthy campaign cycle can prove to be a prolonged stressor for others. Feelings of prolonged stress can lead to anxiety.
Not only does the future of politics ride on how we vote, but there are also some significant barriers to voting for some groups of people. In an Atlanta suburb, drones captured pictures of lines outside of early voting locations spanning the length of several football fields. People might have trouble getting off work to go vote, or might be confused about the voting process.
There is the option of mailing in your ballot. This is an option that might be particularly appealing for those that are worried about voting during a pandemic, but sometimes mail-in-voting can be a bit confusing. Some states have special COVID-19 regulations for absentee voting in this election.
The bottom line is, people have a right to be concerned about the election and voting process this year. However, when concern turns into endless thoughts about the election, daily worrying about the outcome, or stress that seems more cumbersome to deal with than usual, figuring out how to cope with election anxiety and stress becomes paramount.
Election Anxiety and Stress
There has been a significant increase in stress related to the election this year. According to a study done by the American Psychological Association, two-thirds of adults reported that this election cycle is causing significant daily stress.
Social Media and Politics
You might find yourself scrolling through political hashtags on Twitter or going down a rabbit-hole of YouTube videos about candidates you’re interested in. Seeing advertisements on social media that are meant to grab your attention can lead to a heightened emotional climate.
Since we have endless access to the Internet and social media, it’s easy to find yourself on a scrolling loop. It’s a good idea to set daily limits for how much social media you consume. There are some apps that can help you with that, including OffTime, Moment, and Flipd.
Managing Election-Related Anxiety and Stress
Having a voting plan, or an idea of exactly how you plan on casting your ballot this year, can help with some tension you might be experiencing. Look up your local polling place, figure out what time is best for you to go vote, or read state guidelines on how to cast your absentee ballot. Figuring this out ahead of time can help reduce some stress on the day of.
Have an Election Day Plan
When the day of the election arrives, try to remind yourself that the results of the election might not be confirmed that very same day. It’s a good idea to think about what you’ll be doing on Tuesday, November 3rd, and, if you’re experiencing more anxiety than usual, plan on building in some time for self-care.
Self-care can take on many different forms. For election stress and anxiety, self-care can get creative – like volunteering for your favorite candidate’s campaign or placing time limits on media that covers the election.
Find a method of self-care that works for you, such as:
- Playing with your dog or other pets
- Going for a walk
- Listening to music
Self-care is about what makes you feel cared for, so get creative. Remember, self-care doesn’t have to take a large chunk out of your busy schedule. Simply finding five or ten minutes for an activity that brings you peace a couple of times a day can work wonders.
While getting into political arguments with strangers on Facebook might, on its surface, seem a valuable use of your time, consider engaging in activities that can truly make a difference for your cause, like phone banking, text banking, or even volunteering to be a poll worker.
Setting aside some time in the morning or evening (or any other time in the day that works for you) to engage in some breathing exercises can help reduce stress by sending a message to the brain to calm down. Try belly breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, alternate nostril breathing, or Lion’s breath.
Talk to Your Therapist
Your therapist can help you with these stress management techniques as well as come up with alternate methods that work best for you. A therapist is there to be an unbiased third party that is a champion for your mental health.