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Election Anxiety is Real–Here’s How to Cope

Regardless of your personal political views, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: this election season has been hard. On top of the stress so many people are feeling about the pandemic, economic turmoil, and civil unrest, the upcoming election is causing anxiety across the country. If the nearing election is giving you panic and stress, you’re not alone.

The American Psychological Association (APA) found that for 56 percent of Americans, the 2020 election is a stressor in their lives, which is higher than in 2016. Politics more broadly causes even more stress and anxiety. In July 2020, the APA found that 62 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of Democrats report that the uncertain political climate causes them stress.

Regardless of who you support up and down the ballot and your reasons for doing so, it feels like a lot is riding on this election. While the stakes may feel particularly high in 2020, election anxiety is not new. Below are some anxiety relief techniques that have worked in past elections and may help you now.

Limit Your News Consumption

In today’s media environment, you can get political news 24/7 on many different platforms. While being informed is important, it’s equally important to take a break. Try limiting your news consumption to a set time each day, and avoid political news at any other time of day.

For example, you might decide to only look at political news during your lunch break. Turn off your news app notifications and only tune in to the news at that designated time. Skim the headlines and click on those that are interesting or important to you. When time’s up, put away the news and move on with your day. It’s easier said than done, but this technique can help you find peace throughout the day.

 

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Also, consider limiting the type of news you take in. Avoid opinion articles that speculate on how things could go and steer clear from any reporter that is alarmist. Instead, find sources that stick to the facts. It may be dry, but it can help you avoid a stress spiral.

Take Action

During times of stress or anxiety, it’s important to distinguish between the things you can and cannot control. In terms of the election, you can control:

  • How you vote
  • If and how much you donate
  • If and how much you volunteer

Worry about these things, and try to let the rest go. Funnel your anxiety into time spent campaigning for your favorite candidate on any part of the ballot. Vote early if you can, or make a plan to vote on Election Day. All of these actions can soothe your anxiety by allowing you to control what you can.

Avoid Talking Politics with Some People

Is there someone in your family or group of friends who just loves to argue about politics with you? Maybe you know that you’ll never see eye-to-eye, but you just can’t help but debate them. While a spirited debate can be good for individuals and the country, some arguments just aren’t worth it.

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Learning to distinguish between productive conversations and needless arguments is important. Before you engage in a discussion about politics, ask yourself:

  • Is this person open to hearing other ideas?
  • Will this person be kind in their response?
  • Can I learn anything from hearing their point of view?

If you answered “no” to each of these questions, the discussion is probably not worth the emotional energy when you’re already stressed. If someone keeps trying to bait you into heated political arguments, calmly say that you won’t be discussing politics with them but you would be happy to talk about something else. Then stick to it.

Find An Unrelated Hobby

Politics is important and getting involved is a great way to contribute to society. However, everyone needs a break from time to time. Even the most politically engaged person needs time to get away from everything and engage in a different activity. Whether it’s crafting, video games, exercise, or something else, be sure to spend time recharging your batteries. Even watching a great television show (not news!) can help.

Get Help If You Need It

If your stress is getting in the way of your ability to function in daily life, you may benefit from talking to a professional about it. Whether you’re worried about the election, something else, or just about everything, a licensed therapist can help you work through it.