According to the American Psychological Association, election stress is up this voting cycle. Back in 2016, about 52% of US adults reported that the presidential election was a significant source of stress. In 2020, that number is up to 68%--and holds true across political parties. Election stress has gone up by even greater margins for two groups: individuals with chronic health conditions and black Americans. We know that being in the middle of a global pandemic with racial unrest and economic uncertainty in the months leading up to the election, has also contributed to overall dis-ease.
So how do I cope with election stress?
· Avoid dwelling on the worst-case scenario. We imagine a series of awful consequences if a certain candidate wins. We know this isn’t good for our stress.
· Seek connection in safe people. People to whom you can talk freely without fear of judgment. There are many online groups if close friends and family aren’t safe.
· Take breaks from media coverage. I know this is hard. I find I keep refreshing my browser. It’s okay to be curious. But be diligent about stepping away.
· Some of the old stand-by’s for dealing with stress in general: use the power of breath to calm and center your body, get outside and move, listen to music, and pay attention to eating and sleeping.
What if my candidate loses?
· Give yourself space to feel and grieve. We know a lot of people invested a great deal of time and energy into this election. Connect with others who may also be grieving. As the old saying goes, “a sorrow shared, is a sorrow halved.”
· When you’re ready, take action in line with your values. If there were certain issues that led you to vote for a candidate, get involved in some way. Volunteer your time or money to an organization that champions that issue. Getting involved locally often has a greater impact on your community than presidential elections and can also be a source of ongoing social support.
· Look for common ground and avoid de-humanizing language. As human beings, we have a tendency to take an us vs them mentality. And when we view them, the outside group, we tend to assume they are all the same. “All Biden supporters are X and all Trump supporters are Y.” So, take a minute to consider that people who voted for the opposing candidate may have a multitude of reasons for doing so. We should strive to not de-humanize others, for this can increase division and hostility, and make violence seem acceptable. We can disagree with and hold people accountable without belittling them. Try to remember that we all want a better world for ourselves and loved ones, but may have different, even complimentary, ideas for how to accomplish that.