• If you’re stressed out about the election, you’re not alone.

This year’s presidential election is taking a toll on the mental health of people across the country. According to a new survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association more than two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) say that the 2020 U.S. presidential election is a significant source of stress in their life.

“This is truly uncharted territory,” says Donya Wallace, a nationally certified therapist and visiting professor at Palo Alto University. Wallace notes that people may find their old ways of coping are no longer effective. “Many people rely upon the support of family and friends during difficult times. The pandemic has impacted our ability to connect through personal contact, so we have become more reliant upon social platforms.” And while these spaces have been helpful in keeping us connected, they have also exposed us to one another’s political views which, as Wallace points out, has the potential to create ruptures in those relationships as the political race becomes more contentious.

“The brain, body, the entire system – all are trying to adjust to a lack of normalcy,” says Wallace. “Experiences of anxiety can be quite different from one person to the next. For some it may be more of a somatic experience, with physical discomfort like muscle tension, or headaches. For others, it may manifest as sleep disturbance, loss of appetite or difficulties concentrating. Others experience a sense of dread and despair, sadness and depression.” 

Wallace offers these tips to help individuals reduce stress and cope with the anxiety caused by the impending elections:

PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS – To safeguard relationships consider:

Set boundaries around political discussions. If conversations become uncomfortable, feel free to walk away and take a time-out.

Agree to disagree. Respect the right of others to hold different opinions and avoid attempts to persuade those who strongly hold on to a particular view.

Focus on those aspects of the relationship in which there is a shared interest. Consider creating a list of safe topics with family and friends.

SELF-CARE – Set limits on your use of social media and consider disconnecting from platforms that cause distress

• Turn the television off.

• Take time each day to engage in those activities that bring about a sense of calm and peace such as walking, exercise or yoga. Read a good book or plan a movie night at home.

VOTING – To alleviate fear or concerns about voting on Nov. 3, consider these simple suggestions:

Use the buddy system – Voting with friends and/or family members not only provides company while standing in line, but also offers a sense of comfort to those who may experience concerns about their physical safety in some settings.

Anticipate long lines and wait times – Pack a lunch and bring along a chair in case lines are long.

Vote early if possible – Early and/or absentee voting has started in most states and allows citizens to cast votes before Election Day. Check your local polling station for when and where voting is permitted in your state.

Plan ahead – Verify your registration, polling location and requirements. Review the ballot prior to heading to the polls. If voting by mail, follow all of the instructions and requirements to make sure your vote gets counted.

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