Coping with Election Stress

According to a new survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), more than half of U.S. adults (56%) identify the 2020 presidential election as a significant stressor, an increase from the 52% of adults who reported the presidential election as a significant source of stress when asked in the months leading up to the 2016 contest.  In addition, more than three-quarters of Americans (77%) endorse the future of our nation as a significant source of stress, up from 66% in 2019, according to a Harris Poll conducted for the APA.  

Election stress is clearly a significant challenge to maintaining mental health and overall well-being. The 2020 election is also taking place amidst a worldwide pandemic, which has lasted for more than six months. Facing the election with these additional burdens has only served to reinforce our collective burnout and uncertainty about the future.  

It is important to consider how you are coping and take time to reconsider the ways you take care of yourself and your loved ones. This may not come as a surprise, but setting stricter boundaries is probably the best place to start. 

First, it is wise to set boundaries around your consumption of news and social media. It is natural to feel drawn to the news media as we look for updates and guidance. We may also be unknowingly searching for a sense of control that is ultimately out of reach, only to find ourselves faced with further uncertainty, fear, anger or a sense of hopelessness. All of this contributes to further stress, which can be partially reduced by limiting our exposure.  

Second, it can be helpful to set boundaries around relationships with others that you might experience as difficult or even harmful. A respectful discussion of differences in opinion can be a positive experience, but when these interactions become disrespectful or infused with anger or offensive language, it is best to limit your involvement. If this is the case with loved ones, it would be good to express your need for a break or request that politics be discussed when you are not present. You might also seek out positive relationships with others who share your views or just enjoy spending time discussing or relating around other topics.  

In addition to boundaries, an ongoing self-care routine that involves healthy eating, adequate sleep, and time to relax and engage in positive or enjoyable activities is a must for combatting stress and burnout. Likewise, you can take more small breaks or micro-mindfulness moments to focus on your breath and ground yourself. Additional skills such as emotional regulation and reappraisal strategies, such as re-framing, can also be helpful. In some cases, you might even consider some form of political or social advocacy or volunteering, which could help you experience a sense of control and connection to the community.

There is also always the option of seeking professional support for yourself or a loved one. In addition to the dedicated space to process your concerns and experience empathy and support, a professional can assist you in exploring ways of mitigating your stress and adapting new strategies to address intrusive thoughts and worry or identifying unhelpful coping behaviors, such as excessive alcohol use, over-eating, and other impulsive or avoidant behaviors. Lastly, can you take a minute to further review the tips on addressing burnout in our blog from last week.   

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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Published by tlindquistpsyd

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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