Election anxiety is a real thing. It’s not just your imagination. A presidential election year may tend to cause some people anxiety. 2016 however has been a different type of rollercoaster than we have previously experienced heading into the upcoming November election. If you’ve noticed you’re having a hard time coping with the upcoming election, you’re not alone. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 52% of American adults report the election is a major source of stress.
Whether you identify as a Democrat or Republican makes no difference- the anxiety is on the rise. The two primary candidates are two of the least popular candidates our country has ever seen. This fact alone has led people to have great concern about what will happen if their candidate doesn’t get elected. Others feel powerless because they believe they don’t have a good choice. This lack of control is a common contributor to feelings of unease.
Election anxiety is also heightened is due to media coverage. With non-stop reporting, people are on overload. Nearly 4 in 10 adults say that political discussions on social media cause them stress (APA, 2016). Regarding social media, it’s not just the news page feeds (CNN, FOX, NYT, WP etc.) causing anxiety. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter and the daily 24-7 posts on the election are big contributors. Political disagreements often lead to hostile comments which in turn evoke a cycle of adversity and conflict resulting in…. anxiety.
People who are prone to anxiety and depression may also be at greater risk of experiencing heightened symptoms as a result of the upcoming election. These are just a few of the many reasons people on edge this election year.
The good news is, there are things you can do to feel better.
First and foremost, do what you can to limit your exposure. Begin by limiting the amount of news coverage you see (TV, Internet, print, etc.). Media has a tendency to play the same story repeatedly until there is something new. This doesn’t mean you can’t stay informed. If you’re already caught up on the day’s news, turn it off.
Next, do what you can to limit your election related viewing on social media. Have you “liked” several political pages? In your account change your setting to view pages less often so they will appear less often in your newsfeed. Limit your own election related posting as well as your commentary on other feeds. Many people have found that taking a temporary break all together from the news and social media to be helpful.
Are you discussing the election often? Pay attention to how often you start these discussions. Try to curtail how often you bring up the topic. If the election is causing you anxiety, discussing it on a regular basis will most likely increase your anxiety by engaging in these stressful conversations.
Try to get in 10 minutes every day of a stress reduction activity to help manage your anxiety. Some ideas include deep breathing, going for a walk, practicing mindfulness, and exercise to name a few. Do whatever is your favorite, yet commit to doing something daily.
Try to stay focused on the present. Many times anxiety increases because we are worried about what will happen in the future. This can cause our thoughts to spiral into the never ending cycle of what-ifs and worst case scenario worries. To stay focused on the present, get in touch with your senses. Focus on what you currently see, smell, hear, feel, etc.
Make sure that you are spending time doing things that you enjoy. Get these things on your schedule. Spend time with friends and family. Put a temporary ban on discussing all election related things.
If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, please don’t hesitate to reach out.