We have a big day quickly approaching. With any big day, it is common to experience some butterflies from excitement or anxiety. However, with the way 2020 has showed up, it is only natural to think “what else could possibly go wrong”.
From the many deaths due to racial injustice and the pandemic, to natural disasters and witnessing those in leadership have a complete disregard for human life; It’s a lot to wrap our minds around.
Anxiety is basically excessive nervousness, apprehension, worry and fear of what the future could look like. When we feel anxious our autonomic response system kicks in and prompts us to fight, flight, freeze, or appease. That could impact our response to this election. Some people will fight by debating and getting entangled in heated conversations. Some people will flight and completely avoid political topics altogether. Some people will freeze by not voting at all or subscribe to the belief that “my vote doesn’t count”. Lastly, some people will appease by muting their voice and ignoring important issues, and not addressing matters or engaging in conversions with family and friends in efforts to “keep the peace”.
The American Psychological Association conducted a “Stress in America” survey, in which they found more than half (about 56%) respondents identified the 2020 election as a significant stressor. At the end of June, the Centers for Disease Control reported that the highest rising levels of anxiety were among young adults, as well as black and Latino people of all ages. They found that the prevalence of anxiety symptoms among all populations was 3 times higher than it was last year.
This is serious and its impacting us all. Occasional stress and anxiety is normal, but prolonged anxiety and stress will not only lead to mental illness but over time it can manifest into physical illness as well.
Here are 7 ways to navigate election anxiety.
By voting early you can potentially help to relieve some stress surrounding dealing with lines at the polls or getting your ballots in the mail. Putting off voting or procrastination in general can increase your anxiety about what could potentially happen within the next week.
Take the day off
While we know this is not an option for everyone, if you anticipate that you will be overwhelmed, please take the day off. If you work in a hostile or charged environment, it is OK to take the day off as a precaution. If you are unable to take the day of consider creating a plan to manage stress and anxiety in the workplace.
Refrain from engaging in heavy political conversations.
It’s a rule of thumb to check in with yourself to see if you have the energy or bandwidth to engage in heated discussions especially with people with opposing view across party lines. Yes, it is important to have these conversations, but you get to choose when you want to engage in them.
Notice what is happening in your body
In the days leading up to the election recognize when you need to step away. This could give you some additional insight on the day of. If your body is tight and tense you are most likely stressed. Being mindful of this and intentionally releasing your muscles and relaxing your body can be beneficial.
Ask yourself, Am I doing the best that I can right now?
If you are doing your best, then GREAT. You must be able to accept that if you are not doing your best, what more can you do? Do you need to assist someone in getting to the polls, can you donate, can you encourage someone to vote by posting a selfie of you voting?
Delete and unfollow negative rhetoric.
You don’t have to consume what other people offer. If it is upsetting, insensitive, racist, you have the freedom to delete, unfollow, and disengage from all forms of media.
Make plans to support each other.
You can support your family and/or friends by planning a Zoom meeting or small, social distancing gathering with immediate family. You can choose to follow the election or do something completely unrelated. You choose!
A large component of managing anxiety is being able to accept what you fear, rather than just avoid it. The problems we encountered this year alone will not be magically washed away after the election. However, our vote can determine if we are moving towards a solution or if we are moving further away from it. If you need help navigating election anxiety feel free to reach out.