Stress levels for Americans are at an all-time high during one of the most chaotic years of most people’s lives. As we approach November, with a monumental presidential election, a study by the American Psychological Association found that 68% of American Adults account for the presidential election as the greatest source of stress in their lives. The majority of people say that anxiety stems from the uncertainty of the election as well as the high stakes the results hold.
As the end of October approaches and November 3rd is creeping around the corner, people are finding it difficult to manage their anxiety, stress, and tense political divides in the country. Many people are avoiding calling their relatives to avoid political conversations, staying off social media to not be triggered by political online fights, and trying to navigate working during a pandemic with intense election anxiety.
If you are finding it hard to maintain your mental health, you are along with 68% of Americans. This presidential election has produced more anxiety than any in the past, and with already great uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, another source of anxiety with the election has taken a great mental toll on many Americans all over the country. This upcoming presidential election has divided many communities, brought out various social and economic inequities with the current health crisis, and is flooding our social media with loads of “fake news”.
This can make it difficult for us to know what we can trust and not trust. As humans, it is extremely difficult for us to be in situations where we do not have control, as this makes us feel unsafe. The pandemic has brought up feelings of uncertainty for an extended period of time. For most people, they can not recall a time that they had complete uncertainty for nine months, with no certainty in the near future. This presidential election has become a high source of stress for most Americans (Conservatives and Liberals).
As we have to face the reality that we may not know the results of the election on November 3rd, we need to utilize coping mechanisms that can help us manage the uncertainty that we will face in the upcoming weeks.
What You Can Do For Your Mental Health During This Time
Draw Boundaries When You are Going to Consume Information
Everywhere you turn you are probably hearing about the election. Log onto Instagram, it’s all over your feed, go on YouTube, there are videos of debate recaps, sign onto Facebook, there are political Facebook fights, and turn on the TV and every other commercial is about the election. We know that 68% of Americans are already reporting that the election is currently the source of most of their stress, meaning that this topic is already frequently on their mind. Draw boundaries on when you are going to consume election-related information to protect your mind and stress levels. You can tell yourself, ‘I am only going to go on social media for 30 minutes, or I am not going to watch the news today’. Draw boundaries based on how you are feeling that day and how much information you can consume without furthermore elevating your already high-stress levels.
Utilize Stress Reduction Coping Mechanisms
When you are feeling stressed out, make sure you are taking care of your basic needs. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating nutritious foods and drinking plenty of water? We need to make sure that we are taking care of our basic needs during unprecedented times. Our body and mind need time to rest and recharge from hectic days and prolonged anxiety. Here are some coping mechanisms you can utilize to reduce stress:
- Journaling about the stressors in your life.
- Breathing exercises when you are feeling stressed (4, 7, 8 breathing, diaphragmatic breathing)
- Relaxation Techniques (progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery)
- Yoga or Meditation
- Hobbies, interests, activities you enjoy
- Seek therapy from a mental health professional who is trained in stress management
Ground Yourself When You Feel Emotionally Activated
When we start to feel emotionally activated, our mind often runs to the ‘worst-case scenario’. Our minds do this as a coping mechanism when we feel that our world is out of control. The problem with this is that our mind can take us to crazy scenarios that are unlikely to happen, and we further emotionally activate ourselves. When you find yourself feeling anxious about the uncertainty of the election, ground yourself in the present moment. This is an effective way to calm your anxiety during a time of panic or stress.
A common grounding technique to bring you back to the present moment is the
‘54321 Grounding Method’
In this method, when you are anxious identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. Tuning in with our senses is a quick and effective way to bring us back to where we are in the present moment and talk ourselves out of future-related anxiety or rumination.
Acknowledge What You Do and Do Not Have Control Over
Ruminating on things that we do not have control over is ultimately not helpful and it only produces more anxiety and stress. It can be frustrating to think that with the current situation, we don’t have much control over it. We don’t have control over what the outcome is, how long we have to wait to get answers, or who anyone else votes for. Though these are things that are valid to get upset over, we have to recognize what we do and do not have control over. What we do have control over is who we vote for, how we discuss politics, and where we draw our boundaries around election-related matters.
Acknowledging what you have control over doesn’t mean ignoring your feelings, you are allowed to give yourself the space to feel your emotions. The emotions many people are feeling now are very heavy and the outcome holds a lot of weight. It can be hard to cope with things that you can not control, but being aware of what you can and can not control helps you put your energy toward things that you have more power over vs. do not have power over.
Here is a simple break down of things that you DO and DO NOT have control over:
You DO Have Control Over
- Who you vote for
- How much social media you consume daily
- When you turn watch the news
- When you choose to talk about politics
- How you respond to someone’s opinion
- What conversations you place yourself in
- When you choose to leave a conversation
- How much energy you put into conversations about the election
- What source(s) you get your information from
You DO NOT Have Control Over
- Who other people choose to vote for
- When the results of the election come out
- What other people post on social media
- Other people’s political views
- How someone responds to your political opinion
- Someone saying information that is false/biased
- The source(s) that someone else gets their information from
Need Some Extra Support? We Are Here For You
If you are one of the 70% of Americans who are experiencing elevated levels of stress due to the election, know that you are not alone. This time is full of a lot of anticipation and our mind is not used to dealing with this amount of uncertainty and elements out of our control. When we are faced with new situations, it calls for new coping strategies. BeWELL Therapists in NYC are trained in helping people navigate elevated levels of stress, transition periods, and teaching coping strategies to manage new circumstances. BeWELL, our psychotherapy practice in Manhattan, offers free consultations with one of our licensed professionals so that you can see if your therapy is a good fit for your mental health journey. Contact our client care coordinator at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ or 646-863-0101 to see if BeWELL can help you live well today.