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Does the Election Cause You Anxiety?

By Jonathan TranPham, reflect founder


I’ll be so happy when this election cycle is finally over on Tuesday. The last year and a half have caused me -- and the country -- major anxiety. Change is always hard, and normal elections usually get heated. But this race feels far from normal.

Research show America is more divided than any time in recent memory. And the differences run largely down party, racial, gender, and socioeconomic lines.

Maybe it’s because a real chunk of the American population feels left behind by opportunity. Or maybe it’s because perceived threats of terrorism from abroad and at home have caused us to constantly question our safety. It could also be all the hateful rhetoric being spewed making us wonder who we are as a country (and whether we belong). And don’t get me started on the damaging effects of social media or the faux scandal-filled 24 hour news cycle.

Regardless of the cause, this race is high-stakes and uncertain. There’s a lot to worry about.

The Atlantic recently did a great piece about how national-level uncertainty can wreak havoc on individual stress levels. And a lot of people are feeling the heat.

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently found that minority students are “concerned for their safety” by the possibility of a Trump presidency. And therapists across the country are reporting that the misogynistic language being used has been especially traumatizing for women, sometimes even triggering latent verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse memorized. The list goes on.

By just acknowledging how we feel and understanding why we feel this way, we go a long way in starting to manage this stress.

The good news is that we’re less than 48 hours away from the end of this circus (I hope). The anxiety we face should subside a bit too. 

In the meantime, here are some tips that can help you survive the 36 hours and get to the other side in one piece. Let's just hope our country does too.



Focus on something else


Let’s face it, continuing to refresh FiveThirtyEight or read political pundit speculations is not healthy… or helping. Now we don’t normally encourage you to ignore problems, but it’s also not good to continue to ruminate. Until this election is over, one technique is to just ignore the hype and focus on something else.


Yes, that means staying off social media if possible. It also means avoiding conversation where others freak out about the election. Collective worry isn't going to change things. It only makes things worse. Instead, be mindful of what you're spending your time on, and choose to focus on things that bring you happiness.


The Chicago Cubs gave us a welcome distraction from politics with their historic, uplifting, and seemingly destined World Series win last week. #gocubsgo #flythew


But now that the Fall Classic is over, you've got to find some other ways to distract yourself. What better way than binge watching your favorite show?


You can try the first season of Man in High Castle, the Amazon original based on the Philip K. Dick Hugo Award-winning novel that imagines a world where the Nazis had won World War II. It’s fantastic. And Season 2 premieres on December 16. The only downside is that series might hit a bit too close to home given this election cycle. If so, you should probably skip House of Cards, too.


If you’re hoping for some feel-goods, Friday Night Lights (streaming free on Netflix) might be a better option. You can probably get through a couple of the five stellar seasons by Tuesday. And you’ll definitely walk away with a bit more hope in your hearts than anything you'll find on CNN.


And if that’s not enough, there are always tried-and-true movies such as Love Actually and The Princess Bride to help you escape.



Volunteer


When faced with anxiety, one technique that is often helpful is to channel that energy into something productive. This can be anything from gardening to exercise to the arts. By focusing our minds, we can distract ourselves (at least in the short-term) from the damaging thoughts that cause us worry.


Luckily, in this election, there is ample opportunity to find ways to help… especially if you have a specific candidate in mind. There are call and text banks, opportunities to volunteer locally, and even canvassing groups particularly in swing states. That’s how I’m personally spending the last day of this election. If you’re interested, come join me in Nevada with Hillary. (Yes, no surprise #imwithher)


One caveat, in looking for things to do please just try to stay away from those Election Day drinking games. While they sound fun, they can quickly and bigly go south.


(Editor’s note: these volunteer opportunities are for Hillary’s campaign. If you’re interested in volunteering for the Republican party, there may be similar opportunities for Trump’s campaign, though his ground game seems less organized.)



Vote, vote, vote!


No matter what you do, one thing you’ve got to do is vote. For the love of God, please vote.


America works because each of us has an opportunity to have our voice heard. And it’s a right some people around the world would literally die for.


Elections can come down to the smallest margins, and the only thing worse than the anxiety you feel now is the regret you’ll feel if you know you could’ve made a difference. Kennedy beat Nixon in 1960 by less than 0.25% of the popular vote. Bush won the election over Gore based on a 537 vote difference in Florida in 2000. That was smaller than my senior graduating high school class in Texas.



After Tuesday


The concerns we all feel as a nation are real. Just because the election will be over on Tuesday doesn’t mean the underlying problems will miraculously go away. For the country and for the candidate who wins, the work is only beginning. And he or she will have their work cut out trying to heal this nation.


If you find the anxiety you’re feeling not getting better after Tuesday, it may be a sign that this election has triggered something deeper. If so, we suggest you check out these helpful tips around managing ongoing anxiety. If they don't help, consider talking to one of our experienced practitioners who can help you work through what you might be feeling. Click below to get matched and try for free.


Hopefully in 36 hours, we’ll have some answers to the questions that have been plaguing us for the last two years (and make some history in the process!).


Then we can finally get back to what really matters: watching oversimplified cooking videos on Facebook and debating why the College Football Rankings are rigged. Oh America…

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