How to cope with 2020 election anxiety
With the pandemic, BlackLivesMatter, and the other chaos known as 2020, it feels like the stakes in this presidential election are higher than ever. Research shows America is more divided than any time in recent memory. And the differences run largely down party, racial, gender, and socioeconomic lines.
Whether it’s because of social media algorithms, cable news, or the widening income disparity (which has only been exacerbated by COVID-19), it can feel like we don’t even live in the same country. That can be incredibly isolating, and that’s coming to a head in this election.
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 68% of Americans are experiencing “significant” election stress -- up from the already high 52% in 2016. For Democrats, the trauma and grief felt in 2016 may be fueling added fears and anxieties about a history repeating with Biden.
By just acknowledging how we feel and understanding why we feel this way, we go a long way in starting to manage this stress. Worrying won’t change the outcome, whereas recognizing how we’re feeling can help us cope.
Here are some tips that can help you survive the next 100 hours and get to the other side in one piece:
Focus on something else
Let’s face it, continuing to refresh polling websites or read political pundit speculations is not healthy… or helping. We don’t normally encourage people to ignore problems, but it’s also not good to ruminate, especially when it feels like every article uncovers a new election scandal or predicts a different doomsday scenario for either side.
Because you can’t change that, one technique is to just ignore the hype and focus on something else until the election is over.
Yes, that means staying off social media. 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.
Why not continue the 2020 tradition of binge watching TV? The new season of This Is Us just started, and that’s always an uplifting tear-jerker. Or find time to connect with friends via a socially distant picnic and talk about any other topic besides the election. If alone time is restorative, go for a daily walk outside and disconnect from technology altogether. Whatever you do, try not to hit that refresh button.
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.
Anxiety can be heightened when we lose the sense of control. That’s also why helping others by volunteering can be both restorative and a welcome distraction. The impact you feel can be incredibly empowering. It can give us a sense of impact in an otherwise chaotic and uncontrollable world.
If you’re passionate about the election, channel that energy for good. Even during a pandemic, there are lots of ways to help from home like call and text banks to get out the vote. You can even safely volunteer at many polling places (just make sure you wear a mask).
Vote, vote, vote!
No matter what you do, one thing you’ve got to do is vote (and make sure your friends and families are voting too).
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.
And every vote really does matter. Elections can come down to the smallest margins in only a few states. As we saw in 2016, Donald Trump won the presidency thanks to 79,646 votes in 3 states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin). That’s not even the closest race in history. Bush beat Gore in 200 by only 540 votes in one state (Florida).
Please don’t let the regret you may have felt in 2016 happen again.
In all likelihood, we will not have results on Tuesday. Uncertainty may drag on if the courts get involved. To cope, it’s important for us to all mentally prepare. And in the event the outcome of the election is not what we hoped for, it’s a good idea to brace for that as well.
If it’s any consolation, if we learned anything from 2016, it’s that we all have the ability to move forward, even from the darkest days.
If you find it hard to take these steps or feel your election anxiety worsening, it may be a sign that this election has triggered something deeper. If so, we invite you to talk about this with your reflect therapist if you have one.
If you don’t, consider talking to one of our experienced practitioners who can help you work through what you might be feeling. Click above to GET MATCHED and try for free.