While Americans typically feel stressed on any given Election Day (56% of US adults for the 2016 election) , Americans are more stressed anticipating Election Day 2020. In a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, it was found that 68% of American adults are stressed. Personally, I imagine this percentage is much higher, based on my conversations with friends and family.
The pandemic has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. People have lost their jobs, ended relationships, and are now living in social isolation. At the same time, protests around the country have highlighted how racism continues to penetrate throughout the entire country- racial inequalities have been exposed as COVID disproportionately affects Black individuals more than White individuals. Further, this is one of the worst fire seasons that has displaced approximately 1 million people. Approximately 4 million acres have been burned this season which is 2 million acres more than what has been burned over the last decade.
It makes sense why stress levels are at an all-time high, regardless of one’s political party. During this election season, I wish that the concept of “pain” did not exist. That would be so wonderful! Alas- we are human and we cannot get rid of pain. Instead, you can read below to prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario and problem-solve for what you can control. Exerting your effort, time, and energy towards what you can control can be extremely empowering. Grieving and accepting the unfortunate reality of situations that cannot be changed is our best method for not letting the misery take control over you.
Focus on What you CAN Control
- VOTE! This is a great way to make a difference and possibly achieve your desired outcome.
- VOLUNTEER- There are many ways to volunteer for the election, either from the polling stations or from the comfort of your own couch.
- ENGAGE IN POLITICAL DISCOURSE WITH FRIENDS/FAMILY-
- Proceed with caution! This can be a source of stress if you and your friend/family member have starkly different political views. Engaging in political discussions can be informative for both you and someone else. I recently found that I did not know a lot of information about a Proposition and wanted to hear different perspectives from my own friends and family to understand their thoughts and beliefs. I appreciated hearing my friends different perspectives.
- If engaging in political discourse is not feasible or will increase stress, then move on to Number 4.
- CREATE BOUNDARIES
- Creating boundaries with friends, family members, or coworkers is something you can control. Think about this boundary as something you can control. This boundary-setting can be extremely difficult to do as these political discussions can turn into arguments.
- The first step to implement a boundary (AKA personal limit) with a friend is to clarify what you want from the person and what you want out of the conversation.
- Once you have clarified your objective for the discussion, determine what type of boundary you want to set. For example, if I want to learn about someone’s perspective, I am wanting to be curious and ask questions. My threshold for disagreement may look different than if someone were to say make an off-hand offensive comment.
- You can create a boundary by saying “no” in some way (i.e., “I don’t want to talk about politics right now”, deciding not to talk to someone until after the election, unfriending someone on Fabceook, etc.).
Accept and Cope for What you CANNOT Control
On Election Day, and after you have voted, you do not have control over the outcome. When the President is announced, you may be thrilled, feel neutral, or feeling extremely upset. If you find yourself saying “this can’t happen”, “he did not actually win”, you may find yourself rejecting reality…even slightly. This is totally normal, by the way. I find myself rejecting reality or not truly accepting reality when it feels too painful to accept.
But, here is the thing- This does not change the reality of the situation. Accepting reality can prompt you to problem-solve, but the first step is to accept reality.
- If your President did not win, feel the disappointment. Watch your emotion like a wave, coming and going. Notice the physical sensations that arise in your body, notice your thoughts, notice your urges. Stay in the present moment.
- If you notice that your negative emotions are increasing in intensity, reach out to a trusted friend, self-soothe by eating your favorite food, distract by watching a funny TV show, or practice my favorite skill here.
Any emotion you are experiencing due to the election makes sense. If you are feeling particularly stressed or overwhelmed, create a self-care schedule by putting alarms in your phone (once a day) as a reminder to take a 5-minute break and do something for you that feels good.
October 30, 2020