- A survey found that two-thirds of Americans are stressed out about the presidential election.
- Political polarization, concerns about potential post-election conflict, and pandemic-related worries are adding to the anxiety that many people feel.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed, there are simple steps you can take to calm down.
If you’re feeling stressed about the election, you’re not alone.
In a survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association, more than two-thirds of adults said the 2020 presidential election is a significant source of stress in their lives.
Many Americans are worried about the consequences for their own lives and others if their preferred candidate loses. The stakes for some community members are particularly high.
“People will likely experience stress differently depending on their hopes and expectations regarding the election — which candidate do they support and how worried are they about the consequences of the outcome?” Dr. Timothy Sullivan, chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City, told Healthline News.
“If someone feels that if their candidate loses, their safety and future is in doubt, they can be expected to worry more,” he continued.
Political polarization, concerns about potential post-election conflict, and pandemic-related worries are adding to the anxiety that many people feel.
While some stressors fall outside the average individual’s ability to control, there are steps that people can take to manage election-related stress.
Here are five strategies that may help calm your nerves on Election Day.
For many Americans, nonstop news coverage and social media chatter may be contributing to election-related anxiety.
“The election has been the topic of conversation for months. It’s been amplified by social media and 24-hour news channels, live feeds, tweets, and for many, an inability to disconnect from it all,” Ken Yeager, PhD, LISW, director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience (STAR) Program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, told Healthline.
“Being constantly immersed in this stressful environment and being overexposed to contentious or traumatic events can make you feel like the world is a less safe place to be,” he said.
Making a conscious decision to limit your media consumption might help ease some of the Election Day strain.
“Limit your television or internet viewing time and turn off the electronics at least an hour before bedtime,” recommended Sullivan.
“Don’t debate with people online — you are not going to change other people’s minds, especially now,” he added.
Rather than spending all day scrolling through your social media feeds or glued to the television, consider spending some quality time with family members or friends.
“Stop and think about what’s really important — family, children, or friends — and make time for them,” advised Yeager.
“During the pandemic, that may mean connecting via phone calls or Zoom calls,” he continued.
Talking with your loved ones about election-related concerns might also help you cope with some of the strain the election may be causing.
“If you have concerns about the outcome of the election, and this is impacting relationships with family and friends, talk with them about it,” said Yeager.
A change of scenery and some might also help calm your nerves today.
“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, feeling stressed, you’ve been in your house or your office all day — get outside,” suggested Dr. Abhinav Saxena, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Even 5 or 10 minutes of sunlight and fresh air would be very helpful,” he said.
Walking and other exercise may help increase your brain’s production of feel-good endorphins.
This may help ease stress, boost your mood, and improve your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
In addition to exercising, practicing other healthy habits is also important for promoting your mental and physical wellness in the face of stress.
For example, that means not over-indulging in alcohol or other maladaptive coping mechanisms.
“You need to get a good night’s sleep, eat healthy, limit alcohol,” said Saxena.
“I think that sometimes, the basic stuff is the most important,” he added.
Whether your preferred candidate wins or loses, election results are not the only thing that makes a difference to your community.
Finding other ways to contribute to positive change might help you feel more hopeful about the future. It might also help you connect with other like-minded people who share your values.
“If you are concerned, you may feel frustrated or helpless,” said Sullivan.
“Volunteer time to a community or other group that represents your values,” he suggested.
Getting involved in community advocacy, activism, or volunteer work can help you make a positive contribution to the world you want to live in.
“Be open-minded about next steps, understanding that governing is more of a process than it is an event,” advised Yeager.
“If you choose to be active and enact change in your community, then you will become part of the process,” he said.