By Juhee Jhalani Ph.D.
Do you find yourself compulsively checking the news over your phone? Scrolling endlessly through social media channels for updates about the upcoming election? Are you losing sleep feeling tense about the outcome of the election? Do you catch yourself overthinking if the election doesn’t go the way you would prefer it to go? Are you engaging in endless arguments with your family, friends and even strangers convincing them who to vote? Do you feel frustrated, powerless and hopeless about the future of our country? Take a breather, you are not alone experiencing these stressors. Yes, you CAN learn how to manage these stressors, stay calm and take control of your life during these unprecedented times.
According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) – October 2020, more than two thirds of American adults (68%) agree that election is a significant stressor in their life. According to the Harris poll conducted on behalf of the APA, regardless of the political affiliation, a majority of the respondents affirmed election as a significant source of stress (76% Democrats, 67% Republicans and 64% Independents).
Needless to say that there are numerous personal and socio-economic shared reasons for all of us to be anxious. We are amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, unstable economy, civil unrest, climate change, joblessness, conspiracy theories. Take a moment and acknowledge that given our current environment it is quite a natural response to be anxious. Anxiety is an innate human emotion, a natural coping mechanism that triggers us to ‘prepare and protect’ from anticipated threats. The key here is that our anxiety levels must stay within the manageable range often referred to as ‘eustress’. Eustress helps us think logically and plan efficiently. ‘Distress’ on the other end is excessive stress which is debilitating, causing us to panic or freeze in situations. Prolonged exposure to stress often leads to physiological and psychological ailments. It threatens our mental peace and social harmony.
Below are a few approaches that you may find helpful to alleviate the election induced anxiety.
Monitor your media usage. Consider this your topmost priority at this time. Through apps like ‘Social Fever’, ‘Freedom’, ‘Moment’ and ‘Zen Screen’ you can monitor the amount of time you spend on different social media platforms. Set a designated time during the day when you will allow yourself time to read news or watch it on television. Avoid reading about politics first thing in the morning or last thing at the end of the day. Make sure these times are reserved for calming and soothing rituals. Take social media breaks during the week. Disable news related notifications on your phone screen such that you can avoid distractions. Consider deleting news apps on your phone and commit to reading news by logging on to news media websites at a designated time slot during the day.
Avoid discussing politics with family, friends and strangers. Stop and excuse yourself from politically triggering conversations. Remind others and yourself that such conversations especially with loved ones with conflicting political beliefs can be painful. Pose questions to yourself before any political conversation – “Is this useful?” “Is this going to be stressful?” “Is this conversation going to add value to my relationship with this person?” These questions can guide you in deciding whether a political conversation is needed at a certain moment. Value mental peace and rest more than your political beliefs and agenda. Continue to remind yourself that it is OK for everyone to have their unique value systems and beliefs. Be mindful of your ‘ego’ when you have the urge to convince them that they are wrong and your opinions and beliefs are right. To each their own. Invest in trust and harmony in relationships more than anything.
Prepare for the less than favorable outcome. Conquer the fear of the unknown. If you are feeling unrestful thinking about how you will respond if the election results do not go the way you want them, then take time now to prepare. Come up with a plan for the future. Maybe you would want to take a small break from social interactions under those circumstances. Plan a small getaway or a weekend trip to look forward to post-elections to lift your spirits. Avoid overthinking and dwelling on worst case scenarios. Overthinking is not helpful and it often results in panic and depression. Both these negative feelings are counter-productive to problem solving and coping.
Take charge and volunteer. Control what you can control. Vote early and encourage others to vote too. If you would prefer to volunteer, you can do both remotely and in person. You can join an online or a local political group to feel connected and supported. If you would prefer to donate to your favored candidate or support the campaign you can do so online. Explore your options and take action. You can also commit yourself to volunteer virtually by committing to phone banking, making calls for a campaign. Urge your family and friends to vote without pressuring them who to vote. Do your needed part in the election 2020. Keep in mind action is the best remedy for anxiety.
Overall, the year 2020 has been unexpectedly challenging for all of us. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Acknowledge your resilience, believe in our nation and trust our countrymen and women. We have been through a lot of difficult times in history and this shall pass too. Our country’s youth is aware of the systemic injustices at this time more than ever. Believe that our future holds change, justice and harmony. You are the center of your universe. Make sure that you stay mindful of your physical and mental health. If you are calm and centered only then will you be able to serve to the purpose that you believe in.
- The content shared in this article is for educational purposes only; it is not a replacement for psychotherapy therapeutic relationship or medical care.
- Past or present patients of mine risk breaching confidentiality by commenting or writing to the editor. I will not respond to comments in public in order to maintain ethical boundaries and respect privacy.
- Seek professional help, if you need immediate assistance, please call National Suicide Prevention life line 1-800-273-8255 or Disaster Hotline at 1-800-985-5990.
Juhee Jhalani Ph.D.
Dr. Jhalani is a New York state licensed psychologist, practicing in Midtown Manhattan. In her online and in-person private practice, she works with adults, couples, and families. She has a long standing interest in working with underserved populations, including immigrants and marginalized individuals. She provides psychotherapy both in English and Hindi.Read More