Before, During, and After: 10 Tips to Help Cope With Election Anxiety

Jennifer Fritz
Before, During, and After: 10 Tips to Help Cope With Election Anxiety
Anxiety can present itself differently for many people, and most will tell you that they experience it at some point in their lives. More recently though, a new source of stress has been making headlines and it is called “election stress disorder.”

Though you won’t find it in the DSM-5, election stress disorder is a very real problem. Due to 24/7 media coverage and non-stop social media debates, it feels like everything has become politicized. 

Another related term that has been coined by US psychologists is “Trump anxiety disorder,” which has also been discussed in the media. This term loosely refers to those who were rattled after Trump’s presidential win and subsequent years in office, which included secret trysts with Russia and a presidential impeachment. As the election looms, this election anxiety is amplified as it seems all eyes are on November. With so much at stake, people are worried about what the outcome will be, and in some ways, it is more personal than ever. 

In truth, election anxiety is more generalized and non-partisan, and it has been intensified by how the COVID-19 epidemic has become a contentious political issue. In order to better handle all of the stress surrounding the election, top online therapy services can help. 

Here are my top 10 tips for coping with election anxiety disorder before, during, and after the election:

1. Set Limits on Social Media Consumption

There is a time and place for how much time you dedicate to your learning, posting, arguing, or discussing your political agenda. Too much of any of this will cause overload and burnout, and that is where the most stress is coming from. Make sure that you get a balance of where you get your information. TV news is fine, but reading the paper and listening to the news is often less sensationalized and more direct.

2. Stay in Touch With the Issues

Be informed about the core issues and what is important to you and not the chaos that surrounds them. It is so easy to get caught up in what everyone is saying that you might lose sight of what you care about most. Try to stay focused and aware about what is happening in regards to what drives you.

3. Focus

Focus on who you are voting for, not on who anyone else is supporting. If you try to stay true to what feels right for you, then you are honoring yourself and that feels good at a time of stress and uncertainty. Your passion is what matters, not whom your nextdoor neighbor or delivery driver endorses. There are so many opinions about so many issues. Educate yourself, and if appropriate, educate others. At the same time though, remember that just as you have your right, so do they. Don’t let your politics ruin relationships with people you care about.

4. Remember the Value of Self-Care

This might be one of the most significant pieces of advice there is. It is so easy to stop meeting your own needs when you feel overwhelmed and stressed. Take a timeout from the stress and go for a run, cook a nice meal, and definitely get enough rest.  

5. Plan

Plan for what might happen if your candidate(s) doesn’t win. You can’t be unprepared for what might happen in an election. This was a huge problem in the last presidential election and what led to the rise of election anxiety disorder, and specifically people finding ways to cope with the Trump presidency when they weren’t expecting it to happen. Be ready for what you cannot control: Have someone to vent with, develop good coping strategies, and be prepared for anything else that might help you if this becomes your reality. Whether the worst case for you is a repeat of 2016 or a change in president, there are going to be a number of people feeling displaced in November. Just as in any election, people learn to eventually adapt and move forward. No one said it was easy. Being prepared helps.

6. Don’t Downplay the Importance of Therapy

Election stress disorder is not meant to be taken lightly. Though not necessarily a new phenomenon, it just has been named. More and more people have turned to therapy to deal with the emotional toll of our rapidly changing world including the recent unstable political climate. Therapy is an outlet to learn new coping mechanisms or how to process grief and stress and it is an option that should be considered. Don’t be ashamed of this either. Many therapists notice an increase in clients around big elections—it is not just the current one that is causing such an uptick. There are so many excellent options for therapy too, such as face-to-face therapy, online therapy, support groups, and chats that focus on election anxiety as well.

7. Know When Enough Is Enough

Set some boundaries or limits with yourself so that, when you have reached the point of election overload, you can try to find balance. Though there are moments when it feels like all life revolves around what will happen as a result of the next election, reflect on how the past has dictated otherwise. Go to work (face to face or in your living room office), eat regular meals, and spend time with your friends and family. You must not let politics and the election dominate you.  

8. Advocate for an Issue You Care About

Whether this comes from volunteering at the polls or registering people to vote, advocate for a cause or issue that drives you. Participating in something that gives you value and can prove to be meaningful will make a huge difference in how you feel. Elections are based on issues, so getting involved in one or two can be empowering. Oftentimes when people get involved during an election cycle, they continue their efforts well after the election is over. It is empowering and invigorating to be active and excited about issues that drive you.

9. Gain Some Perspective

There are several ways you can try to do this, whether it is learning to laugh at yourself, sharing kindness and love, or remembering that, if your candidate loses their run for office, there are others that probably won. Take some solace in this and do your absolute best to move forward.

10.Start planning for 2024!

Who knows where we’ll be by then, but it’s always a good idea to start planning ahead and learning about how to deal with your anxiety early on so you can be prepared as possible.

Jennifer Fritz
Jennifer Fritz is a Licensed Social Worker. She received her MSW and PhD from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and has been an online therapist for several years. She specializes in areas such as depression, anxiety, relationship issues, anger, self-esteem and abuse.

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