At the end of an already chaotic year, the upcoming election and its consequences is stressing people out. As a therapist, I’ve noticed a marked tension in the air. We are anticipating our anxiety, anger, and grief – this is causing symptoms of anxiety, burnout, and stress.
As a Canadian living in the United States, I’m watching the election happen around me and I’m acutely aware of what is at stake here. If you’re like me, you’re probably feeling low-level dread and worry with moments of cautious optimism throughout the day. Just know that you are not alone in this. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), more than two-thirds of adults in the US (that’s 68%!!) are experiencing increased stress levels due to the upcoming election, regardless of political affiliation, compared to 52% during the 2016 election.
Here are a few tried and tested strategies to build out your emotional fitness plan for the days leading up to the election, as well as immediately after.
Step 1: Acute Anxiety Management
Intense emotions may come up, especially if you are directly impacted by the consequence of this election in a concrete way.
- Practice bringing awareness to the present moment. This doesn’t only mean meditation; think of activities you used to love as a child, such as coloring, puzzles, dancing, anything you can get lost in.
- Limit how much time you spend on social media and engage in political conversations. You don’t have to be tuned-in 24/7, you don’t have to be available for every discussion and debate with friends or family, you don’t have to read every article. You know what your limits are, you’ll notice it in your body when you start scrolling or watching the news.
- Move your body. This doesn’t mean only exercise, but try to get some movement for your body daily. Dance, a walk in the park, yoga, or anything to get your blood circulating.
Step 2: Taking Action
Getting involved in anything related to the election will help you feel more connected and give you a sense of empowerment.
- See if there are people in your family, social circle, or neighborhood who may need help getting to vote: ask the older neighbour your building if they need support, offer childcare for a friend or go with them if possible, think of ways you can facilitate making voting day easier for others.
- Volunteer with local organizations that are doing work for the candidate you support – like getting involved with a telephone or text bank to encourage others to vote.
- If voting at the polls, make a voting plan for you and your family to make sure you’re prepared.
Step 3: Coping with the Outcome
- There is a chance that there may be a delay in election results, especially because of an increase in mail-in ballots due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Though not for certain, it is a possibility. Have an anxiety-management plan for the week right after the election. Involve your friends and family in that plan: organize dinner, game night, or other activities so that you will be around people you trust and care about.
- Get involved in local politics throughout the year by supporting local politicians, community organizations, and legislature in between the presidential elections. Change is still possible between presidential election years.
- Use creative expressive arts to process your emotions. This can be expressive writing, adult coloring, writing a letter to your inner-child, or storytelling, among many other things.
- If the results of the election are too distressing for you to process on your own, reach out to a professional (a therapist or a coach) who can help you process your emotions and make meaning of the outcome.
This is a very difficult time for many people, so remember it is completely normal to feel anxious about what could happen. Worrying about something that could happen in the future doesn’t change the outcome of what will happen, but you can use this as a signal to be better prepared for the future.