Coping With the Stress of the 2020 Election

If you live in the United States right now, you are likely one of the many individuals feeling increased anxiety and stress due to the 2020 election, regardless of where you lie on the political spectrum (not to mention the already present stress with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, economic instability, racism, extreme weather/fires across the country, collective grief/loss, plus our “normal” day-to-day stressors). The next few weeks may not be easy for many of us. So, what do we do?

  1. Go vote if you haven’t already. Identifying what you have control over and taking action can help regulate anxiety.
  2. Expect that we will not know the results of the election on election day this year.
  3. Remember the basics. One thing we can control is how we take care of our bodies. Not taking care of our bodies makes it much more difficult to cope with other stressors. In times of high stress, we especially need to check in with:
    1. Sleep: too little or too much is not healthy, implement research-based sleep hygiene strategies if sleep is off or talk to a healthcare professional
    2. Eating: too little or too much is not healthy, make a goal to eat in order to fuel your body and not as an unhealthy way to cope with stress
      **A quick note on eating: when our anxiety response is activated, our digestion can stop, leading to decreased appetite. If this is occurring, we need to treat the anxiety first. Talk to a healthcare professional or use anxiety-reducing strategies that work for you
    3. Exercise: be sure to move your body every day (this does not have to mean you go to the gym, exercise looks different for everyone)
    4. Sunlight, fresh air, and nature: winter in MN is here and that can mean more time indoors. Many of us are already feeling cooped up. Go for a walk, get outside whenever a sunny day comes around, and/or spend time in nature even when it’s cold outside
    5. Illness: with COVID and flu season, be sure to treat any symptoms of illness as best you can and seek medical attention if necessary
  4. Limit social media and news consumption. This does not mean you have to avoid it altogether (neither extreme is healthy). Consistently check in with yourself on what is effective for you in the moment. It’s okay if that changes moment to moment. Allow yourself to take breaks, to disengage, to re-engage, and to let your engagement be different than others’. Be intentional with social media and news consumption. Consider balancing the news with good news platforms.
  5. Make a plan for increasing contact and connection with your support team. We do not need to do this alone. We all need each other. If you do not feel you have adequate support, reach out to a mental health professional or look into NAMI support groups. Express your emotions with people you trust.
  6. Set and keep healthy boundaries. A very simple way of identifying your boundaries is to ask yourself: what is okay with me in this situation and what is not okay with me in this situation? Be clear about your boundaries with others and be okay with taking a break/skillfully walking away if needed.
  7. Pay attention to your thoughts. Thoughts impact our emotions and actions. The uncertainty of everything right now may lead to increased catastrophizing (assuming the worst-case scenario will happen). We do not know the future and ruminating about all the terrible ways things can go is never-ending and will likely lead to increased feelings of hopelessness, dread, and fear. Meditate, distract yourself, journal, connect with others, talk to a mental health professional, act as if you don’t believe your negative thoughts to be true, consider alternative perspectives or what you might be missing, and practice self-compassion.
  8. Take it one step at a time. One day at a time. One moment at a time. One breath at a time. One second at a time.
  9. Find meaningful activities that align with your values that you can participate in. This could be related to the election/politics or could be completely different. Using our strengths and doing things that align with our values breeds joy and meaning in our lives.

We will get through this together. Stay Brave!