By Kathryn Allen, LICSW
Behavioral Health Provider
Reliant Medical Group
Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, one thing many of us have in common is an increase in stress about the upcoming election. According to the American Psychological Association, 68% of U.S adults report the election as a significant source of stress in their lives. This stress is magnified by other challenges we are facing regarding the pandemic and other disruptions in our lives. While it is normal to have feelings of anxiety or feel overwhelmed during these times, there are ways we can nurture our resilience and support our overall wellbeing.
Here are four ways to manage election stress as recommended by psychotherapists at Reliant Medical Group:
- Mindful media exposure
News consumption can have a significant effect on our mood. The way news is delivered tends to promote an overload of information on a variety of challenging topics, which has the potential to increase feelings of being disorganized, scattered, and more out of control. Sandra Cutler, LICSW and Behavioral Health Provider at Reliant Medical Group, recommends setting a limit on how much news and social media you consume. On days when you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, take a break or limit news to 10-15 minutes per day. It can also be helpful to set specific windows of time (such as every day at noon) when you check in on updates as opposed to constantly checking or receiving text alerts throughout the day. Setting limits can help us feel more in control and better process the news we do receive.
- Take action that aligns with your values
One of the challenges within a contentious election are the real fears and worries we have about how the results will impact the issues we care about. One way you can think about the difficult emotions that commonly arise, such as fear, worry, anger, or grief, are as signals for values that are important to you. For example, if you notice your main worry regarding the election is how it will impact your child’s education, this signals your care for education and the wellbeing of your family. While it is difficult for one individual to make significant and rapid change on a national issue, many of us can find ways to take actions that support our values on a smaller scale. For example, if the worry was around your child’s education, you might decide to spend extra time reviewing homework, write a letter to your local representative sharing your concerns, or meet with other parents to identify ways to improve the current situation and advocate together.
- Remember your resilience
This year has been more difficult than most, yet individuals and communities are finding ways to cope and make it through every day. Many people have taken up new hobbies, found creative ways to connect with loved ones while remaining socially distant, spent more time in nature, and leaned on neighbors for mutual support. Identifying what has helped you get through recent difficulties or other past challenges can help you identify your strengths and give you hope for continued resilience. Reflecting upon past adversity and what you learned from the experience can also help maintain a better mindset and increase your confidence in managing stress in your life.
- Reduce your vulnerability to stress
There are lots of ways to manage stress, but, when feeling overwhelmed, return your focus to the daily basics – what we often have the most control over. Continue to stay on top of your physical health by taking your medications as prescribed and eating well-balanced meals. Add in some sort of exercise for at least 20 minutes per day to help boost mood and relieve stress. Avoid any mind-altering substances and drink alcohol in moderation (or eliminate it) during stressful times, since these can further exacerbate your stress response. Improve your chances of a good night’s rest by going to bed at a regular time, keeping your room dark, and limiting screen time at least 30 minutes before bed. Congratulate yourself each day you do something supportive for yourself to keep the habit going. If you slip up, press the “reset” button and try again tomorrow.
It’s normal to feel upset about the current challenges our country is facing and with any other crises you are experiencing. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to cope and find a way through. Remember that you are not alone. If you continue to struggle or believe you may be suffering from other mental health concerns, it’s important to get help. You can learn more about how to receive treatment (including virtual visits) by talking to your primary care provider.
About Kathryn Allen, LICSW
A graduate of Cornell University, Northeastern University and Boston College, Kathryn has been working in the field of social work and mental health since 2015.
Working in the human service field earlier in her career Kathryn saw how untreated mental health and substance use disorders adversely affected people and didn’t allow them to realize their full potential. So she decided to make a change and devote her career to supporting...View profile View posts by this doctor