It's the Presidential election, and the campaign trail ain't pretty. In fact, it's an emotional time for many. An American Psychological Association 2016 Survey claims that 52% of the general public is experiencing Election Stress - and it doesn't matter if you're a democrat, republican, libertarian or independent.
As the election process intensifies, nominees bombard us with negative campaigns, fear-based rhetoric and constant press conferences. Candidate speeches are generally scripted to persuade and influence - and are often peppered with an underlying message of danger.
Other political groups find ways to jostle the campaign trail by leaking videos or launching negative stories for their own interests. And then there's news media, broadcast television, social media and internet websites that perpetuate the negative atmosphere by telling sensational stories, challenging the opinion of others in heated guest segments or poking at issues that challenge us as a country: unemployment, immigration, money, health, education. Before long, the general public splinters into polarizing groups, where anger or anxiety abound.
The negativity from Election Stress keeps rolling on - and research tells us it's not going to get any better anytime soon. You see, emotions win elections. Though positive campaigning can heighten your feelings of enthusiasm and hope, it's fear, anger and anxiety that gets you in the voting booth. You're more likely to make sure to get out and vote if you worry that you'll lose things in election times.
Why It's Stressful
The reason the general public's mental health is challenged is because negative campaigning heightens stress. And when your body is faced with stress, particularly fear-based stress, the adrenal glands secrete glucocorticoid hormones to help you cope. Specifically, your body launches cortisol to help you get away from danger, where your heart rate increases, and blood flow goes to everything you need to run away or fight. This fight-flight response is meant for short term stress - and becomes wearisome if it's elongated. You'll eventually get irritable, anxious, and even depressed because you're in a prolonged "state of emergency." For those of us who live with depression, stress can compromise our illness, so take a look at the following tips to help you during the big election.
Tips To Reduce Depression
I encourage patients to follow these tips to help lessen the depression - and I also practice what I preach. I do all of the following each and every year before the campaign season begins:
Dr. Deborah Serani is an award winning author and a go-to media expert on depression.