Managing Political and COVID Stress Near the Election
It's going to be a rough few weeks filled with anxiety.
Posted Oct 28, 2020
The next weeks are bound to be full of stress as we head into the election, face COVID, experience social isolation and, for some, financial difficulties. We are helpless in some ways, though not in all. Below are 19 ideas for lowering stress.
Managing Election-Specific Stressors
Use your Constitutional superpower and vote. Don’t let anyone keep you from exercising that right. Vote early or leave extra time on election day. Vote the whole ballot. Get your voice heard on election day (and after, if needed).
Don’t argue politics with your partner. No one is changing anyone else’s mind at this point. You both have a right to your opinions and your votes.
Get off social media for 1-3 weeks. Social media is the place for disinformation campaigns from politicians, support groups, disrupters, and foreign governments. And those false narratives are designed specifically to sound real, get your attention, and upset you. That’s how they work. Don’t let the bad guys manipulate you—just say "no."
Replace your regular news consumption—or at least some of it—with a great book. If you can read the news, you can read an interesting book, graphic novel, or audiobook. Get lost in a topic or story that excites you. One option—there are a number of books about happiness, such as Stumbling Upon Happiness or The Happiness Advantage. Why not learn how moving toward the positive helps improve your life?
If you still want to see news, broaden your resources to include a more global perspective. Consider Al Jazira, France 24, BBC, and other global resources known for their less U.S.-focused, and perhaps less-biased, perspectives.
Intentionally create a schedule for the next week or so that reassures you. That might include activism (including political), making music, creating space in the day for yourself, connecting with family more often, getting to a project that needs doing, or taking long walks with your partner. Exercise. Sleep enough.
Retain perspective on voter fraud. There is zero evidence that fraud is an issue in our elections. The Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan think tank, calculated the rate of voter fraud in three elections at between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. A Loyola Law School investigation turned up 31 credible voter impersonations out of more than 1 billion votes cast in the U.S. between 2000 and 2014.(1) Claims of voter fraud are politically driven to disqualify votes and justify legal actions rather than motivated by actual voter fraud.
Don’t jump on the predictions bandwagon. This election is going to be different. Wait until the actual election officials (not your favorite news host) have reported their tallies—whenever that comes.
Try to celebrate the fact that we have elections officials in all of our states who are dedicated to working together, in a bipartisan way, to bring accurate tallies to our elections. Resist politically-motivated state maneuvering to redirect electoral college representation. There may well be legal battles(1). If so, don’t fall for the voter fraud storyline.
Share election night with those you care about. If you can’t get together in person because of COVID or distance, call, text, or Zoom.
Responding to COVID and Today’s Life Stressors
Our stressors aren’t just political, so it’s also a good idea to:
Think of yourself as a rock in a storm. Just because the water is swirling around you doesn’t mean you must swirl, too.
Guard your relationship. It’s possible that tensions around national events, particularly the election and COVID, will sour your moods in a general way. You may be snappy, teary, anxious, fearful… and interact with your partner in a way that reflects those more general feelings.
To protect against that, make a daily appointment to set aside some time to share positive feelings with your partner. Consider taking a walk, ride, or hike outside to clear your head. Intentionally turn toward your partner in a kind and appreciative way—every day. No matter your mood or struggles, there is usually at least one good thing you can say.
Add a gratitude practice—even if it’s only for these weeks. Create a journal in which you can finish the sentence “I am grateful for…” three times, once a day. Make it an evening topic at the dinner table. Get a book of positive reflections. Do something to remind you that all of the bad stuff is not the only stuff.
Rely on your religious tradition. Many gain strength and reassurance from engaging in spiritual reflection. Use this to steady you during this time. If you are not religious, consider journaling for reflection.
Exercise. Aerobic exercise is a great mood stabilizer and anti-depressant. Yoga is also great for calm and fitness.
Create a time-out each day to let the world go for 15 minutes. One woman recently told me she lies down, puts an eye pad over her eyes and her hand on her heart, and gives compassion to herself for 15 minutes a day.
Don’t forget the kids. A high school teacher told me yesterday that he starts each class using 5 minutes of the Calm app because “their anxiety is off the charts.” Listen to every member of your family, answer any questions your kids might have, and make opportunities to create a safe space for everyone to inhabit. Put mental health at the top of your list for the next few weeks.
Make a plan. You may have a specific issue that creates a ton of stress—employment, finances, relationship, kids. Think intentionally about how you will address it because taking control is the first step towards lessening your stress.
What resources can you bring to the issue? Who can help? What are the steps? Don’t let a sense of overwhelm paralyze you. If you’re stuck, get a buddy to brainstorm with you to help you start moving forward again. Diagram or bullet point your plan to make it real and start working on it.
Guard your health. COVID is real and deadly. Everyone wants to be able to get together, and yet, when the scientists are ignored, anyone can get sick. Wear a mask (we will all thank you for the kindness) and keep a good distance. We all want our lives back. Taking care is the fastest path to getting that.
Think creatively to promote joy. We had Thanksgiving in late September so that our family "pod" could celebrate our lives and health while we were still near each other. It was wonderful and joyful.
Another family got together for a (post-self-quarantine) three-day weekend with immediate relatives and kids to celebrate all of the holidays at once. They did Halloween Friday (adults and kids wore costumes, and the kids knocked on doors in the house to get their treats); Thanksgiving the next day (turkey and all); and Christmas the following day, including singing, decorating a tree, and sharing gifts.
It feels as if we are moving into unchartered waters, and many of us are struggling with stress. I hope these ideas provide at least some relief.
(1) Gellman, B. (2020, November). The election that could break America. The Atlantic, 326(4), 46-59.