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Election Anxiety and Distress: A New Diagnosis?

How to decompress and take care of yourself.

election anxiety
Source: Pexels

2020 has been the most interesting year, to say the very least, on several different levels. Not only are we still battling a pandemic but it is also an election year. An election year that was incredibly important for our nation. How many of us have been staying on top of the latest news, debates, and headlines over the last few months, and how many of us have been searching for more information or have shared our thoughts with others in an effort to make sense of it all?

You may have election anxiety if you:

  • Checked the polls consistently on your phone or TV
  • Thought about or discussed the candidates and the polls several times per day
  • Felt tired most of the day but then struggled to fall asleep at night
  • Felt waves of anxiety when you thought about the election results
  • Felt relieved or tearful when the results of the election were announced

The distress and anxiety that we have all felt since Tuesday, November 3, 2020, has been immense. Many of us checked the polls pretty regularly throughout the week with the hopes for an outcome and an end. Many of us didn’t realize how much stress and worry we were carrying in our bodies until the results of the election were announced on Saturday, November 7, 2020, four days post-election day. In hindsight, this heightened level of distress didn’t just begin on November 3; it started several months ago as we were building up to November 3.

Regardless of who you may have voted for or which political party you supported, the bottom line is, we all felt it. A communal and large-scale level of worry about our country, our people, our leaders, our decisions, and our future. Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition has not yet coined a diagnostic category for this type of anxiety, we have all felt anxious and worried about our country and our people as a whole. Perhaps this warrants a new diagnostic category — Election Anxiety & Distress.

Before we reach a state of burnout, it’s time for self-care to help you process and decompress your anxiety with the hopes of letting go and being able to focus your energies on your present life, family, and relationships.

Turn the News Off

We have been consuming information in large quantities for a long time about the election. It’s time to turn off the news, especially if you have had it running all day in the background. If you were checking constantly on your phone, delete the app. Decide on a time of the day in which you will catch the news updates and focus your energies on other things in life such as self-care or nurturing relationships with your children, your spouse, friends, or extended family members.

There is a great deal of information out there and not all of it is 100% accurate. Be selective in your source of information so that you are not digesting inaccurate information that may trigger unnecessary anxiety and distress.

Disconnect & Reconnect

It’s fall-time and here in New Jersey, the leaves are at the peak of their changing colors. Wherever you are, open your door, step outside and look around you. No need to play music or listen to an audible. Take and make the phone calls later. Listen to the sounds around you. Look up and let your eyes feast on the beauty of the trees and sky that surrounds you. In essence, disconnect from the abundance of information around you and reconnect with the simplicity of nature.

We are on such an information and stimulation overload between our own anxieties, the anxieties of those around us that we are absorbing, and the constant notifications and beeps coming from our phones and computers. It’s just too much stimulation. Turn it off and focus on the sounds and sights that ground you and bring you inner calm and regulation.

Be Mindful

Often times, we don’t realize when we’ve had too much until it’s too late. It’s important for all of us to be mindful of our internal body and mind cues that are telling us to slow down or stop and take a break. It’s okay to skip out on a meeting, food shop another day, or order in dinner. Many of us are holding ourselves to unrealistic standards during a pandemic and a time when anxiety is high as we just finished a rough election season and are monitoring an increase in the rate of transmission of the coronavirus.

Take note of how your body is feeling at least at one point each day. Be aware of where you are carrying tension, your mood, and what you need at that moment to feel regulated and grounded again. Drink water, eat nourishing foods that give your body energy, go to bed when you’re feeling tired, and take a walk to clear your mind and energize your body.

As this election season comes to an end, take note of how you are feeling and what you need to manage your level of distress as we continue to cope with the pandemic, do virtual learning, and maintain our jobs. Take a break, disconnect, and reconnect with your body and mind.