Post 2016 ELECTION ANXIETY & STRESS help with therapist Kati Morton - us presidential election
5 Ways to Manage Your 'Election Stress Disorder'
1. Know That Election Stress Is Normal
In a May article forThe Atlanticabout mental health and the 2019 election, Robinson Meyer interviewed Stephen Holland, PsyD, who directs the Capital Institute for Cognitive Therapy in Washington, DC, where 12 clinicians see more than 300 patients a week.
Holland toldThe Atlanticthat two-thirds to three-quarters of the patients have mentioned their feelings about the election in their psychotherapy sessions (and this was five months ago!). In the same article, Robert Leahy, PhD, director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, said that therapist appointments typically rise every election season.
There's something very consoling in knowing that what you're experiencing is perfectly normal given the circumstances. I've felt this way recently with the hormonal fluctuations of perimenopause and the emotional roller coaster that comes with it. A few friends just on the other side assured me that the tears, anxiety, and obsessions are all, unfortunately, par for the course — but that they will end soon enough.
2. Limit Your Exposure to Election Talk and Media Coverage
If political talk is generating a lot of anxiety for you, there are things you can do to avoid it:
- Change your home page or default website to a nonpolitical site.
- Log off of Twitter and Facebook until after the election (or check social media for 10 minutes at the end of the day instead of getting every notification throughout the day).
- Keep your news reading to a half-hour a day.
- Ask friends and family to refrain from election talk. I have this rule with a group of my friends; we all have very different political views, and our conversations can quickly turn into arguments and heated debates. The election gives many of us anxiety, so we decided simply not to go there.
3. Consider the Common Ground
Health and wellness reporter Ruben Castaneda included some sage advice in a recent U.S. News & World Reportarticle.
Among his five ways to manage anxiety about the presidential election was this gem: “Think of the common ground you share with people who have different political beliefs.” That is, think of all the reasons you like your husband, friends, sisters, and parents that have nothing to do with politics.
This works for the candidates, too. Brainstorm to find two or three things you have in common with the candidate you oppose. Try to find the common ground. It's easier than you think and will make you less bitter toward that candidate.
4. Entertain the Worst-Case Scenario
Holland advises people to consider how unlikely it is that the worst-case scenario will happen.
He says in thePostarticle, “One of the things you want to do is go, okay, wait a minute. What’s the range of possible outcomes here, and what’s the probability of those?” Then name the specific things you're worried about, and the probabilities of those.
I’ve always found exploring the worst-case scenario to be beneficial. I did this when the housing market crashed in late 2008, and architects like my husband lost much of their work. I saw myself as having to switch careers to provide income for the family for a few years (which happened), our family moving to a small, dingy apartment with roaches and rats on the other side of town (which didn’t happen), and our eating nothing but beans and rice for a few years (which didn’t happen).
In the end, everything was okay — really okay. Even the worst-case scenario, as I imagined it in my mind, turned out to be okay. We would all survive just fine.
One of two things usually happen when you explore the worst-case scenario: Either you come up with a hilariously unfathomable situation that will make you laugh, or you will see that you have the inner and outer resources to endure such a situation. Either one will provide some relief.
5. Apply the 'Serenity Prayer'
The classic prayer known as the "Serenity Prayer," written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, contains the formula for peace of mind for a variety of different anxieties: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Psychotherapist David Richo, PhD, explains five unavoidable givens that we cannot change in his bookThe Five Things We Cannot Change:
- Everything changes and ends.
- Things do not always go according to plan.
- Life is not always fair.
- Pain is part of life.
- People are not loving and loyal all the time.
If you think about it, that’s election stress disorder in a nutshell. The ending and beginning of a new administration, even if we love the candidate, induces stress. We have almost no control over who gets elected. Elections are ugly, messy, and unfair. They are painful. And the candidates are far from perfect.
But there are things we can change and do, such as:
- Volunteering or donating for our candidate.
- Limiting the toxic chatter to which we expose ourselves.
- Recognizing that our craving for certainty and control is causing us angst, and trying to let go of that craving as much as we can.
- Practicing self-compassion in the midst of the stress.
The wisdom to know the difference? That’s where prayer and meditation come in handy, and talking to friends.
More than anything else, remember that if this election is making you crazy, you’re not alone. Take a break from the TV or computer, explore the worst-case scenario, and say the "Serenity Prayer" a few hundred times.
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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Video: 2016 election stress
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