When Politics and Elections Make You Anxious
It’s a presidential election year and that means we’re being inundated with ads, debates, constant news, telephone calls, the results of the latest polls and heartfelt and passionate opinions from everyone.
It can be quite overwhelming, especially for those with anxiety disorders.
Every presidential election cycle brings anxious feelings because the stakes are so high. We are electing a person to oversee our country and represent us in countries all over the world. We want to elect the right person, who shares our values.
The election itself and the results mean something to every citizen of the United States. But this year, with the name-calling, the harsh rhetoric and the important issues facing our country, it can seem much more personal, much more emotional.
You aren’t alone in feeling anxious about this election. Robert Leahy, the director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, told The Atlantic that two-thirds to three-quarters of the patients at the clinic are “mentioning their feelings about the elections” during therapy sessions. Millions of people around the country are feeling anxious about the upcoming election.
Whether you are Democrat, Republican or Independent, you probably feel strongly, whether for or against one candidate or another. You might already know who you will vote for. You might still be deciding and be having difficulty sorting out all the information. No matter where you are in the decision process, as news and opinions come at you from every direction, your anxiety can increase. But there are some things you can do to lower your anxiety levels:
Accept that your anxiety is normal
With all the strong opinions from friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances, it can seem as if everyone else is settled. They all seem to know who to vote for and are confident in their choice. This can make you feel alone if you have feelings of uncertainty. But you aren’t alone. People everywhere are feeling the same angst that you feel. Many worry about the outcome. Many worry whether their lives will be affected after the election. Election cycle anxiety is normal, so normal that some people have dubbed it “Election Anxiety Disorder.”
Decide where you get your information
You can turn on the cable news and find out what is going on, any time day or night. But this information could be slanted to one viewpoint or another. You can go to social media and read the many posts, but this information might not be accurate and is often opinion. A better alternative might be to read every candidates’ website to find out where they stand on the issues that matter to you. Look for websites that offer unbiased information and gather information you need to make the best decision for you.
Limit your access to information
It is easy to get carried away and read several different websites or watch hours of cable news. After all, you want to be well informed. But too much information is overwhelming and can produce feelings of anxiety. Instead, decide how much time you want to devote to researching the candidates. Adjust the time if needed based on anxiety levels.
Avoid spending too much time on social media
You might find it interesting to read other people’s points of view. Or, you might find you become more stressed reading too many posts on a candidate you don’t agree with. You might find it stressful to read the arguments that occur in the comments. If so, stop. Stay off social media altogether, limit your time on it or scroll quickly past any comments or posts about the election.
Get out and do something
If you feel strongly about one candidate or the other, volunteer for the campaign. Whether your candidate wins or loses, you will feel as if you did your part. You got involved; you worked toward something you believe in.
Get out and do something else
If all the talk about the election has you feeling anxious, get out and do something totally unrelated to politics. Focus on activities you enjoy, people you like to be with, places you want to see. Take your mind off the election.
Avoid political conversations
If you feel uncomfortable talking to other people about the election, become anxious when others disagree with you or are close-minded, or have a hard time listening to the political arguments that ensue, walk away. You don’t need to be part of it. It is fine to say, “I would prefer not to discuss politics.”
It sometimes seems as if one single vote won’t make much of a difference, but when thousands or millions of people feel that way, it definitely makes a difference. Make sure your voice is heard and you cast your vote. Even if your candidate doesn’t win, you will know that you voted, you made a choice, you tried to make a difference.
Remember, life doesn’t change much after an election. Before an election, it is easy to ruminate about how awful life will be in our country if the “other” candidate wins. You worry about how the country may change. It might help to remember that there is a balance of power in our government. A president can’t walk into the Oval Office and start changing laws. Congress does that. Whether your candidate has won or lost in past elections, the reality is that your daily life probably hasn’t changed much.
For more information on managing anxiety symptoms:
_Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey. _