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Surviving an Election Year

As if the year 2020 couldn’t get any more stressful, the upcoming election has been the cherry on top of an unprecedented, unforgiving year that seems like it will never end. If you watch the news, have a social media account or even talk to your friends, neighbors or coworkers, chances are high that you’ve heard your fair share of opinions on voting matters. But what people don’t understand is the impact an election year has on our mental health.

Although politics is typically a taboo topic to bring up in the workplace or family gatherings, it seems like more and more people are openly discussing this controversial topic. And because of this, it may be impacting our work performance or making your family get-togethers a little more awkward. With less than a month away from a national election, do you feel the stress setting in?

Don’t worry – you’re not the only one. As millions gear up to vote, or have already voted, the stress has started to set in.

Feeling anxiety, stress or nervousness?

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Although America has seen its fair share of intense elections in the past, many would say that this one has taken the cake. With racial unrest, a global pandemic and a struggling economy, a lot rests on this election’s outcome. In fact, according to a professional counseling service, more than half of adults in the United States feel that elections are “somewhat” or “very significant” sources of stress. However, this election has been more dividing than usual between the two most popular parties, which has created a social unrest among people.

Extremism from both sides of political parties, according to researchers, are making voters or people who would lean towards the middle a little concerned about how others will react after the election is over. Will people be able to have peaceful protests without violence interfering? When you have these extremists, although they may be few, they certainly pose a threat to keeping the peace.

Not only is the chance of violent outbreaks stressful, but also many worry about how a new leader, or the same one, will affect the next four years of the economy, the justice system or dealing with a global pandemic.

Much of the unknown puts fear, anxiety and nervousness into our minds, which creates unwanted, unnecessary stress. And while stress can affect you mentally, it can also affect you physically especially when left untreated. Mentally, stress can cause people to feel overwhelmed, confused, sad or irritable, and may even cause people to self isolate or withdraw socially.

When you start to feel the symptoms of stress but decide not to do anything about it, or let it go untreated, it can cause physical health problems such as tension headaches, stomach aches, insomnia and elevated blood pressure.

With so much riding on this election, it’s easy to feel pressure and start to feel overwhelmed. But the key is: How are you coping with it?

Managing the Chaos

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When you work in the medical field, although indicators of a victim of human trafficking may vary, there are certain things you can look out for. And, it’s Fortunately, the election will be over by November and life will resume as normal, right? Possibly. Who knows for sure? And this uncertainty provokes fear, which brings along its friend named stress.

A main driver of provoking the political game is the media. We watch or listen to the news and even scroll through our social media news feeds to find out the latest and sometimes not so greatest news. However, we keep up with the news to stay informed and make decisions when it comes to voting time.

Sometimes, however, it’s good to take a break and catch some fresh air. There are also ways of coping with a 24-hour news cycle. Here’s how:

  • It’s okay to care, but know your limits: Getting emotionally involved in politics is okay to do, but it’s also good to know your limits and not let the news consume your life. It’s also important to keep reminding yourself of the overall picture. For example, it’s great to be passionate about climate change and social justice, however, start at a local scale and try to get involved in your community instead of trying to take on the whole world. Try recycling in your own home or volunteering in an organization that helps those in need.
  • Take a break from social media: Maybe it would be a good idea to take a step back and deactivate your social media account(s). Take a break from non-stop news articles and controversial political opinions flooding your news feed. Thankfully, there are now ways to “unfollow” your friends, family or any posts that you believe could be promoting unhealthy information.
  • Limit your news consumption: While this should be a no-brainer, some of us still may need to be reminded that you don’t have to turn on the news in the mornings while you get ready for work or in the evenings during dinner. Instead, turn the news off and enjoy a meal with family or friends. Focus on day-to-day routines and relationships with loved ones. And if you feel like you can’t go more than a day without the news, try setting an alarm once a day to check it and then get back to normal life.
  • The two-question rule: While reading or listening to the news, sometimes it’s helpful to ask yourself these two questions: “Is this article helpful?” and “Is this article real?” If your answer is “no” to either of those questions, maybe it’s time to move forward and do something else.
  • Stimulate your brain: Instead of sitting and scrolling through your newsfeed or sitting on the couch watching the evening news, try finding a new hobby or watching a funny movie. Joining a class or watching a funny movie is a great way to take a break from politics and stress and focus on something more positive, even if it’s only for a few hours.
  • Learn what is controllable: Most licensed professional counselors or therapists will tell you that understanding what we can control and what we can change is a good way to balance your stress levels. It’s important to take a step back and reflect while asking yourself if things are worth stressing about. Can you control what’s stressing you out? If not, it’s better to not get stuck on something that you cannot change.
  • Celebrate the good: Although there might seem like there’s a lot of bad out there right now, it’s good to reflect on all the things that politics has brought over the years, such as voting rights, social justice and people making a difference.

So, while you may be tempted to bring up the latest political debate, keep in mind that not everyone you encounter has the same opinions as you or even wants to talk about the subject. While at work, you might find it better to discuss football game scores or the question that stumped all the contestants on Jeopardy! Sometimes, discussing politics, especially during a time like now, can lead to unwanted and awkward conversations.

It may also make people more nervous or anxious to do their jobs. So, while this election may feel like it’s life or death, it’s important to remember that the world will keep spinning no matter who wins the election. And maybe you’ll sleep better at night knowing that fact.

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