Coping with Pre-Election Stress
As we approach a presidential election, it can feel like the restoration of our nation weighs heavily on the voters. While pressure on Americans rises, the absence of control, predictability, and certainty can create fear and anxiety while waiting for the outcome. This can prompt arguments with our loved ones and additional stress in our daily lives. The following tips can help ease the stress and tension as we approach the election.
- Set Boundaries for the News. Staying in the know is important, but it’s also important to take a break. Set time limits for news consumption and select news outlets beforehand so that you don’t spend so much time scanning through channels or websites aimlessly. By setting boundaries, you’re allowing yourself to stay up to date without being sucked into the whirlwind of overwhelming information.
- Unplug from Social Media. Social media can be the most stressful place to be before an election. Reading other people’s views, beliefs, and opinions is especially difficult when their views contradict your own. By taking a social media break, you can clear your thoughts, reset your feelings, and prevent screen burnout. Use this newfound time away from social media for self-care and productivity.
- Practice Self-Care. Self care is extremely important in all aspects of life. This can be anything from curling up with your favorite book or watching a funny tv show, to exercising or picking up a new hobby; any activity that supports your needs. In the case of elections, self-care can sometimes mean disconnecting from current events. Engaging in healthy outlets will take your mind off the things that cause anxiety and drive you towards a healthier lifestyle.
- Expect Difficult Conversations. Talking about the news and current events with others may cause frustration. These conversations can be important and inevitable. It’s ok to be angry or tearful, but a yelling match isn’t typically productive. Know your points and be willing to listen to theirs. If the conversation begins to feel combative, it’s ok to walk away temporarily or permanently to regain composure. Instead of bottling your emotions, plan to do some breathing exercises or go for a walk to get fresh air after.
- Create a Daily Routine. Creating a daily routine gives us a sense of control and predictability. Routines allow stability and structure during a time that may feel out of control. When creating a routine, remember to set news and social media boundaries and include self-care. You can also make time to live in your values. This could mean volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about instead of spending hours watching it on the news.
Coping with Post-Election Stress
Votes were casted, results are in, and the decision is final. Emotions are running high across the nation. Just when we thought that the political overload would settle, the election aftermath is still taking over the news and social media is buzzing. Some may be happy and ecstatic while others may be feeling disappointed, fearful, confused, angry, or cheated. If you or your loved ones are feeling this post-election stress, here’s what you can do to cope.
- Acknowledge and accept your feelings. It is completely normal to feel stressed or disappointed. Recognize and accept these feelings and allow yourself to process everything. If you’re sad, be sad.
- Talk to others. Remember that you’re not the only person feeling this way. Try not to isolate yourself and open up to someone you trust.
- Write it down. If you don’t feel like talking, write it down. Pouring your feelings out on paper is a good way to unravel your thoughts. If you don’t have access to pen and paper, there are great journaling apps. Many phones also have a “notes” feature you could use.
- Unplug from the news and social media. Put some space between yourself and the election coverage to prevent an overload of emotions. It’s understandable to want to be in the know, but set a timer for how long you’ll indulge in the media. Invest your spare time into self-care instead.
- Practice self-care. Self care is extremely important in all aspects of life. This could mean curling up with your favorite book, watching your favorite shows, exercising, or taking a nice, long, bath. As long as it is an activity that disconnects your thoughts from current events.
- Listen. Ask open ended questions to better understand what they’re going through. Validate their feelings; let them know that their feelings are normal and there is nothing wrong with them. It’s ok not to have a solution for them. Use eye contact and try to stay off your phone while they talk. Just listen.
- Share self-care tips and ideas. You could help them come up with ideas for things they can do alone or a couple things you could do together, if they want the company.
- Don’t take on too much. Sometimes, helping others may be too much for you. Be sure to check in with yourself and help yourself before you help others.
Helping Children Cope with an Election
Considering an election can be quite complex for adults; children and teenagers may have an especially difficult time comprehending the election process and their feelings. Helping children through the process can be complicated to navigate and create a stressful and unfamiliar environment for everyone. Here are some pointers to help them through it:
- There is NO age requirement. Children of all ages can be engaged in conversations about the election. Take your child’s age and emotional maturity into account when deciding how much exposure they should have. Start with asking them questions about what they know or have heard about the election.
- Explain how the government and election process works. Check out the resources at the bottom to help guide you through this.
- Be mindful of what they are witnessing. They will witness disagreements, heated arguments, debates, and potentially hostility between opposing sides. Limit the amount of exposure if they are beginning to develop signs of stress. It is important to address why people get so upset during the election process. It is also important to remind them not to believe everything they see or hear.
- Encourage children to express their feelings. By allowing them to share their feelings, we can provide support and encouragement through validating what they feel. We can teach them how to have respectful and honest dialogue as well.
- Allow Them to Form Their Own Opinions. Asking questions like “Tell me more about what makes you think that?” supports the development of critical thinking and allows you to gauge where their feelings and thoughts are.
- Lead by Example. Recognize that you have your own anxiety and biases about candidates, parties, and politics in general. It’s ok to share your beliefs with your children, but remember how powerful it is to model self care, boundaries, healthy communication, and listening skills in your conversations with them and others.