It can be difficult to know exactly how to cope with election anxiety, especially as we all experience it in different ways. But with the highly anticipated 2020 US Presidential Election finally here, it's more important than ever to take care of our emotional and mental wellbeing.
With all that's at stake, the hours leading up to tonight's results are full of nail-biting anxiety and a crippling fear of the unknown. Will we end up with another four years of Donald Trump or has Joe Biden secured a win for the Democrats? Despite poll predictions, we can never really tell which way it'll go until the numbers start trickling in live on TV.
The thought of it alone is filling us with dread, much like it has throughout the entire race this year. And with a global pandemic (which once again is on the rise, with a daily increase in COVID-19 cases) to deal with on top of it, we're all feeling fragile to say the least.
In fact, therapist Jason Woodrum has penned the term "election stress disorder" to pinpoint the feeling.
“This uncertainty that’s in the air for months on end can often manifest in a loss of sleep, irritability, anxiety, and depression,” Woodrum told Heathline. “While research is ongoing, it is easy to hypothesize that this known phenomenon can compound with underlying anxieties around the ongoing global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and social unrest we’re experiencing in 2020.”
To help you get through it, we've gathered some expert tips on how to cope with election anxiety. So whether you're watching all the action alone or with company tonight, make sure you practise some of these coping mechanisms to make the experience slightly more bearable.
How to cope with election anxiety
Prepare yourself emotionally for your feelings
You probably won't be feeling your best or most calm today and that's okay. Allow yourself to accept the feeling so that it doesn't come as a complete surprise as you sit down to watch the election tonight. As clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD told Well + Good, it's important to manage expectations around the unpleasant emotions you’re likely to experience. “You’re probably going to feel some anxiety or anger, so work on keeping it productive and manageable instead of shooting for unrealistic goals," she said.
Pause to take some deep belly breaths
Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology at Yale and host of The Happiness Lab podcast, has explained that a good way to get our hearts and minds to stop racing during election night is to take some time out to pause, step away from your devices and take some slow and controlled deep belly breaths.
"A racing heart is a sign that your sympathetic nervous system or ‘fight or flight’ response is activated,” she told Vogue. “Our bodies give us one way to shut off this system and that’s through our breath... That simple act can activate our vagus nerve and help us turn on our parasympathetic nervous system, which is focused on ‘rest and digest.'"
Meditation apps could also help you calm down if you're struggling with an hyperactive mind.
Occupy yourself by doing something
If you're spending the evening watching the election by yourself, then the best way to counteract your anxiety is to do something that will help you relax. Whether it's being active on social media (using the platforms in a positive way), getting on Facetime with a friend or even making some plans for future activities to look forward to, taking action helps according to psychologist Carla Manly, PhD.
“The vast majority of worrisome thoughts have no productive value and, instead, lead to emotional and mental exhaustion,” she said, as reported in Well + Good. “Rather than getting mired in anxious thoughts, it’s far more helpful to channel that same energy into peaceful protests, volunteer activities, or community activism—actions that actually make a valuable difference in the short term and long term.”