There is no denying how difficult 2020 has been for Americans. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic completely changed the way we work, socialize and move about our daily lives. The murder of George Floyd shined a spotlight on our country’s irrefutable systemic racism and continued violence against marginalized communities. And now, we are just days away from a historical election that will greatly impact both of these issues. It’s all we can think about: will we see another four years of Trump in office, or will Biden win? Regardless of your political affiliations, this election season – compounded by the events of 2020 – is causing a lot of stress for Americans. So, as we brace for election results, here are a few things you can do to manage your mental health.
Clear your calendar
While most of us cannot clear our calendars completely around election day, you should try and schedule fewer meetings than you might on an average Tuesday. This is because your threshold of stress tolerance is likely going to be lower. According to Psychology Today, overextending yourself during a hard time and ignoring the signs that you’re “at capacity” mentally will push you above your threshold of stress tolerance. Think of it like a cup – if your cup is empty, you can fill it up completely with water. But if your cup is already half-full, it does not take much before the water overflows. Around the election, most of our cups are going to be pretty full before we even log on for the day. So, do yourself a favor and cancel some of those zoom calls (you will thank yourself later).
In the days leading up to the election, consuming news can become somewhat addicting as we try and keep an eye on polling numbers. This will be especially true day-of with voting results coming in all throughout the evening. While its totally understandable to be glued to a screen on the actual election night, it is still important to remain conscientious of your news consumption. Avoid (as the kids say) “doomscrolling” at all costs – the mental health benefits of this should go without saying.
Merriem-Webster defines this GenZ-coined phrase as, “the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back.”
Focus on things that are within your control
Anxiety is often caused by uncertainty and loss of control in a given situation. And if there is one thing you cannot single handedly control, it is the election (hi, democracy). So, what is a person to do? Focus on the things you can control. Get out and vote. Volunteer. Attend forums and events (if you can properly social distance). Engage in advocacy that speaks to your personal set of values. And beyond that, make sure you are properly taking care of yourself. If it is within your control, focus your efforts there.
There is a clear division between political parties today in America. With a culture so torn, it can be hard to get through a discussion about politics if there are differing belief systems at play. Family and Couple Psychotherapist Simon Shattock explains in a recent Glamour article why it’s been even harder this year. “When people are under high levels of stress, or perhaps constant feelings of anxiety or even fear, they often find it hard psychologically to hold other people’s beliefs in mind. Given the high levels of uncertainty caused by lockdown, some people may become increasingly intolerant to others and actively start seeing the world from their own perspective, as this can make them feel more safe and secure.”
With everything that has happened this year, it makes sense why people are having a difficult time hearing each other out. The truth is that we are all just exhausted and doing the best we can, day-by-day. You probably are not going to convince your stubborn relative to change their beliefs this year, but to help yourself persevere – choose compassion. Recognize that everyone is just making decisions based on their lived experiences and trying to make it through this year of immense stress. When we see this in others, it is easier to see it in ourselves as well.
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