The US Presidential election will take place tomorrow. People on both sides of the political spectrum are feeling tense and anxious.
Many people are experiencing heightened stress levels surrounding election day due to heavy media coverage. Clinicians have noted there’s been a rise in patients being seen for election stress disorder. This year, in particular, 68% of American adults say that politics have been a “significant source of stress” in their lives.
Election stress disorder can affect people’s lives in many ways. For example, you may be struggling to fall asleep because you are kept up from what was said during a debate, or feeling distracted due to news about the election. “Election-related stress may also manifest as you develop a fear of missing out on the ‘latest’ news and you might start checking your phone for news alerts every hour,” says Dr. Monifa Seawell.
We spoke with Rahul Kulkarni from Sukhi, an organization teaching enterprises like The World Bank, MIT, and Amazon about mental wellness and cultural understanding. Here are the tips he gave to help people cope with election-related stress:
1. Learn to engage in peaceful disagreements
People often experience election stress disorder when engaged in political conversations. When political beliefs differ, conflicts often arise. However, people can and should have peaceful disagreements. Kulkarni suggests that we enter discussions with a mindset to learn. Oftentimes, we rush to express our thoughts before we have validated other people’s opinions, but it is crucial to find common ground so political disagreements don’t escalate into arguments.
When listening to the other person’s perspectives, Kulkarni emphasizes on the importance of mindful listening. The best practices when listening mindfully is to keep distractions such as phones away and maintain eye contact with the speaker. Actions like these help them see that you are engaged in the conversation. In addition, when they come to a stop, summarizing what they just said or asking for clarifications can show that you were listening actively. Last but not least, mirroring is a powerful communication skill. This includes not only reflecting the message from the speaker but also matching their tone and body language. These are all ways to refrain yourself from interrupting other people’s thoughts and to listen mindfully.
With these tips in mind, parents can try facilitating more conversations around topics like politics at home. Many teens are more politically involved than ever, and this is an important time where they begin to form their own opinions.
Read more on: How To Discuss The Final Presidential Debate With Your Teens
2. Actionable tips to minimize digital consumption
With most of us doing virtual work and school right now, our digital consumption has increased significantly. As the election day approaches, we will see a lot of news and social media covering this event. If the election is making you or your teen anxious, experts highly recommend you to minimize media consumption to avoid the noise. A great way is to set a timer when consuming media. When watching the news or going on Facebook, give yourself and your teen a dedicated time to do so. Aside from setting time for digital use, tuning off your devices and leaving them in another room is also useful. Kulkarni also suggests to engage in activities that have meaning. Plan for family activities like movie night or game night to help everyone get the screens put away.
3. Channeling Stress Into Actions
Since the election day is tomorrow, we may start having anticipation for a certain outcome. The feeling of uneasiness can linger before the results are out. However, there are ways to turn anxiety into positive action. You can make donations or volunteer with organizations for causes you believe in. If your teen feels inclined to be involved, you can also encourage them to write to your local government or start petitions on issues they care about. Despite the outcome of the presidential election, remind yourself and your kids that there are still a lot of changes you can make. In fact, many powerful political impacts start off at a smaller scale.
4. Post-election Preparation
Post-election emotions are something you should prepare yourself and your teen for. There will always be a side who loses during this election. Nancy Molitor, a clinical psychologist advised, “Keep in mind the initial fear and anger in these situations is normal and should take things a day at a time.” In addition, she recommends people not to obsess over things they have no power over. “Focus on what you can control and not on what you can’t control,” she said.
Kulkarni reminds us to expect delays for this election. Due to COVID-19 and the large number of mail-in ballots, delays will most likely happen on Election Day as the vote-counting process is expected to take longer than normal. Plan activities with your support crew for the day to help redirect the attention.
If and when the election anxiety becomes too overwhelming, seek out your support group or professionals to discuss your feelings and concerns. Reaching out for help is the first and most important step to maintaining your mental health. As parents, take extra notice in your teen's physical appearances, personalities, or actions after Election Day. Do they look more tired? Are they not dressed like they used to? Are they having outbursts or mood swings, or do they seem withdrawn from interactions? All these are subtle signs to look for, and good indicators to encourage them to talk to you, friends, or seek professional help.
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