On Saturday morning, I anxiously made my way to the election polling site to cast my vote for the next president. Following the markings on the floor to maintain social distancing, my competed ballot in hand, proudly, exercising my right to vote, I inserted the document into the scanner. Successful Completion! What an honor. The next morning, I woke up with a feeling of nervousness just like I have on most mornings since the election season began.
Many of my nights consist of twisting, turning, and sleeplessness, with the 2020 presidential election weighing heavily on my mind. Me, like I believe many of us do, have had or still experience feelings of stress, anxiety, and rage that can manifest into poor health, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused the death of over 2 million people globally, racial unrest, and the fear of the additional unrest that can occur after the reveal of who the new president will be for the next four years.
In my 42 years of voting, I can’t remember an election year that I paid as much attention to or worried about as I did in the 2008, 2012, 2016 presidential elections, and now 2020. Wondering who will win this year’s election freaks me out. No. Let me change that! It scares me! It scares me because, if there are another four years of the current president, this will mean four more years of incessant and dangerous undermining of our political system and the continued submerging of equity, equal rights, diversity, and inclusion that fuels racial tension and unrest. For me, maintaining my health and psyche has been a challenge and a struggle. My stress levels are on high which brought my current health issues to new heights.
Effects of Stress on Health
According to Healthline.com chronic stress and anxiety can trigger physical health problems such as tension headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, and elevated blood pressure.” All the things I was and still am experiencing. This election year not only impacted my health, but getting through the workday without being distracted by the overwhelming news of the election and the discussions also, at times affected my productivity. Harvard Business Review, reported that stress temporarily impairs strategic thinking. I have also experienced a lapse in my prayer life or a different kind of praying that makes me feel like I’m begging God. Perhaps I am!
My thoughts are, that we as a society or culture, that when we’re asked how we’re feeling, we often resort to saying “I’m good,” when in actuality, we are not, and don’t or are unable to articulate how we are really doing or feeling. But, by taking a deeper dive into how we feel, it becomes more apparent. Recent surveys have supported that this election year has increased the stress level of people.
What a Survey Reveals About Election-Related Stress
According to a new survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA), ahead of the most divisive election in decades, more than two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) say that the 2020 U.S. presidential election is a significant source of stress in their life. This is in comparison to the 2016 election when 52% said the same. The survey also found that regardless of political affiliation, majorities say that the election is a significant source of stress (76% of Democrats, 67% of Republicans and 64% of Independents).
It’s not an easy task not to feel overwhelmed, sick, scared, stressed, and anxious when it feels like the fate of our country is in a delicate position when the government that is supposed to be designed to provide checks and balances and protection, could in the short and long run, be destroyed.
Helpful Tips to Manage Election-related Stress
The APA offered the following evidence-based advice to help people manage their stress related to the election:
- Avoid dwelling on things you can’t control. When uncertainty strikes, many people immediately imagine worst-case scenarios. Break the habit of ruminating on bad outcomes.
- Focus on what you can control. If following the news, watching the debates or scrolling through social media is causing you stress, limit your media consumption. Give yourself permission to take a break from the news.
- Engage in meaningful activities. Rather than fixating on news coverage, find an activity that you really enjoy and spend time doing it. Get involved in issues that are meaningful to you. By making a plan on how you will vote, for example — in person, by mail or as part of early voting — you are more likely to follow through.
- Stay socially connected. Go for a walk or spend time with friends and family. Research shows that people who have at least one or two friends or family members to turn to for emotional support during stressful times tend to cope better than people who don’t have such support.
- Stay active. Moving helps us release the energy we experience when we feel stressed.
I know that it is critical to prepare myself for November 4th. The day after tomorrow! Just in case things don’t turn out the way I hope it would, I need to take care of Me! Above all, self-care will be important to help me deal with possible dissatisfaction and uncertainty by forging ahead as a healthy, happy, and productive citizen of this United States of America! For now, election-related stress; who’d have Thought?