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Staying Resilient in a Stressful Election Season

Regardless of their political affiliations, feeling anxious and stressed over elections is nothing new to Americans. In 2016, Washington-based therapist Dr. Steven Stonsy coined the term “Election Stress Disorder” to describe the rise in irritability, resentment, anxiety, and sense of powerlessness people feel in the weeks and months surrounding an election. Unfortunately, Election Stress Disorder seems to be at an all-time high, due in part to the rise in smartphone usage, the prevalence of social media in everyday life, and the 24-hour news cycle. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce and manage election stress!

Two key elements of coping with Election Stress Disorder and staying resilient are maintaining your social connections and practicing mindfulness. According to Dr. Stonsy, “The best antidote is connection” and “Underlying all of that (anxiety) is powerlessness.… The rule (for enhancing) power is focus.”

If you find yourself getting stressed and anxious over the election, try reaching out to those around you, either via a socially-distanced meet-up, a Zoom call, or even just a quick phone call or text. Try giving those in your social bubble a hug or telling a friend you appreciate them. And while the quality of your social connections matter more than the quantity, activities such as volunteering can be a great way to expand your network with the added benefit of helping others! You may even be able to volunteer at your local polling place!

You can also practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment. Certain activities such as journaling, meditation, and yoga can help you achieve mindfulness. If you don’t have time for a structured mindful activity, take a moment, clear your mind, and turn your attention to your breathing. Do not think about the election, the future, or the “what ifs” in life. Our minds have a tendency to stray toward the negative but when you focus on the negative thoughts, you give those in your life more power than the positive thoughts. Take just a few moments each day to focus on and be grateful for whatever is right now.

And, of course, vote if you haven’t already!