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How to Cope With Election Anxiety. If you're more stressed than usual because of the Presidential election, you're not alone.

Updated: Apr 9

If your stomach flips and your jaw clenches every time you hear the words “November 3rd,” you're not alone. Election anxiety feels like it's at an all time high, as many experience stress surrounding who our next President will be. In fact, according to an American Psychological Association survey, 68% of all adults said the upcoming election is a significant source of stress.

With more than a week to go until the election, and the possibility that we won't know the results on election night, we need to find a way to manage our stress and anxiety. Teen Vogue asked Talkspace therapists for their best tips on how to cope with election anxiety to get us all through the next week—or however long it takes to know who will sit in the Oval Office come January.

Here's what you need to know on how to cope with election anxiety.

Make a Plan

If you're 18 or over, make a plan to vote. Cynthia Catchings, PhD, LCSW-S, says that having an action plan can help ease anxiety because you feel a sense of certainty. But, that still requires a dose of patience if your plan is to vote in person on election day. If the wait is what's causing you extra anxiety, Dr. Catchings says you can engage in activism prior to the election to help yourself feel more in control. 

“You can engage in meaningful activities, such as volunteering to make phone calls to invite others to vote or work during election day," Dr. Catchings tells Teen Vogue. "Volunteering is a good way to feel better and a great way to make a difference.”

If you're not yet 18, or can't vote in the upcoming election for whatever reason, don't freak out. There are still actions you can take as a way to calm your nerves.

“Even if you are below voting age, you can still make a difference. Focus on the power you have—whether that is through volunteer opportunities, talking with friends and family about important issues, or getting involved with social media campaigns,” Rachel O'Neill, PhD, LPC, says. "Often, we feel the most stressed when we feel powerless, helpless, or hopeless. Do what you can to try to feel a sense of purpose and meaning during this stressful time. " 

Focus on What You Can Control

Like O'Neill mentioned, feeling powerless can breed anxiety. While we can't know for sure how the election will turn out, it's important to focus on the things we are able to control and put our energy toward that.

“Because there is so much uncertainty right now, it can be really easy to get wrapped up in the what ifs,” O'Neill says. "Instead of perseverating on those what ifs, try to focus instead on being present-centered and focusing only on the moment in front of you. Focus on what you can control—and work on doing as much as you can to help your preferred candidates and causes."

This advice doesn't just apply to what you can control politically. Liz Kelly, LICSW, tells Teen Vogue. While political action might help some feel more in control, others might find joy from countering negativity born from politics. You can control what you contribute to society, Kelly says, which can be as simple as saying hi to your neighbor, or holding the door for a stranger.

“Reflect on what you appreciate in your life,” she says. "Take a small step to make positive change in your life and community."

Set Boundaries

The closer we get to the election, the more constant the barrage of attack ads and negative information. While it's certainly important to stay informed and engaged, that doesn't mean you can never take a break from watching the news or phone banking.

“Be intentional about your media consumption. Yes, it is important to stay informed about what is happening; however, set limits and stick with them,” O'Neill says. "Try to avoid hours of social media scrolling and, instead, give  yourself a specific amount of time to interact with news/media and then commit to doing something else. Try to balance media use with something helps you feel purpose and meaning."

If what makes you feel purpose is election-related activism, it's important you also balance that kind of action with other methods of self-care. Activist burnout is real!

Catchings notes that you have every right to set boundaries not just for yourself, but in your interactions with others. Political conversations can be stressful, especially if you're constantly hearing your family talk about upsetting views. While everyone has a right to an opinion, you can also limit how often you engage in political conversation, or set ground rules on the kinds of conversations you're willing to have.

Log Off!

For many, social media can trigger an anxiety spiral. Whether it's the constant negativity, stressful news about the pandemic, upsetting Facebook posts, or a combination of all of those things, we've all had the experience of “doom scrolling” late into the night—and feeling terrible about it the next morning. According to Kelly, there's a reason we fall into these patterns.

“Our brains are hardwired as a survival mechanism to look for potential threats in our environment.  That is why we are so drawn to negative information and ‘doom scrolling,'" Kelly says. “It’s our brain’s misguided way of trying to keep us safe from harm. However, this onslaught of negative information can cause us to feel helpless and overwhelmed. One way to reduce stress resulting from the current political environment is to be mindful about how you consume social media.”

Kelly recommends keeping your phone outside your bedroom so you aren't tempted to scroll instead of sleep, or to set time limits on when and for how long you allow yourself to look at social media. Once your 30-minute after-dinner Twitter session is up, pick up a book, do a craft like knitting, or chat with a friend. That way you feel informed, but you're not going so far as to harm your mental health.

Consider Professional Help

If stress and anxiety about the election is having a significant impact on your life, you might consider seeking help from a therapist. As we continue social distancing, many therapists are offering video or phone sessions to increase accessibility. With so much happening in the world right now—from the grief associated with the pandemic, to the mental health toll of witnessing racism, to the very real impact the coming election could have on our lives—you're certainly not alone in needing help. The good news is that mental health treatment works, and therapy can help you cope with the feelings you're having in a healthy and supported way. 

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