November 3rd is quickly approaching, which means that our National Election Day is just around the corner. This may be one of the most historic elections in the history of our country, as we navigate political tensions while battling a national health pandemic. While some revel in the excitement of such a monumental day, decorating their homes in patriotic decor and volunteering to serve at the polls, others dread election day and experience a great deal of anxiety over the upcoming election. Regardless of political affiliation, having a voice in who will lead our country for the next four years can be a daunting task for some and an exhilarating task for others. Both positions are completely understandable. If you find that you are anxious over this year’s election, here are five tips to help you manage your anxiety.
COVID-19 has presented a new challenge for election day. Many citizens have been torn over whether they should vote in person or cast their vote using a mail-in ballot. The idea of standing in long lines while remaining socially distanced and wearing a mask may be challenging, if not impossible, for some voters. Thinking of chaos that may surround this year’s election day can be very anxiety producing. Planning ahead can help relieve some of that anxiety. Check deadlines for requesting mail-in ballots if you chose to participate via mail. If you are planning to vote in person, make sure you know your voting poll location and make sure you are prepared for the possibility of waiting in line (i.e., bring a camping chair if you have trouble standing for a long time). Stay safe by practicing social distancing practices like remaining at least six-feet apart from others while waiting to vote and wearing a mask. Remember that things may not go as planned but trying to reduce as much stress prior to the actual election day can help your mind be a little more at ease.
With the internet at our fingertips, there is a lot of information about the upcoming election and the candidates running. Following news websites and social media blogs can leave us feeling overwhelmed and confused. Information overload can be a breeding ground for anxiety. It’s hard to know what to believe, which can be very frustrating. Though it is important to be informed during election season, it’s also important to find credible information sources. Websites like www.usa.gov provides information about local, state and national candidates, as well as information on common voting and election terms. Having a better understanding of the upcoming election can help election day not seem so overwhelming.
Remember that Nobody is Perfect
I know this statement is not one we hear often during election season. Election ads often paint running politicians as “the perfect candidate.” The truth is that we are all human. We all have flaws. If you are having anxiety over who you should vote for, do not put too much pressure on yourself about picking the perfect candidate. That person does not exist. As citizens, all we can do is hope that whomever we vote for will be able to help our country progress forward. Because we are in a democracy, we have the privilege of not having to carry that weight on our own. As a collective, we are asked to do our best to select leaders who can serve as our representatives. We don’t always get it right (and neither do those we select), and that’s OK. Think progress instead of perfection.
Leading up to the elections, we will see a lot of propaganda on our televisions, computers, in our workplaces and even on our telephones (I’m sure I’m not the only one who has received voice and text messages from political campaigns). It’s OK to take a break. Resist the need to constantly check news channels and social media about politics. Create boundaries with those whom you interact with. Draw a line to not talk about politics if it causes you too much anxiety; those around you should respect that decision. Sometimes taking a break from what causes you anxiety is just what you need to do to learn how to better combat the anxiety you’re experiencing.
As always, your strongest weapon for dealing with anxiety during this election season lies within yourself. When all else fails, return to your breath. Deep breathing has the power to slow down your anxious thoughts and help you think rationally when your emotions feel out of control. When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed by thoughts of the election, try breathing in for four slow counts and releasing the breath for six slow counts. Repeat this cycle a few times to help bring calm to your senses. What’s great about breathing exercises is that they can be done for as little as one minute or as a longer meditation period of five, 10, 20 or more minutes. It is a coping technique that you can moderate depending on your personal schedule and anxiety level. It may only take a few breath cycles for you to feel relaxed. If it takes longer for your nervous system to calm down, that’s fine also. Listen to your body and allow your breath to nurture you in times of anxiety.
Still in This Election Together
Whether you are looking forward to election day or dreading it, remember that we are all in this together. As a nation, we are desperately seeking hope in what has been a dismal year thus far. Regardless of your political affiliation, race, sexuality, etc., we want to live in a country where we and our loved ones can experience a great quality of life. Having anxiety over whether the leaders in positions of power will make sure that desire comes to pass is completely normal. Lean on each other during this time and talk about your anxieties and fears. If your anxiety becomes too overwhelming, do not be ashamed to seek help. Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program offers online and in-person support groups for individuals struggling with anxiety. Finding the support that you need for this upcoming election can help relieve the anxiety you are experiencing.
April Cox is a permanency specialist II at Professional Family Care Services in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. She is passionate about the mental health of individuals and families and prides her work on providing practical ways to promote mental health wellness. April has a BA in sociology and has worked as a therapeutic staff support, family-based counselor, and drug and alcohol counselor before transitioning to child welfare, where she helps foster children and foster families process past traumas. April is passionate about the arts and spends her evenings teaching dance classes to all ages.