More and more people are talking about the 2020 election during therapy. From anxiety and fear to hopelessness and rage, people are scared…and tired. With just over 30 days until election day and the first presidential debate scheduled for tomorrow (September 28), the cumulative stress is starting to weigh us down. We’ve been dealing with this anxiety for almost six years (if you consider the lead-up into 2016) and, while many are cautiously optimistic for a change in 2021, the division and rancor that has taken hold of our society is like here for quite some time.
Managing Election Anxiety
Disclaimer: I am a progressive Democrat with liberal views. If you didn’t know that about me already, welcome! If any of those identities or worldviews causes you discomfort or anger, I would suggest you find something else to read or open your mind to viewpoints that might be different than what you normally encounter. (Oh, and if you like to leave negative comments that are essentially verbal personal attacks they will be deleted, and you will be blocked.)
Now that we got that out of the way….
What makes this particular experience of anxiety different than, say, health or relationship stressors, is the fact that the problem is so much bigger than we individually can control or influence. My hope is to give people tools to navigate the emotional stress that they may be feeling related to the 2020 election, I’d like to introduce you to the POTUS method for managing election anxiety.
Yes, there is plenty to be worried about. From climate change to systemic racism to election fraud in the form of Russian interference, these are uncertain times. While we may be feeling confused, disoriented and up ended, this is not the first time in human history where we faced threats and went through societal shifts. It’s difficult to know when the storm will end when you’re in the middle of it. Keep in mind that this moment in time will pass and remind yourself that the good in humanity is resilient.
Own your feelings and thoughts – don’t fight them. By naming our fears, doubts and unwanted emotions we effectively give power to ourselves to manage them. Thinking that we aren’t affected by the news, injustices and threats in the world is foolish. Telling ourselves not to feel something or that we shouldn’t feel something is equally foolish. Feel it. Name it. Connect it. Decide what to do with it.
I’ve heard people say, “I watch Fox News just to know what the other side is saying.” My response, “We already know what they’re saying. Stop it.” Recently there was an NPR story about “Doomsday Scrolling” where a psychologist described why it is we are drawn to negative or upsetting news and information. It’s hard to break out of the 24-hour news and media cycle but it’s essential. Try a media-free day, take a break from Facebook, set timers on your phone to limit scrolling, hide people that post things that ultimately upset you…anything to regain a sense of control. Trust me, if something earth-shattering happens you’ll hear about it soon enough.
It’s easy to feel hopeless when we’re alone. Find ways to unite and unify with people who share your values (and by values I don’t mean get a group of people together to commiserate about how horrible Trump is). Find time to connect with those who inspire and encourage. Join your local political committee or start one!
Write a check, volunteer your time, share local voting resources or simply ask, “What can I do?” Putting your passion into action by doing something that, with others, has the capacity to effect change. It’s easy to focus on the President and the administration as the reason for our anger and anxiety but, frankly, local politics are just as important – sometimes more so.
New York resident who wants more info on voter registration? Check out the Bipartisan Policy Center’s video.
Brandon Beachamp, LMHC, provides mental health counseling and therapy to the LGBTQ+ population of New York’s Hudson Valley – offering sessions remotely and in New Paltz, NY.
My thoughts and reactions to the world in which we live...completely biased and unfiltered.