Election Day is typically an exciting day in American politics. But recent events and the general divisiveness in the national zeitgeist have cast a cloud and caused many to feel uneasy about this year’s political race. Austinites experiencing anxiety about the presidential election are not alone, according to national reports, and a syndrome dubbed “election stress disorder” has arisen of late.
But how to cope? CultureMap spoke to Linda Lopez, licensed professional counselor at Houston-based Taylor Counseling Group, who offers five ways to combat the sense of Election Day (or days, most likely) dread.
Manage your news intake.
“Today, people can get their news from a variety of sources, including TV, online and social media,” says Lopez. “Especially with social media, I highly encourage everyone to be cognizant of who you follow and listen to. Find reliable sources that you trust, even if that is only a few, so that you are not overwhelmed with content.
It is really easy to feel discouraged with everything going on right now, and the news surrounding the election is not always positive. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I also recommend taking a step back from the news and social media.”
Turn your energy toward something positive.
“Positive psychology is real — how we feed our minds is going to affect how we feel,” Lopez notes. “I encourage everyone to find something that brings you joy, even if it is as simple as enjoying a warm cup of coffee. Taking a moment to enjoy something and feeding our bodies with positive thoughts and sensations can have a huge impact on our overall well-being.”
“We can get moving in so many different ways, it does not have to be running two miles,” advises Lopes. “For example, we can become energized by walking to the mailbox, cleaning our house, or even doing laundry. Some people feel pressured to stick to an exercise routine, but movement is movement, and an object in motion is in motion.
When we stay stagnant, it is difficult to find the energy to get up and move, that is how people can fall into depression. If you’re struggling with depression and anxiety and you are staying in bed and not doing much of anything, it is going to be difficult to get up and complete tasks. I encourage everyone to start with basic movement and then work your way up.”
Surround yourself with positive people who don’t need to constantly debate politics
Lopez recommends setting boundaries. “It is perfectly okay to say, ‘hey, I do not want to engage in this conversation right now. I do think it is important, but I cannot talk about it right now.’” If you have to leave an event early, then leave early!
How to deal with a political argument? “We can choose to react or respond to a situation, and there is a difference,” Lopez says. “When we react, they have control over the situation, but we can choose to respond in a calmer way: ‘I think you’re making great points, but I really want to talk about something else right now.’ Or, you can excuse yourself from the situation. When we choose to respond, we take some of our power back.”
Seek professional help when the anxiety is impacting daily life
If the sense of anxiety of dread lasts well beyond the election, it may be time to seek help. “Sometimes people feel like they have tried everything — self-help books, taking advice from others, etc.,” says Lopez. “But if therapy is one thing you haven’t tried, then what do you have to lose?”