ELECTION ANXIETY?

Broadcast media is playing up the notion that many people are suffering stress over the presidential election. Psychologists are being invited into studios to offer their opinions and advice about dealing with this election anxiety. While there is no doubt many folks are worried that their candidate will lose and the consequences will be catastrophic, some media reports would have us believe that half the population is suffering significant stress over the election. That’s probably a little overplayed!

But if you are someone who is really getting stressed out and anxious about the election, what can you do to calm your nerves? Of course, regular readers of The Coping Blog know how to deal with stress, and a number of our previous blogs are relevant to the election issue. Still, let’s review some steps that may be helpful.

First of all, give yourself a little pat on the back. Your anxiety and stress show that you care, that you are involved in a fundamental part of our democratic process. Good for you!

Remember, your anxiety is a natural emotional state that can be a positive motivator for you. It need not be your enemy. Use your stress to motivate you to take actions that empower you.

Go into “critical-thinking mode” and ask yourself some fundamental questions: Are you making a mountain out of a molehill? Are you thinking irrationally or unrealistically? (“The future of humanity hinges on this election.”) Are you over-generalizing and being manipulated? (“Our entire electoral system is corrupt.”)

Granted, what has been said during this election can make it tough determining what may be an irrational fear, but the fact remains, you must approach your problem with some critical thinking. It may help to remember that we are a country of laws and not a Hollywood movie script. Think your fears through. Sure, literally anything can happen, but what is the risk of your concerns becoming real? Answering that last question can be helped along by consulting knowledgeable professionals and seeking out valid and reliable information.

Look for logical inconsistencies between words and actions from those whose pronouncements cause you worry. For instance, if someone tells you they are taking part in a rigged election, ask yourself why they would participate. Would you participate in an activity you believed was rigged against you?

Do not depend on unchecked websites. There are “joeblow.com” sites all over the place, and they will tell you the Apollo program was filmed in a studio, that one-third of Wells Fargo Bank’s Board of Directors are ISIS sympathizers, and that George Bush planned the Sept. 11 attacks. Your critical thinking skills will allow you to say, “Wait a minute. Such conspiracies would require thousands of participants. Would there not be one Snowden in the bunch?”

Determine what aspects of your concerns are under your control. For instance, decide which candidate you are voting for and be done with it, even if your state typically votes opposite your perspective.

Check out your TV remote and focus on three wonderful buttons that are under your control: “Power”; “Channel Selection” (Who would have thought it? Choosing Food Network or ESPN over CNN or FoxNews could have an impact on your mental health!); and finally don’t forget that magnificently- empowering button representing the second (after the telephone) most significant technological advance in the history of humanity, the “MUTE” button! Use it to your advantage!

If you have misguided, at best, or ignorant, at worst, friends and acquaintances who support the candidate you do not, it helps to remember that they are entitled to their opinion, and you must respect that right. You do not, however, have to listen to them, and you have the right to tell them you do not want to talk about the election. If they persist, disengage from them. Take this opportunity to block, hide, or unfriend people from your social media accounts. And remember that those who talk loudest and longest about the wisdom and correctness of their opinion are those who feel inadequate and insecure about the wisdom and correctness of their opinion. Psychologists call it “reaction formation.”

It might be helpful to shift your focus from the national level to your local elections. Many important issues exist at the local level, and candidates for city councils, clerkships, mayoralties, etc., are not usually attacking each other with the poisonous, childish vitriol we have witnessed from the presidential candidates. Focusing on local contests can help maintain your confidence in the election process and, on a grander level, America. As former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” You and your neighbors, “We, the People,” are the ultimate foundation of our government.

Get outside yourself to help maintain a healthy perspective on your life as an American. Nurture your social conscience by reaching out to others and engaging in volunteer activities.

As with any regimen attacking stress, maintain a healthy diet and exercise daily. Your body and brain must be kept vibrant and energetic. Keep both moving!

Finally, regularly review the posts at thecopingblog.com!

 

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