Surviving the 2020 Presidential Election

By: Kamaljit "Sonya" Virdi, Ph.D. | October 30, 2020

The year 2020 marks one of the most challenging years in our recent history. Our country remains in a state of political unrest. Racial tensions remain high while Black, Indigenous, People of Color, (BIPOC) and White allies advocate for more equitable systems. COVID-19 continues to endanger the health and safety of many while ongoing unemployment challenges peoples’ sense of security. Taken together with the upcoming election, people wonder what the future will hold while feeling a lot of emotion (anger, anticipation, fear, or hope) irrespective of political affiliation. Further, Election Day may turn into “election month” with mail-in-ballots offered as alternatives to voting in person. Now more than ever is the time to find ways to reduce stress and anxiety about the upcoming election. You may find the following four strategies helpful for surviving election time.

Monitor your news consumption

Avoid an overload. Thinking and talking about the election all day can lead you to overload since minute-by-minute updates on election related events, speeches, and comments are not uncommon. While it is important to stay informed, overconsumption may not help. If you are overloaded, pay attention to the sources of your overconsumption, recognizing social media as a common culprit. Consider a break from it or reduce the hours you spend on it daily. Consider pausing news alerts on your electronic devices that engage you in too much information. Alternatively, designate certain times of day to engage the news outlets that you find trustworthy.

Determine what you can control

Political debates shed light on unsolved national issues, such as civil rights, tax reform, healthcare, and trade policies. You may feel overwhelmed thinking about these issues, especially if they have an impact on you or your loved ones. Focus on what is within your own control and take action. Vote for the candidate who best represents your worldview. This empowers you to feel like you’ve done your part. Donating money or time to causes that are important to you, even in small amounts, may help you to feel uplifted while contributing to a worthy cause.

Consider the “rules of engagement” when discussing the election

You may find yourself in a conversation with friends, family, and co-workers about politics and the election. In some cases, you may learn more about their personal beliefs and political views. If you choose to engage in a debate, the following may help you elevate the conversation.

  • Assess your goal: Your goal may be to change the other person’s mind, which may create unnecessary pressure and emotional investment on your part. Remember that a single conversation will most likely not change a person’s lifelong view. Consider instead that this is an opportunity to share and exchange each other’s views to learn more about the political issue.
  • Consider your history with the debater: If you find that political discussions with a certain loved one leaves you exhausted, consider avoiding debates with this person. Remind yourself that you have the choice to debate.
  • Be kind and respectful: When you feel strongly about a political or personal belief, you may forget that you are talking to someone you care about and may have known for a long time. Avoid yelling, swearing, or belittling their viewpoint and take a break if the debate feels emotionally heated. Send the person an article or video that demonstrates your point instead of debating further.

Prepare for the results

Consider how you might feel with each outcome before the election results are out. If the person you voted for loses, then acknowledge and validate your feelings. Avoid the people who may trigger you during the days after hearing about the election results. Call a friend or loved one who shares your political views and talk through your feelings. There is comfort in knowing that you are not alone in your feelings.

I hope these strategies reduce stress associated with the election and help you create more balance in your life. Enjoy a safe and healthy election!



Image: Images George Rex on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

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