6 Strategies to Stop Election Stress Disorder From Winning

If politics is bringing you down, you are not alone. A nationwide survey fielded by The Harris Poll on behalf of the APA found that:
  • 70% of adults reported they do not think people in the government care about them
  • 64% said they felt their rights are under attack
  • 45% said they do not feel protected by laws in the United States
  • 38% said the state of the nation has made them consider moving to a different country
Election Stress Disorder (ESD) may not be an official diagnosis, but the experience of politically-induced anxiety is something many can relate to. ESD can disrupt sleep, leaving us tossing and turning at night. It manifests in our tight shoulders, upset stomachs, and pounding headaches. Ads on television for candidates we can’t stand make our blood boil. Ads for the candidate we hope will win fill us with fear that they might lose. When catastrophizing kicks in, gloom and doom scenarios occupy our thoughts. We become irritable and easily annoyed — all too often our partners and children are on the receiving end of an ESD-induced bad mood.

Here are 6 ways to stop Election Stress Disorder from winning:

1. Recognize what you can and can’t control

A major contributor to ESD is uncertainty. Focus your time and energy on domains where you have agency — like your actions and behaviors. No matter how many times you check FiveThirtyEight, you will not have a definitive answer.

2. Be the change

Embrace learning mode and action mode, not hate mode. When difficulty arises, stress-hardy people ask themselves, “What can I learn from this?” Along these lines, be informed. Don’t rely on soundbites and social media. Make the extra effort to seek out reliable sources like Jessica Yellin’s #NewsNotNoise.


3. Get local

While all the attention is on the candidates at the top of the ballot, educate yourself about the down ballot races as well. Engaging in what is going on at the community level matters too.

4. Focus on the future

There is no benefit in wallowing in why or what if. For your friends, for your family, for your country and perhaps most importantly, for those you don’t know, be a force that helps our country move in a positive direction. Every year, two years and four years, you have the constitutional privilege to vote again.

5. Take care of yourself

Inhaling a tub of ice cream, drinking tequila, and staying up late may numb the pain in the moment but erode the resiliency reserves you need. Prioritize sleep, eating well, and exercise. Staying active repurposes nervous energy as productive energy.

6. Agree to disagree

Disagreements don’t have to end discussions or friendships. Conversations with those who hold opposing views can be constructive and lead to new discoveries and new allies. Productive conflict starts with honest, open listening. Receptiveness to opposing views is the key. How receptive are you? Take the quiz here.

If there was ever a moment to be the best version of yourself it is now.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sent a letter to his employees in November of 2016 underscoring the value of meeting challenges with respect and compassion:
Start today by recognizing the power we have to walk in someone else’s shoes, to demonstrate understanding, and to strip away the differences that divide us. Let’s each embrace the universal virtues of respect and dignity, refusing to allow the hatred on cable news, the ugliness of our politics, and the lack of political role models for our kids to define us and to dictate how we treat each other.
He concludes:
Rise above this moment to be the person that makes a positive difference in your neighborhood and community. Be the person who makes your family proud. Be the person who embodies the promise of America so others may see and feel the possibilities that come with being an American.
If you embrace empathy, tolerance and integrity, it will bring out the best in others. It’s also an antidote for ESD.

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman