If you are feeling anxious about the 2016 presidential election, you are not alone. Mental health professionals report that they have been hearing more concerns about this election than in previous years. With every presidential election, it is normal to feel some discomfort as we think about who will be the next leader of the United States. Navigating through all of the political differences and disputes can be rough, but what can we do about the anxiety that seems to be affecting us during this election year?
Validate your concerns.
When we feel a certain way, the last thing that we want to hear is that it is unacceptable to feel the way that we do. Be kind to your feelings. After all, even unwanted feelings can help us recognize when our negative thoughts are taking control or when our judgements are not aligned with our values.
Take a break from social media.
Consider the increased use of social media, which ultimately leads to more exposure of the good, the bad and the ugly. Even if we turn off the television and avoid newspapers, we are still bombarded with concerns related to the election via social networking. If you are finding that your anxiety is amplified by all of the posts and arguments that occur online (there are plenty!), choose a different activity to engage in that may improve your overall mood. If you are looking to connect with someone, make a phone call or meet in-person as an alternative.
Anxiety is often the result of worrying about the future. Being uncertain about an outcome sometimes leads to focusing on the worst-case scenario. When we think about this year’s candidates, we tend to acknowledge why we “shouldn’t” be voting for one or the other or what bad things “might” happen. We seem to tune out any positive qualities or favorable outcomes. When we believe something will happen, whether good or bad, we frequently seek evidence to support our belief rather than taking a more objective stance.
Stress can come from the thoughts and meanings that we associate with unwanted feelings. When we tell ourselves that a feeling is “bad,” we often try to escape it, which becomes its own stressful experience. Try to accept your feelings as they are and visualize how you would like to feel. Then, participate in
activities that produce those desired feelings. For example, go for a walk, create art, meditate, talk to a loved one.
Educate and trust yourself.
It can be normal to worry about the future of our country and, in turn, our own well-being. Try to identify your own values and learn more about each candidate’s position on issues. Reflect on times when you have encountered hardships – were there any benefits? Did you become stronger or learn something new about yourself? What are your strengths that have helped you through previous obstacles? When we acknowledge our resiliency, we can become more confident about our ability to persevere through future challenges.