If you’ve been noticing that your anxiety levels are rising with only weeks to go before the 2020 Presidential election, you’re not alone. Many, many people are struggling with election anxiety right now.
While election anxiety isn’t a typical term you might hear about in clinical conversations, it’s certainly a form of circumstantial anxiety.
Circumstantial anxiety is a form of anxiety that surfaces because of isolated and acute life events – a car crash, a breakup, a sudden job loss. Or, in this case, the 2020 Presidential election.
2020 has already been a psychologically hard year for most of us. Added to the stress, overwhelm, and anxiety you may already be holding about being inside a global pandemic, there is now the fast-approaching election.
So if you need some more tools in your toolbox, if you need or want additional supports to help manage your own election anxiety, we’ve included some of our best tips and tools below.
1) Control what you can. Few things help abate our anxiety – particularly circumstantial anxiety – like getting actionable and attempting to control what you can. With the case of the coming election, controlling what you can may look like making sure you’re registered to vote. It may look like volunteering to canvass and register voters in your state. It may look like phone banking in swing states. It may look like making sure you have backup diapers and wipes and toilet paper in your pantry in case of supply chain disruptions. Whatever you believe you can control, try and make a list of those action items and then check them off your list. Daily. Weekly. See what strategic, focused action to control what you can does to impact your anxiety levels.
2) Regulate your trigger exposure. A trigger is a causal event, person, or experience. In other words, the reason why you might feel the way you feel. If you’re feeling an uptick in election anxiety, be curious about what triggers this increase in anxiety. Is it being on social media before bed? Is it being on social media at all? Is it checking the New York Times three times a day? Is it getting hooked into politically charged conversations with family members on group text chains? Whatever triggers your election anxiety, become mindful of it, and then consider regulating your trigger exposure. In other words, experiment with reducing how much time you’re on social media, or what type (if at all) media you consume, or consider setting boundaries with people in your life who want to discuss politics. Regulate your trigger exposure to reduce your anxiety levels.
3) Ground yourself and get supports. The best time to find and establish a great support team is not necessarily when you’re in crisis. The best time to establish a care team is well before then so that they are in place before the crisis hits. So to that end, if you’re not already established with a therapist, consider interviewing one or two and lining up some sessions before November 3rd. Also, consider implementing any of these anxiety-reduction tools and resources to bring calm and soothing to your nervous system. Do what you know helps your body and mind feel more at ease: 8 hours of sleep? Daily exercise? Reducing alcohol and cannabis? Leaving your phone outside your bedroom while you sleep? More calls to your best girlfriends? Whatever supports you and grounds you, whatever helps soothe the jagged edges of your nervous system, now is the time to double down on those things.
4) Make an election week self-care plan. Plan to take PTO from work if you suspect you’ll need it. Book a session (or two) with your therapist. Maybe consider getting a cabin rental or Airbnb if you suspect you’ll need to disconnect from everything. Let your friends and family know you won’t be available for political discourse that week. Craft a plan for election week that will help you feel supported, protected, and care for should you need it.
Election anxiety may not be an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the bedrock textbook of the psychological field) but, perhaps, after 2020, it may someday be considered a legitimate diagnosis.
In the meantime, treat your concerns as you would any other circumstantial anxiety event, and craft a self-care plan that takes into account all of the variables we mentioned above.
And, of course, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at Evergreen Counseling if we can be of any further support to you whatsoever. Schedule a complimentary 20-minute consult call with our clinical intake coordinator.
If you need us, we’re here for you.