An Anxious Nation Votes

Good morning, America! Are you stressed by the 2016 presidential election Tuesday? Of course you are! (Well, more than half of you are.)

election-stress-generations

According to a survey published on October 13 by the American Psychological Association, 52 percent of American adults report that the 2016 election is a “very significant” or “somewhat significant” source of stress. The figure goes up to 56 percent among millennials.

One APA tip for managing your stress: VOTE!

The APA survey found that election-inducing stress occurred among voters of both major parties, all age groups, and across racial and ethnic lines.

Various sources cite two reasons for the anxiety ramp-up: nervousness about the two leading candidates, and constant political and cultural discussions on social media. According to a Washington Post poll, 70 percent of registered voters said that the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency made them anxious—and 51 percent said that about a Hillary Clinton victory. Let’s break that down:

In the Post poll, 28 percent reported that they were very comfortable or somewhat comfortable with a Trump presidency, while 50 percent said the idea made them “very anxious” and another 20 percent said they were “somewhat anxious”—a net 70 percent of respondents were anxious about Trump winning the White House.

In the Post poll, 47 percent reported that they were very comfortable or somewhat comfortable with a Clinton presidency, while 51 percent said they were either “very anxious” (34 percent) or “somewhat anxious” (17 percent).

An article in the Guardian attributed more of the anxiety to the Trump campaign, and to spoil any chance of relief argued that it won’t be over if Clinton wins:

Even assuming Trump loses, the relief will be superficial: Trumpism will remain, and the world will have to contend with the fact that about 40 percent of the US electorate saw little wrong with his racism and misogyny, alleged sexual assaults, business scandals, lies, misrepresentations of his wealth and charitable giving, probable failure to pay taxes, lack of impulse control, profound ignorance and tiny attention span.

The American Psychological Association offers five tips “to help people manage their stress related to the election”:

 —If the 24-hour news cycle of claims and counterclaims from the candidates is causing you stress, limit your media consumption. Read just enough to stay informed. Turn off the newsfeed or take a digital break. Take some time for yourself, go for a walk, or spend time with friends and family doing things that you enjoy.

—Avoid getting into discussions about the election if you think they have the potential to escalate to conflict. Be cognizant of the frequency with which you’re discussing the election with friends, family members or coworkers.

—Stress and anxiety about what might happen is not productive. Channel your concerns to make a positive difference on issues you care about. Consider volunteering in your community, advocating for an issue you support or joining a local group. Remember that in addition to the presidential election, there are state and local elections taking place in many parts of the country, providing more opportunities for civic involvement.

—Whatever happens on November 8, life will go on. Our political system and the three branches of government mean that we can expect a significant degree of stability immediately after a major transition of government. Avoid catastrophizing, and maintain a balanced perspective.

—Vote. In a democracy, a citizen’s voice does matter. By voting, you will hopefully feel you are taking a proactive step and participating in what for many has been a stressful election cycle. Find balanced information to learn about all the candidates and issues on your ballot (not just the presidential race), make informed decisions and wear your “I voted” sticker with pride.

Some meditation advice for when you’re “really bugging out” comes from therapist Ralph de la Rosa, in an article on refinery29.com:

—Simply make yourself aware of how you’re feeling. Whether you’re so angry you could scream or so happy you’re ready to throw it in every Facebook friend’s face, take a moment to pause and check in with your emotions. In political arguments, especially, you may not realize just how emotional you’re getting in the moment.

—Next, stop. “Excuse yourself to the restroom or get off the phone if you have to,” says de la Rosa. “The logic here is that if you’re really in an emotion, nothing you’re going to do is going to be productive.”

—Now that you know what you’re feeling and you’ve got some space, direct your attention to your breath. Start taking deep inhales and exhales (about six seconds each). Repeat this pattern for about two minutes. You can also use a mantra here if you’d like. We’re big fans of the metta meditation, which means repeating the phrase, “May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be peaceful” a few times before moving on to repeating, “May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful.” Then, as a final step, when you’re ready, you end on, “May all beings be happy, may all beings be healthy, may all beings be peaceful” repeated a few times. If that doesn’t feel right, de la Rosa says deep breathing alone works great, too.

—Finally, zoom out and remember the big picture, meaning who you are, what your values are, and what kind of person you want to be. Chances are, your ideal self isn’t someone who yells at her friends. And, although this election feels like it could be apocalyptic, it’s good to remind yourself that’s not actually true: “Your candidate isn’t going to necessarily accomplish everything they say they will, and neither will the other candidate,” says de la Rosa.