How to Deal with Election Day Stress
Whether you’re far left or far right, young or old, rich or poor, you’re likely experiencing some stress this fine election day. That’s normal during any election, but even more so in the intensely polarized political climate of 2016.
Even if you’re overwhelmed by the election, you don’t have to be powerless to anxiety. We asked Jodie Kliman, a social-clinical psychologist and an associate professor of psychology at William James College, how to deal with election day stress.
1. Vote. If you haven’t already, get yourself to the polls. “Voting helps, because that’s an active thing that’s under your control,” Kliman says.
2. Determine what you need. If you’re a political junkie, monitoring the results as they come in, within reason, may be the only way you can get through today. If you’re not, you may need radio silence from the moment you hand over your ballot to the moment the votes are tallied. Many of us fall somewhere in the middle. All are okay, Kliman says, so be honest with yourself.
3. Do something—anything—else. Even if you’re the above mentioned political junkie, Kliman says it’s important to distract yourself when you feel overwhelmed. If you feel powerless to the results of the election, it can also be helpful to do an activity within your control. “If [you] have any kind of spiritual or meditative practice or exercise practice, [today] would be a great day to do that,” she says.
4. Stop obsessively refreshing Twitter. There’s real evidence to suggest stepping away from social media could spare your sanity. Staying glued to Twitter or Facebook all day “keeps your stress system constantly aroused, so you really can’t do the [critical] thinking” Kliman explains. “Do some deep breathing, do some meditation, go swimming, cuddle your dog or your baby or your sweetheart, let yourself calm down—[do] something to feel better so you can think.”
5. Surround yourself with people. Just as loved ones help you deal with any stressor, Kliman says social connectivity may help you survive election day. “Call your mom, call your best friend, call your brother, somebody you care about and trust, and suffer through the anxiety together,” she suggests.
6. Even if they don’t share your beliefs. Kliman adds that having a respectful conversation with someone across the aisle—as long as you’re both curious and ready to listen—may help you gain perspective and avoid vilifying other voters. It may even help you resist implicit biases—hard-wired, subconscious judgments all humans tend to make, which may be at odds with our conscious thoughts—as much as possible.
“Everybody has associations they make between their own group as good, and other groups as bad. No matter how anti-racist you are, no matter how much you try to go against that, it’s there because we live in a society that divides people up between us and them,” Kliman explains. “The more you have positive contact with people from other groups, the less powerful that built-in bias toward the other group [is].”
7. Crack open your civics book. Yes, really. Kliman says taking a step back from the emotionally charged election and focusing on the nitty-gritty may calm you down and allow critical thinking. “If you think the wrong person is winning, it might be helpful to think about Congress and the Supreme Court having the ability to put some checks and balances on that awful president that you didn’t want elected, which you don’t think of when you’re in crisis mode,” Kliman says.
8. Comfort the kids. Don’t forget about your children on election day. Kliman notes that they’ve probably heard more about the race than you realize. “You can’t assume children haven’t picked up a lot of very scary information, most of which they don’t understand. I can’t tell you how often children misunderstand what they hear,” she says. “Parents can be very reassuring that they have a job they take seriously, of keeping their children safe.”