The Election Blues?
Some people might say that our current political climate has gotten to a place of such tension that it could be called corrosive or toxic. Some have strong convictions about how our country should be governed. In my own life, nothing can turn a conversation sour with my mom faster than one about politics. I do everything I can to avoid the topic. Yet the people that I love the most have what appear to be diametrically opposed political views and beliefs to my own. I do believe that we all need to try to get through this together. I personally take steps to keep myself out of arguments. I don’t want to sacrifice my relationships for my politics. But some people do not feel the same as me. It’s very serious for them. I understand that. I really do. I try to stay off that level- but it’s stressful.
It’s stressful for a lot of people. One survey (Yan, Hsia, Yeung, et al, 2020) conducted in 2016 after the last presidential election showed that states where Hillary won a majority of votes experienced a significant increase in poor mental health days after Trump’s victory. Also, depression rates in these states began to rise in 2017. We are deeply invested in our country’s leadership. We care. A lot. About 68% of people say that the presidential election is a significant source of stress in their lives according to ABC.com.
Luckily the election is over. We have a winner (I think). But how can you keep yourself healthy during this time? Psychiatrist Dr. Yalda Safai has a few suggestions. He says to avoid dwelling on things you can’t control. Break the habit of catastrophizing and ruminating over bad outcomes. Try to maintain a balanced perspective. Engage in something that causes “flow”, a state where you lose time and self-awareness because you are so absorbed. Creative pursuits can cause a flow state.
Another tip is to have political discussions face-to-face, instead of over social media. This will help you see someone as a full person, rather than just a post. In fact, the APA suggested taking a break from social media altogether in the height of election frenzy. Avoid endlessly scrolling and looking for distressing content.
Don’t let your party’s loss demoralize you. Let it motivate you. Get involved with campaigns. Get behind causes that are important to you. You might consider volunteering for your community or joining a local group involved in state or local elections.
Accept defeat graciously. Do your best to avoid isolating. Maintain relationships with family and community. Stay connected (as much as Covid allows). Isolation can make some people feel more vulnerable. It’s important to strengthen social connections regardless of the election outcome.
Finally, you can practice mindfulness- as in mindfulness meditation. It’s not for everybody, but it might help you. Even small doses of mindfulness can help with stress and help stop repeatedly stressful thoughts. Yoga mixed with mindfulness might be just what helps you relax!
Regardless of who won, or what our politics are- it is important to do what is best for your own mental health. It’s not good to let negativity take too much of your focus or energy. With Covid-19 still surging, taking care of oneself is more important than ever before. We care about our politics, now let’s care for ourselves. Be well.
Safai, Y. (2020, November 3). Managing the psychological effects of the 2020 election. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/managing-psychological-effects-2020-election/story?id=73933000
Yan, B.W., Hsia, R.Y., Yeung, V. et al. Changes in Mental Health Following the 2016 Presidential Election. J GEN INTERN MED (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-020-06328-6