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How to Cope With “Election Anxiety” before the 2020 Presidential Election.

In an Inquirer article I was featured in back in early 2017, many therapists confirmed that following the 2016 election that introduced Donald Trump as president their clients were having various emotional reactions. Clients were bringing up politics more than ever in their therapy sessions. After the election, many experienced "election anxiety" which is the increased stress and anxiety that comes with worrying about the state of the country and your overall wellbeing around election time.

This increased anxiety about the country and president integrated into other life stressors like work, family, and relationships prompted clients to bring up politics and the intersection of politics and their life in their weekly sessions. Some even experienced symptoms such as shortness of breath, reoccurring thoughts, panic attacks, insomnia and more. As the 2020 presidential election approaches, the following are some ways that people can avoid reliving the anxiety they felt after the 2016 election and reduce symptoms of "election anxiety."

#1: Steer Clear of Obsessive Media Intake

With each new administration comes a different set of priorities and perspectives. The last few years and certainly the last several months have been filled with polarization, racial injustice, massive losses and social unrest. Regardless of your political affiliations, we have all experienced a constant influx of news throughout this election season that has been stressful on both ends.

Everyone can understand what it feels like to be bombarded with media outlets reporting disturbing statistics, preventing us from feeling motivated to focus on other important tasks or from enjoying ourselves. I encourage people who feel overwhelmed by the news to minimize your exposure. Instead, read a book, establish a new exercise routine and enjoy the outdoors and beautiful foliage.

young man reading the newspaper surrounded by other newspapers

Photo by Mateus Henrique from Pexels

#2: Keep Political Opinions To Oneself

Regardless of if you were a Trump supporter who felt a sense of victory after the election, or a democrat that was left disappointed and unsettled, both parties could relate to a rise in tension at home. It is natural for family members to not all share the same political beliefs; everyone has their own individual experiences or opinions that shape them outside of the home they grew up in. Trump and Clinton supporters alike expressed dissatisfaction with how their relationships with family members were panning out post-election.

If your household is dominated by a political opinion that is opposite from your own it can be highly stressful when all that seems to be getting discussed lately is the upcoming election. Sometimes if nothing fruitful will come of a heated debate, it is best to try and decrease discussion about political beliefs when around family or friends that disagree, even if this may mean limited dialogue for the time being. Plan and focus conversations on areas of agreement and prepare an exit strategy from stressful, negative or contentious conversations with loved ones.

young black woman and young white woman sitting next to each other while turning their faces away from each other in disagreement

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

#3: Find Coping Mechanisms That Regain Inner Power

In a situation like the election, no matter who wins there will be a large portion of people who will feel they have lost. With such a heated political climate as the present day, the average person is much more invested in politics than in previous years, and this passion can stir all forms of hopelessness and fear if the election does not result in one’s favor. However, it is vital to continue to keep your held high and turn the energy that went into voting and supporting one’s desired candidate into staying informed on current issues and engaging in forms of activism/volunteering even after the election.

These activities can motivate you and allow you to note the positive aspects from an otherwise defeating situation, as well as actually connect people directly to the causes they care about rather than supporting from the sidelines. Remember that voting for the president is only one aspect of civic engagement and there are many ways for you to continue to advocate for issues that are important to you beyond this election season.

young black woman holding up a protest sign that says "I Can't Breathe" in honor of George Floyd

Photo by Life Matters from Pexels

Dr. George James (@GeorgeTalks), Chief Innovation Officer, Senior Staff Therapist & Supervisor at Council for Relationships, Assistant Professor for the Couple and Family Therapy Program at Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of George Talks LLC.

Jamie McClelland, is a senior at Villanova University, double majoring in English and Communications with a specialization in media production.

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