I noticed there was a rise in stress levels the closer we approached the United States presidential election. My clients were more anxious, people around me could not stop debating who was going to win. I wondered if this rise of stress is because…well 2020 has been an interesting year so far. I thought maybe stress had been building up throughout the year because of all the uncertainty. However, according to the American Psychological Association, about 68% of adults surveyed reported the 2020 United States presidential election was a significant source of stress in their daily lives.
I thought we were entering the worst phase of the pandemic and the election was specifically identified as a significant source of stress. What made the election such a significant source of stress compared to everything that had happened this year and is still happening?
The different events that took place this year have impacted the way we cope as a society. During the pandemic, the entire world was faced with uncertainty and sudden changes. People from all around the world coped by impulsive buying, excessive social media use, spending more time with family, finding ways to stay connected, and practicing self-care. Although this pandemic is out of our control, it brought us closer together as a civilization. We lifted the lines of judgment that are engrained in us from childhood. It does not matter where you are from or what color you are, every individual is at risk of infection. We restored the lines of equality and united to help each other.
As we approached the elections, things started to look different. We were faced with yet another event eliciting uncertainty. However, this time, a line was drawn separating republicans and democrats—and tension continues to rise on both sides of the political divide. This divide changed the way Americans cope with stress. The lines of equality faded and the focus shifted from fighting with each other to fighting against each other. We stopped trying to connect and started highlighting our disconnections. We created an environment of isolation and violence became the new way of coping. This intense feeling of stress before elections was referred to as Election Stress Syndrome.
Election Stress Syndrome is not an actual medical diagnosis; it is a term referring to the feelings of extreme distress before elections. The good news is there are healthy ways to cope with it even as this transition continues. Here are three tips on how to cope with Election Stress Syndrome.
Practice self-care and make sure you are not neglecting your basic needs.
Limit your social media time and avoid excessive exposure to negative news and posts.
Plan your day. If you find yourself lost in thoughts and distracted throughout your day, having a plan makes it easier to bring yourself back to the present moment.
If you are feeling too stressed and your level of functioning is impaired, seeking therapy from a Licensed Professional Counselor can be extremely beneficial. A therapist can help you learn healthy stress management skills and provide you with tools to guide you in managing your stress levels.
Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university , Yahoo News, USA Today, Marriage.com