This year’s US presidential election is exceptional in many ways, including, apparently, the anxiety it’s causing American voters.
The American Psychological Association (APA), which is the largest psychological organization in the US, conducted their annual “Stress in America” survey and found that tension regarding the upcoming presidential election is exceedingly high. Fifty-two percent of over 3,500 adults surveyed said they felt stressed by all the politicking and campaigning leading up to the approaching election.
“We’re seeing that it doesn’t matter whether you’re registered as a Democrat or Republican—US adults say they are experiencing significant stress from the current election,” Lynn Bufka, the APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy, said in a statement. Among registered Democrats, 55% said they were anxious about the election, as did 59% of registered Republicans.
Bufka told the Washington Post that these numbers suggest stress about the election is as prominent among Americans as more permanent sources of stress, like work and money.
If you find yourself biting your nails in the days preceding Election Day, here are the APA’s sanctioned coping mechanisms to help ease your anxiety:
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 Nov. 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.
And, if all else fails, there’s always coloring books.