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Election Stress: Tips to Manage Anxious Feelings About Politics

By Lauren Krouse

If you’re grappling with election stress, you are not alone. A national survey suggests that more than 60% of registered voters in the U.S. say politics are a significant source of stress, and some even say they’ve lost sleep over it. Over 25% of voters also say politics have sparked conflict among their family and friends. 

Your political anxiety likely has to do with a lot more than Election Day itself. It’s about the news headlines and social media posts about the increased cost of living, climate change, and gun violence. It’s the decreased protections for LGBTQIA+ youth, youth of color, and other marginalized groups in the U.S. It’s the uncertainty you’re likely feeling after the pandemic gave way to increased loneliness and mental health challenges.

When you’re surrounded by so much uncertainty, it’s common to seek control anywhere you can find it — whether it’s by staying up to date on the news or trying to convince your loved ones to vote a certain way. But upsetting news and unproductive conversations can be exhausting and sometimes lead to even more stress.

Political stress, political anxiety, or even anger you may feel over politics can be hard to cope with, but you don’t have to carry it alone. With a few strategies and some support, you can begin to feel better, regain a sense of agency, and channel your energy into taking care of yourself and — if it feels right for you — taking action.

Use these tips to navigate election stress and safeguard your mental health during election season and beyond.  

Expect the Need for More Self-Care

Take a moment to identify your biggest sources of political stress. Maybe it’s tough family conversations, concerns about legislation, the fear of the candidate you dislike becoming president, or all of the above. 

Recognize when this stress is set off: Does it bubble up when you have difficult conversations, scroll through TikTok, or watch the news? Reflect on the triggers and come up with specific self-care activities that can help you manage the stress. For example, suppose election content on social media is the most stressful to you. You may follow up with a self-care activity such as reading or FaceTiming a friend, and setting social media boundaries, such as unfollowing overly negative accounts or setting screentime limits.

Take Space From Your Negative Emotions

An effective way to cope with negative feelings about the election is to acknowledge them, process them, and set them aside — but it takes practice. 

Here’s one way to do it: When you feel carried away by anxiety or dread, take a moment to fully accept your feelings. You might say out loud, “I am feeling the anxiety, and letting it go.” You could also take a few minutes to write about how you’re feeling, and then direct your attention to something neutral, such as focusing on your breath or going on a walk. 

Practice Mindfulness

Election stress has a way of pulling your attention into the future. When you find yourself worrying over events you can’t control or predict, use mindfulness to bring your awareness to the present. Engage your senses to ground yourself in the here and now. Ask yourself what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel to recenter your focus. 

Take Screen Breaks

Using distractions such as funny videos or social media to cope with election stress is common and OK in moderation, but it provides only short-term relief. Instead, disengage from stressors by creating phone-free periods or using apps to limit screen time. Feel empowered to start small. Try scheduling a midday walk without your phone, stepping away when your phone is on the charger, or doing a phone-free workout. You could also spend time in nature, going for a hike or playing with a pet.

Learn more about setting boundaries and protecting your mental health when you use social media.

Give Yourself Compassion

During election season, you may find yourself doomscrolling, lashing out at someone you disagree with, or just feeling drained. That’s where self-compassion — treating yourself with kindness and patience — comes in handy. 

It’s a three-part process: 

  • Be kind to yourself rather than criticizing yourself. If you catch yourself judging yourself, try to think one positive or neutral thing too.
  • Recognize that you’re not alone and others struggle with similar challenges. Talk to a friend or family member for support. You may learn they’re going through the same thing.
  • Ask yourself what you need to feel better. And then make a plan to do it.

Take Action to Feel Better This Election Season

One of the biggest sources of election stress is the feeling that you cannot control so many things — how your loved ones vote, whether your candidate wins, which laws get passed. Taking action can help you feel better. 

To get involved, you can:

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If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.