How Elections Impact Mental Health

For Americans on both sides of the aisle, one thing remains true – elections, especially presidential elections, are anxiety and stress producing.  Election Stress Disorder is a real thing, and has been recognized by the APA.  In a survey conducted in 2016, 52 percent of Americans said the election “is a very or somewhat significant” source of stress in their lives.  Unrelenting media coverage, uncertainty in the future of the United States, volatile election issues, disagreements among friends and family, all coupled with an ongoing pandemic, are stressing the mental health and well-being of countless Americans.  Election Stress Disorder, often referred to as Election Anxiety, can cause sleeplessness, depression, stress, and anxiety which can lead to other issues such as high blood pressure, cardiac issues, and more.  Additionally, existing mental health conditions and mental illnesses can be exacerbated by the stress inducing election season.  Fortunately, there is a lot we can do to help ourselves and others.

What Can We Do About Election Anxiety?

There are a number of ways to improve our mental health and well-being during a stressful election year.  These include:

  1. Self-care:  Self-care is critical for our own mental health.  This includes eating right, staying physically active, sleeping enough, and maintaining mindfulness and taking time to relax.  
  2. The Company We Keep: Seek out friends, family members, and loved ones who are not consumed by the election.  Perhaps political discussions can be swapped out for enjoying music, talking about your favorite sports team, or enjoying nature.
  3. Reduce the Barrage of Information: Social media platforms can impact mental health, as can the 24-hour news cycle.  These can be a significant source of stress, and can also be eliminated without significant effort.  Turning off the TV (or limiting time watching news coverage), logging out of Facebook and Twitter, and avoiding a constant refresh of news websites can go a long way to improve your mental health and well-being.  
  4. Vote Early: Voting in an election is really the best way to impact an outcome. Early voting, when possible, can remove the stress of needing to vote, and can even be empowering. 
  5. Seek Professional Help: For those who are suffering from significant anxiety or even depression from the stress surrounding an election, getting help is critical.  Mental health care is important and speaking with mental health professionals such as those at the Granato group, can help improve mental health issues, and even improve physical health as you become more empowered to take care of yourself and reduce the stress you are experiencing. 

Ultimately, voting is critically important, and knowing what is going on in your country is important. Your mental health is also important, and you should take the steps necessary to ensure it is protected and addressed.