Election Stress Is Real, What Can You Do About It?
As someone who has been in the world of elections for 30 years, election stress has been a constant in my life and those around me. But this year it is even more stressful - https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2020/sia-mental-health-crisis.pdf
To be clear, I don’t consider myself an expert in election stress, but I have dealt with it for a long time and want to share strategies and resources. I have learned these strategies over the years from staff, friends, and professionals that I have sought advice from. Even though we are Democrats and many of the volunteer opportunities and voting information sites in this post will be Democratic, election stress crosses party lines with the election, the pandemic, and a bad economy, so here are our picks to reduce stress:
Control what you can
Voting by mail, early, or in person is one thing you can do. Take control of this election in ways you can. Sharing information with your family and friends and asking them to also vote can also help.
There are still volunteer opportunities. Whether with a campaign, Democratic party (national, state and local), IE, issue member group or non-partisan org, there are plenty of ways to help out.
Try to answer nagging questions
Too much information can be a rabbit hole. However, it’s important to get some good information about what is really happening in elections and where a candidate stands. This may mean doing your own research calling the candidate or their headquarters or searching online to get basic information. https://ballotpedia.org/Sample_Ballot_Lookup
Know where and what you need to vote
Finding your voting site are and what you need to vote can also be a reality check and a calming source for some. www.vote.org
Let history be your guide
Getting a historical perspective in an election is important. https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-10-16/american-history-trump-political-pandemic
Academics might help
Many academic models try and predict the presidency, and this year most of them predict a Biden win. https://www.thecampaignworkshop.com/blog/political-campaign/presidential-election-prediction
Also check out our podcast episode on election predictions.
Look beyond the presidential
Learn and read about local races. These are races where you can also have an important impact and many people skip them. Ask friends who they are voting for at the local level, this can help get them engaged and get you information you need. https://www.ballotready.org/
Less news is a good thing
Do we really need to watch cable news 12 hours a day? Pick your news sources and limit them. Don’t feel you need to watch everything, because you don’t. Limit your news to a block or a couple of small blocks a day and move on. https://time.com/5125894/is-reading-news-bad-for-you/
Less social media is also a good thing
Some academic studies have shown social media to have a negative impact, creating stress and depression. Take a break. Set limits.
Don’t add to others stress
Forwarding crazy rumors from the web or an article with a nutty headline that was written just to spark controversy to your friends and family is not helpful, don’t do it. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2019/07/23/four-steps-to-stop-the-spread-of-disinformation-online/
Our friend Joe Weston suggests leaving time for breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation also work well to cope with election stress. Just the simple act of shutting off your phone for five minutes and taking a deep breath can make a real difference. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/03/20/teaching-our-kids-ourselves-mindfulness-get-us-through-conronavirus-anxiety/
Find A Creative Outlet
Writing in a journal, playing guitar, painting, doing stand-up comedy all can help relieve election stress. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/300347
Adopt a pet
Want a friend in Washington? Get a dog (or a cat) I got a dog 8 years ago and it was one of the best things my family has ever done to reduce stress https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/pets-happiness1.htm
Reach out to friends, family, and people in your life who have helped you and thank them. Keep a gratitude journal. This can be a powerful tool to help you stay positive during a tough time.
Choose what to participate and what not to around election. You do not need to do everything. Don’t just “go with the flow”. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/22/tips-to-stay-focused-at-work-when-youre-overwhelmed-by-election-news.html
Take a walk, go for a run, do an online class. All of these things work in both the short and long term. A plan of walking 10,000 steps a day can do wonders. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax
Read a book
No, I am not suggesting you read a book on stress relief, but reading itself makes you feel better and is a proven election stress reliever, shot off the news and break out a book. https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/reading-stress-relief#:~:text=Reading%20can%20even%20relax%20your,a%20hot%20cup%20of%20tea.
Understanding you are under stress
Just the simple acknowledgement that we are under stress can make a big difference. It allows us to talk the time to address it and work through problems.
During elections, my immediate reaction is to eat an entire bucket of chicken and maybe a pie. Don’t do this. Some green tea or dark chocolate is a better choice. Be healthy and eat healthy foods. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322652#other-foods-that-may-help
Avoid the churn of Election Day Twitter and cable news
More people are going to vote than ever before there will be issue but don’t feel the need to just watch cable news and tweet all day. Volunteer. Go for a walk, bake a bread, watch a movie read a book. Shut off the TV, don’t check Facebook and Twitter. Set times when you will do it and when you won’t on election day.
Make a plan to vote
However, you vote, whether it’s absentee, early, or on Election Day, make a plan and vote. There are a lot of options to choose the best way to vote for you, just make sure you vote.
Request the day
Ask your employer to take the pledge to let staff off on election day. https://adayfordemocracy.com/pledge-participants/#pledge
Be an advocate
Pick an issue that you like and engage in that issue for the long term.
Climate change: https://genprogress.org/take_action/be-a-climate-voter/
Racial Justice: https://act.colorofchange.org/signup/signup?source=coc_website_popup
Many companies have given folks off on election day. Here are some of our favorite opportunities:
Election Night will be long
There are a ton of races on the ballot many races will be close. Don’t expect this to be over quickly.
Results will take a while
Many state laws allow absentee votes to be post-marked on Election Day which means counting may take weeks. Do not expect that you will know election results on Election Night. That is not likely and will set you up for election stress.
There will be more elections
There will be runoffs and multiple special elections after election day. Vote. Get involved and stay involved.
There is stress now, there will also be stress after the campaign. Know that and set yourself up as best you can to deal with it.
Control what you can
Do what you can do, don’t worry about what you can’t control. Are there things you can do now like make 10 more calls, finalize a phone bank, or write a speech? Make a list of the things you can do now and do them.
Make sure you have been paid and reimbursed for outstanding expenses (fill out expense reports). Check to make sure your taxes have been withheld or pay your estimated taxes now if you are an independent contractor. Make sure folks have you next address and get theirs to stay in touch.
Build your support network
Campaigns end faster than they start, make sure you build a list of people you should stay in contact with.
Get professional help
Don’t ignore the need for help. There are lots of options and it is important to take steps to fight depression. https://www.crisistextline.org/help-for-anxiety/?gclid=CjwKCAjwoc_8BRAcEiwAzJevtXbG9Y_47dNt7dicylkaPMjgcC-12LtGKz48daDEzETUQJkRZ7hVgxoCsB0QAvD_BwE
- Breathing: https://hbr.org/2020/09/research-why-breathing-is-so-effective-at-reducing-stress
- Less News: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/bjop.12389
- Social Media Stress: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2015/01/15/psychological-stress-and-social-media-use-2/
Have questions about election stress? Ask them here: