We may all have our differences, but we are united in the agreement that we are living in an unprecedented era. It doesn’t matter what direction you turn, chaos is everywhere. But the craziest aspect of our modern life, especially as Americans, seems to be politics. Regardless of where you identify on the spectrum from right to left — our political reality is bewildering.
With the incredibly near 2020 Election, political tension and stress are at an all-time high. It’s nearly impossible to keep up with the candidates’ drama, or even understand how we got into such extremity in the first place.
All of this is to say that if you’re feeling extremely stressed, and even panicked, about the upcoming election — we hear you and we feel you. You’re not alone. In fact, recent research has shown that more than two-thirds of Americans say that the upcoming election is a major cause of stress in their lives. Election mental health is a real present-day concern.
The thing is — regardless of what’s going on politically: we need our sanity. We need our health. Health and sanity may be feeling like a distant dream at this point, but this blog is here to tell you that well being is a reality, even amidst chaos. In this blog, we’ll talk about some ways to address election mental health.
Politics And Your Mental Health
Before we talk about strategies to get grounded in an atmosphere of political chaos, we might ask ourselves how politics or the upcoming election can affect us so much in the first place. Why is our mental health so vulnerable to political instability?
Generally speaking, politics are related to our identity — how we see ourselves and our place in the world. Politics symbolize our personal values and the things we care about. When the political boat gets rocked — so does our identity.
What’s unique about this time leading up to the 2020 Election is that, of course, wild politics aren’t the only factor influencing our mental health. The coronavirus pandemic has sent a current of massive change through everyone’s lives, through everyone’s “normal,” leaving us remotely foundationless.
On top of COVID, we are seeing consequences of global warming, a massive social justice movement, economic instability, and the list could go on. All of these circumstances leave any healthy individual in a vulnerable state. Election mental health is the cherry on top of a genuinely challenging era.
More specifically related to politics, our mental being is especially challenged because of the chasm between liberal and conservative parties, which has been drastically changing in the recent past. More than ever, our identities are wrapped up in political parties that are growing further apart. And what this means is that politics now feel personal.
It doesn’t have to be this way, and if we’re going to move forward to create a more positive world, it’s time to learn how to take our well-being into our own hands. Through some accessible practices, we can root ourselves in a sense of a healthy identity that is not threatened by political instability.
How To Stay Calm Within Political Chaos
1. Learn about and practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment. At the end of the day, all we have is the present moment. We can not live in the past nor future. We can only live fully in the moment that is unfolding right here and now.
All of us are experiencing stress about the 2020 Election. We find ourselves fretting over potentialities, over the endless “what if” questions that threaten our fate and happiness. But all of our thoughts about the election are actually future-based. They’re entirely hypothetical and have no basis in reality because that reality has not yet unfolded.
Our mind will tell us to continue thinking these thoughts because it somehow keeps us prepared for what is to come. But actually, these future-based thoughts only create anxiety. We will always have something to worry about politically if we look for it.
Mindfulness teaches us the power of living fully in the moment. When we anchor our attention on the present moment, we will see that none of our problems actually exist around us. Our stress only exists in the dimension of our mind. This practice trains us to entertain the thoughts that are relevant, that are hinging on the now, versus wondering how the future will look.
When it comes to applying mindfulness to political chaos, to election mental health, we simply ask ourselves — what can I do right now? We do what can be done in the moment, and then let our minds rest.
There are so many mindfulness practices to try when you feel ready. You can work with a therapist to incorporate mindfulness into your lifestyle, or you can simply practice it right now. It’s ultimately a very simple practice — attention on the present moment: that’s it.
2. Monitor your media consumption.
Can you imagine what your life would be like right now if you weren’t constantly blasted by the news and social media?
Political chaos makes its home on media platforms. The extent to which we hang out on social media is the extent to which we will be exposed to politics and the election drama. Of course, there is an importance and responsibility in staying informed. But it’s a fine line between staying informed and overwhelm.
Media has a way of capturing our attention — and holding onto it for too long. The media actually plays on our brain chemistry and fear chemicals, keeping us addicted and hooked. In this day and age, it is absolutely imperative that we cultivate a healthy relationship with media of all kinds.
What does your relationship look like with the news? How about social media? Are you checking headlines before you’re out of bed in the morning? How many hours are you scrolling per day? These questions are so key in determining your election mental health.
Limiting our media consumption is one of the most effective ways to increase your calm-factor amidst political craziness. We limit our consumption by setting boundaries for ourselves and then adhering to those boundaries. It’s a smart idea to create some accountability for yourself as well, which can come from the support of a therapist or someone you love.
3. Cultivate your support system.
In our culture, we’ve been taught that asking for help is weak. The social narrative is such that we should figure it all out ourselves. But humans are a communal species — we thrive together. Reaching out for a little support is necessary when we’re navgiating any kind of challenge.
And as we’ve covered – there’s excessive challenge right now. The kind of stress, anxiety, and even trauma that is activated because of politics and the upcoming election is intense and very real. A support system of some kind is truly a necessity in moving through the election with our mental health in tact.
A support system is essentially a person or group of people that you can confide in when you’re feeling vulnerable, when your cup is overflowing, and when you need advice. Stressors like this election can get our anxiety going in a way that traps us in our head. A support system is like the much welcomed exit door.
When stress and anxiety truly impair your health and wellbeing, it can be helpful to consider working with a therapist. There has never been a more relevant time for therapy work.
As discussed before, the politcal climate is so challenging because it threatens our sense of identity. Therapy helps you cultivate a solid sense of identity that cannot be knocked by current events. It may be hard to believe, but with the right intention, 2020 can be the year where you learned more about yourself than ever before.
4. Control the controllables.
This year has been so challenging because we have realized how little control we actually have. The noise and drama of the political atmosphere and upcoming election have us all feeling a little powerless.
In times of chaos, we feel out of control. But we have to ask ourselves, are we fretting about things that we actually have control over in the first place? The idea of “control the controllables” asks us to examine what we can change in the moment.
When we think about the upcoming election and mental health, what are the controllables? First off — we can vote. This is a hugely important piece of feeling like we’re in control. If we want to feel like we’re partaking in the political environment even more, we might support a campaign or find other ways to spread awareness in the community.
We can also control our own inner state, our perspective, and mood. This may be easier said than done, but these are controllables.
What we can’t control are other people and their opinions. We can choose to share our thoughts, but we cannot choose how they will be received. So much political stress comes from our own family and friends and differences of opinions. But we must consider, how would that change if we truly realized we can’t control anybody else?
This Too Shall Pass
There are many approaches that you can take to cultivate a sense of calm in the middle of this storm. But it’s also okay if you don’t feel okay. It’s okay to have day-after-day of challenge, endurance, and confusion. Sometimes all we need to shift the mindset is the permission to be exactly as we are.
It’s fascinating to consider that in two or three years, we’ll be able to look back on this time with much more clarity. Eventually, this mad political time will pass. The election will end and we will carry through.
No one knows what is on the other side of this election and political madness. But what we do know is that time will move us forward regardless. When we are overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But it is there, for a fact.
Instead of worrying about how long that tunnel is, and how smooth of a ride it will be — what if we just focused on our own health and wellbeing? What if we did our best to make a difference in the world?
The upcoming election is a momentous event in our society, but we can only take things one day at a time. What can you do today to feel calm, and to inspire someone else to feel the same?
We are always here for your journey, no matter what that looks like! If you’d like to discuss how our clinic can support you in your election mental health and staying grounded in these wild times, please reach out! We look forward to learning more about you.