I guess it’s only fitting that the year that started with Australian wildfires, took a hard turn into a once in a century pandemic, veered into massive social unrest, and is having a record hurricane season also includes the most contentious Presidential election in living memory. Regardless of what side you’re on – liberal or conservative, left or right, Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or Green party – it’s hard to argue that this election is anything other than massively stressful. With the official election two days away, the campaigns already gearing up for legal challenges, and the media offering dire predictions of corruption and more social unrest, there’s a lot of additional stress in this already intolerable year.
To my US readers, and anyone else who’s concerned about the outcome, I urge you to do your best to just stay calm. Here’s how:
Manage your Media Consumption
Modern media, be it conservative or liberal or even fairly non-partisan, thrives off amplifying the worst news, because bad news gets views. This can, very easily, create the impression that everything is on fire all the time.
Shockingly, that can lead to feeling more than a little stressed out.
It’s also becoming harder and harder to avoid. When scrolling through social media, it’s almost inevitable that you will see some post or another with a newly apocalyptic prediction for the election. This will undoubtedly get worse on Tuesday, as polling numbers start coming in.
So you need to self-regulate your consumption. Check the news only as much as you absolutely need to, and the moment you start feeling stressed, step away. Don’t fall prey to doomscrolling, where you are endlessly flicking through the bad news and winding yourself up. If your feed is completely overwhelmed, turn off the app, or even uninstall it temporarily. I’ve been a politics and media junkie since I was teenager, and even I’m going to take it easy on election day.
If you find that you just can’t stay away, seek a balanced perspective instead of relying solely on partisan media (see this earlier post for more on that).
Occupy your Mind
Sometimes, though, we don’t need external influences to get spun up. It’s easy to become your own personal Cassandra, prophesying doom and feeling like no one listens. As the results come in, and things start getting more heated, you’re going to be increasingly tempted to make your own doom scenarios even if the news supports your desired outcome.
So keep your mind busy. Do something to distract yourself. Sure, you can stress about the latest election results, but you stressing about it is going to have zero actual impact. On the other hand, what about those projects you’ve been putting off, like cleaning your closet or sorting your bookshelf or whatever? Those will make you feel less stressed, give you a task you can accomplish, and have exactly the same impact on the election. Reading a book, watching a movie, or having a conversation about something non-political will also help you maintain calm.
Avoid Discussing Politics
Speaking of things that won’t impact the election, endlessly discussing it won’t change the result, but has a good chance of changing your stress level (and not for the better). This is true whether or not the person you’re speaking with agrees or disagrees with your point of view. If they agree, then the best case scenario is that you share your thoughts and that’s it. However, there’s a good chance that the conversation will devolve into a negative thought feedback loop as you share fatalistic predictions (trust me, I know). At this point, it’s very likely that these conversations will jump straight to doom and gloom.
And that’s with someone who agrees with you. If you’re on opposite sides at this highly charged time, there’s a good chance that your conversation could start to feel like you’re trapped in a website comments section. Your best case is respectful disagreement, but that’s become increasingly rare in 2020. Most likely, you’re going to find yourself in an argument.
That’s not to say you should avoid discussing it at all. However, limit your discussions to people with whom you know you can peacefully talk politics (see this post for more on navigating these conversations). Also, don’t be afraid to end the discussion if you feel yourself starting to stress. Practice saying something like this: “With everything going on this year, I only have so much bandwidth for politics. Can we change the subject?” It’s polite, it’s respectful, and it’s hard to argue because you are just saying “I don’t want to discuss this,” without doing anything that makes the other party feel attacked.
Please make sure that you do the one thing that can influence the outcome: VOTE. If you’ve already voted (absentee, early in person, etc.), great. If not, be sure to get to the polls on Tuesday. While it might take a while to know the final outcome of this election, the best thing we can do is stay calm and be patient. It’ll be ok.