There seems to be a new sense of urgency with this election. The majority of voters aren’t happy with the way things have been going, and want a positive change; on this, both sides seem to agree. (In fact, 85% of us believe that the country is currently on the wrong track.) Both sides also seem to agree on something else: They really want their guy to win. For a while, I thought it may only be the people I encounter who were especially passionate, but a series of polls I read about in the New York Times confirms it: More voters this year are not only passionately rooting for their candidate, but are actually stressing over the prospect of the other guy winning. (More specifically, roughly half of each candidate’s supporters say that they are ‘scared’ of the prospect of the other candidate becoming president.) This, not surprisingly, can lead to added internal stress and conflict within offices and among friends and family. Clearly, this election is important to all of us.
But one thing is certain: There will be only one winner. How does one deal with the stress of their candidate losing? How does one get through the stress of the next few days while waiting for the election to take place? Here are a few ideas to get you through:
Set BoundariesWith the 24-hour news channels and websites so easily accessible, many people are feeling bombarded with information about the election, and find themselves following daily polls and every twist and turn of this already-intense election. While this can be exciting at first, many people are exhausted emotionally and don’t realize how much they need a break from the drama. If you feel a little overwhelmed, try to limit your news exposure, or go on a ‘news fast’ for a few days, to give yourself a break. While you’re lessening your exposure to election news, you may want to expose yourself to new scenery that reduces stress: Take a walk with your family in the evening, go to an exercise class (exercise is a great stress reliever), or try some guided imagery for a change of scene. You’ll be glad you did.
Do SomethingPeople have already been volunteering and getting involved with the political campaigns in high numbers. If you’re stressing over the election and feel powerless to make your voice heard, you can channel some of that nervous energy into action by volunteering either for your candidate’s campaign or for a worthy cause that’s important to you. Doing something with your stressed energy can help you deal with your anxiety, give you a sense of control (read here about the benefits of gaining an internal locus of control), and take your mind off the stress of the possibility of your candidate not winning.
Change Your FocusWhile we all have the power to vote, and perhaps to influence other voters by volunteering for our candidate, no one person has the power to change the election. As with other situations where you experience anxiety but have no power to directly change your circumstances, one thing you can do to reduce stress is to change our outlook. While you don’t have to vote for the other candidate or be enthusiastic about the prospect of him winning, you can reduce the anxiety you feel about the situation by changing what you focus on.
Let’s face it: Both parties have run some negative ads. They’ve also run positive ones. Many voters have remained undecided for quite a while, so this all points to the obvious: There are positives and negatives with both candidates. If you’re one of those who are really stressing over the thought of the other candidate winning, it may help to acquaint yourself with some of the positive attributes of the other candidate and find at least one thing that you can get on board with. (I have yet to meet someone who agreed or disagreed 100% with any candidate.) If you try to avoid partisan outlets discussing the horror of the other candidate, and try to find some common ground with each candidate (either now or after the election, if it doesn’t go your way), you can likely reduce the stress of waiting for this election. (See this article for more on changing your perspective with cognitive restructuring.)
Getting in political conflicts with co-workers or friends? Just feeling stressed in general? See page 2 for more ways to reduce the stress of the election.