Political stress, while as American as apple pie, has changed in recent times that the classic dessert recipe has not. While some may prefer granny smith to golden delicious apples and various ratios of cinnamon and sugar we rarely hear reporting on orchard picketing or bakery protests. Perhaps a cover-up conspiracy is afoot, or perhaps apples have yet to organize an aggressive tweeting campaign.

With a presidential election looming (in less than two weeks!) that has been described as “divisive” and “the most important election ever” among many other more colorful terms, it is no surprise that a recent poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association found that 68% of adults surveyed identified this election as a significant source of stress in their life.

The stress of the election is dividing homes, workplaces and friendships. Some people are afraid of stating their political allegiances publicly while some are suspecting coworkers or neighbors of holding nefarious political opinions. These thoughts, often fostered by the press and social media outlets designed to earn clicks and advertising dollars above all else, provide no service to our emotional and mental health.

Election stress can tear us apart if we allow, but fortunately we don’t have to allow it do so.  Among the stressful factors at play are uncertainty, lack of control and social division. We may worry that our deeply held convictions are not shared or respected by those we love and associate with.

While there are no definitive or immediate solutions to election stress or the issues facing our country, we can focus on particular habits that can help us endure these divisive times.

  • First, identify what you cannot control. Please note that you likely cannot control the vote of your coworker, neighbor, spouse or loved one. Rather, you can control small decisions in your life, such as showing kindness (even a feint smile or wave of the hand) to those with whom you disagree.
  • You can also control your media consumption. Increased media consumption has been linked to increased stress across multiple studies on multiple issues. Bottom line, if you want to be happier, turn off the TV, Twitter, Facebook, etc… At least for a period of time and notice how your stress is affected by your media consumption.
  • Give your time and energy to the people and activities that matter most to you. Whatever happens on November 3rd, your world will continue. Focus on the person you want to be post-election and act in that direction now.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, avoid all-or-none thinking. Just because someone disagrees with you does not make them a bad person. This may make more sense when we think about it from the other direction, “Just because I disagree with you does not make me a bad person”… See the good in the other person – perhaps they are great parents, or give freely of their time or money, maybe they mowed your lawn a long time ago. Their vote does not diminish their humanity, but in voting we are simply expressing our views, a shared goal and commitment regardless of our disagreements.

Political and election stress is a common issue in the therapy setting. The highly trained and understanding professionals at Orleans Psychological Services leave whatever political affiliations they may have at the door and treat each person as a person with inherent dignity. If election stress is getting to you and your family, contact us today. Dr. Barbara Warren, Sarah O’Donnell, LISW, PMH-C and Dr. Tim Luis are for help.