How to Deal with Post-Election Anxiety and Depression

The 2020 election was arguably the most consequential and stressful one of our lifetime—and as of this morning, we’re still in the throes of it. No matter which candidate you voted for or your current outlook as the numbers come in, here’s a friendly reminder of  the importance of self-care, especially during these uncertain times. 

DEPRESSION AND THE ELECTION: WHY THIS YEAR IS DIFFERENT

Between a global pandemic, global lockdowns, violent protests, tense race relations, police brutality, health disparities, etc, this year has been rough and the political environment has only exasperated many of these things. According to the Maple Counseling Center, more than half of Americans say their mental health is suffering as a result of the election. An APA survey reported that 56 percent of Americans identify the 2020 election as a significant stressor. If you’re reading this article, it’s likely you fall into this camp, and hopefully you find solace in the fact that you’re certainly not alone. Here, some tips for coping with post-election anxiety and depression.

CHANNEL YOUR ELECTION ANXIETY INTO SOMETHING CONSTRUCTIVE

In the weeks, months and even years following the election, it’s important to remember your hobbies, passions, and interests outside of the political rabbithole we find ourselves in every fourth November. It’s understandable to be deeply concerned about politics and how those in office affect our lives and our fellow citizens, but it isn’t healthy when it becomes all consuming for too long. Sometimes, all you need to discharge stress, anxiety, depression, is to feel like you’re making a difference. Consider making a donation to causes they believe in or volunteering time with an organization you support—even when the election ends, no matter who is declared the winner, we still have so much work to do. Outside of that, remember it’s OK (and encouraged!) to take breaks to read a book, walk in nature, spend time with loved ones, or whatever else lights you up. 

MONITOR HOW MUCH NEWS YOU CONSUME

News cycle fatigue is a real thing right now, especially when many of us are glued to our screens while working from home and Zooming with friends and family. It might be wise to actively monitor how much news you are consuming and how that might be affecting your mental and physical well-being. Constant exposure to tragedy, political upheaval, and other negative stories can exacerbate feelings of anxiety, insomnia, depression, and trauma. 

In addition to limiting news intake, remember the importance of trustworthy, unbiased news. If you find you’re getting confused or worried while flipping the channels, consider using fact-checking resources like FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.

SET BOUNDARIES AROUND POLITICAL CONVERSATIONS

Being bombarded by political conversation, whether at work or at home, can be very stressful and frustrating for many of us. Right now, as everything is still uncertain but votes are already cast, it’s probably best to avoid conversations with those you know have very different views from your own—not much constructive conversation is likely to happen just yet. Try to keep political conversation light, and to notice when discussion turns into an argument or begins to cause you mental or physical distress. In preparation for when you may not be able to avoid these conversations—like the holidays—here are some pointers for how to deal with political discussions with family and friends:

– Choose the right time to have these discussions—around the Thanksgiving table is probably not the best time to ask everyone how they’re feeling about the election results. 

– How to control your temper and keep things from getting out of hand: You know yourself best; if you’re feeling particularly vulnerable or charged, it’s likely not a good time to start a conversation around politics. If you know one of these conversations is imminent, consider a brief meditation or even a few deep breaths or stretches before you engage. If it starts to feel heated, it’s always acceptable to say that you no longer feel like the conversation is constructive and you think it’s best to press pause and walk away. 

– How to constructively focus the conversation: Before engaging in a conversation about politics, ask yourself what you want to accomplish or achieve with the conversation and the person you’re speaking with. Is there something you’re genuinely curious about and can discuss without getting heated or defensive? Remember that it’s too late for someone to change their vote in 2020, and if you want to convince someone of why they should think or feel a certain way, the weeks following an election are not the best time for that. Change happens over time, and if the way someone voted hurt you in some way, it may be best to leave that conversation for once the dust has settled. 

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP

Even if you’re cautiously approaching political conversations with certain people, you don’t have to keep your feelings all to yourself. No matter how you’re feeling, there is someone else (or, half the country!) that feels the same way you do. You are not alone and that it’s healthy to talk to someone about how the political environment is affecting our personal lives. Whether it be friends/family or a professional, it’s important to communicate your feelings and reach out when you need to. It’s so critical that we work to destigmatize therapy, especially in times like these when therapists can be so crucial to unpacking feelings of trauma, which a non-professional may not be properly equipped to do.

TAKE SOME TIME FOR YOURSELF

Lastly, remember to carve out time for yourself during the days, weeks, months following the election. Look for ways you can unwind by doing things they enjoy and spending quality time with the people they care about. Consider doing something creative (i.e, writing, painting, dancing, cooking), exploring a new hobby, meditation, taking time off work, traveling (while keeping COVID and quarantine in mind), reconnecting with old friends, and exercising as places to get started.

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