Election Day Stress

How are you handling the stress leading up to the election? According to a poll released on October 7th by the American Psychological Association, almost 70% of Americans find the coming election a significant source of stress….and that was three weeks ago!

I’ve noticed more jolts of excitement, fear, and even panic in myself and my patients this past week and the mash-up of election anxiety and Halloween costumes seems to continue the strange experiences of 2020. 

Interestingly, a study during the 2008 election found that on election night, levels of the stress hormone cortisol spiked for voters who supported the losing candidate, while there was no spike for the winner. 

But how bad is one night of cortisol spiking? The real challenge is dealing with chronic stressors that lead to inflammation, illness, and mental health challenges. Win or lose, this winter will be difficult… (stay tuned, I’ll be sharing more on beating winter depression next week). 

To help with election anxiety, here are some ideas, and a little research, that I hope will help make the next few days a little more manageable for you:

  1. Plan to Feed Your Brain – It’s hard to make decisions about food during emotional times. Take some time to simplify your decisions by stocking the kitchen with fresh snacks like raw nuts, guacamole, and hummus as well as soups and broths that are easy to digest if you are feeling really anxious.

  2. Take a break! Some of us may choose to deal with our anxiety by constantly checking the news and results. It makes sense, but make sure to carve out part of your day to do something else. If you have the day off, use it to do more than watch results and vote if you can. Enjoy nature, take a bath, make a nice meal, get on a call with friends or family. Take care of yourself.

  3. Keep your routine steady in unsteady times. Channel anxiety into self-care, like exercise and good sleep. I try to do walks in nature daily. I also recently added a sleep tracker to my routine and it’s helped me really get my sleep game on track. 

  4. Get support – From a therapist, family member, friend, your religious or spiritual community, nature… there are lots of options. Make sure you have someone to connect with during this time. Stress can cause us to isolate and keep us from getting the support and connections we need to feel our best.

Got Election Mental Health questions?

Ask me live on Men’s Health Magazine IG Live tomorrow at 1:30pm ET for our Ask Us Anything Friday Sessions. And if you’d like some more election day tips, you can check out this piece I contributed to, along with other mental health clinicians like my colleague, Greg Brown.

Drew Ramsey, MD

Drew Ramsey, M.D. is a psychiatrist, author, and farmer. He is a clear voice in the mental health conversation and one of psychiatry’s leading proponents of using nutritional interventions. He is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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