Nearly 70 percent of Americans say that the 2020 presidential election is cause for a significant level of stress, according to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America 2020 report.
“We have noticed a significant surge in the frequency of our therapy clients expressing distress related to the upcoming election, and the trend has been true of stress surrounding political issues in general over the past several years,” Afton Kapuscinski, a psychology professor at Syracuse University, said.
There are two themes that surpass partisan lines for this stress, Kapuscinski said.
The first being that people are concerned over their personal rights and safety, noting that they believe the election will impact the COVID-19 infection rate, racial tensions, health care and religious freedoms.
The second is that interpersonal discord that happens when people have political disagreements with friends and family.
This election is already impacting people’s mental health and causing them stress, Kevin Antshel, a psychology professor at Syracuse University, said.
The stressors and disruptions of daily routines because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the contentious races at the national and local levels, and the overuse of social media contribute to the negative mental health of Americans during this election, he said.
“A good place to start is to self-monitor the amount of exposure to political content a person has daily and the resultant emotions that they have after viewing the content,” Antshel said. “If high levels of negative emotions (anger, frustration, anxiety) are coupled with this content, consider cutting back on the exposure.”
To help combat these stressors, he said it’s important to maintain a routine, eat a healthy diet, rely on your social support systems, and practice good sleep hygiene in the days leading up to the election.
In addition, because of the pandemic, Antshel encourages people to come up with a voting plan that’s best for them.
“People need to ask themselves what level they’re comfortable with, the election itself is creating a lot of stress, you don’t want the voting process to add additional stress,” he said.
After November 3, there will be people who feel disappointed and distraught if their chosen candidate doesn’t win.
In that case, Antshel said it is important to understand that emotions are typical and valid, and rely on social support systems to talk through the disappointment about the candidate you voted for losing and next steps.