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Managing Stress About the 2020 Election

Election stress is no joke. The APA shows that there is greater election stress this year than in 2016, for a variety of reasons. Tactics for staying grounded and maintaining well-being during stressful times often relate to connection — to yourself, to others or your community, and to a larger purpose and impact. Stay connected, manage stress, and cope during this election season by following some of these recommendations.

Connection to Self

Stay connected to yourself by acknowledging what you are experiencing and practicing anxiety-specific self-care. Practice mindfulness and redirect your thoughts back to mindful practices, using tools like this video. If you find yourself “doom-scrolling,” or constantly reading news or information that upsets you, pause by asking yourself what you need in that moment. Breathe through the uncertainty, and practice observing anxious thoughts. You can also utilize apps that help you with self-care, including WellTrack, which is free to Penn State students. WellTrack has a module specifically related to anxiety, in addition to a mood tracker and guided mindfulness and meditation features. Beyond self-care, you can also do activities that feel productive and meaningful to you, in addition to focusing on the Big 5 to help you stay centered: sleep, eat, exercise, routine, and connection. In the midst of your stress, try to focus on gratitude. Pause and acknowledge 2–3 things you are grateful for. You can also make it a practice by writing down 5 things per day in your phone or in a journal.

Connection to Others or Your Community

Other people in your community or circle of friends may be experiencing similar election anxiety or stress. Reach out to others with supportive messages. If you are frequently talking about the election or related topics, pay attention to which forms of debriefing help you and which don’t. Identify who is helpful to process your thoughts with and who isn’t. Also, consider healthy boundaries. You can maintain relationships with those in your life that disagree, while recognizing you don’t have to process your thoughts with them or subject yourself to certain conversations around the election at this time.

Connection to a Larger Purpose

One way you can manage your feelings around the election is by connecting with something larger than yourself. Find an organization or cause that you care about to volunteer with. Spending time not focusing on the election can be beneficial. Texas Woman’s University suggests, “Tapping into religious or spiritual practices, being in nature, playing with children or animals, or enjoying an art form (music, art gallery, theater, etc.) can support your emotional health and help you maintain perspective.”

Additionally, ensure you can engage with the election process by registering to vote. You can find more information for Penn State students and for all United States citizens.