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Finding Ways To Cope With ‘Election Stress Disorder’

Photo: Lawrence Lease

All that negative campaigning, endless advertisements and disagreements with your friends, co-workers and even family members over this or that candidate can lead up to a lot of stress. There’s even a name for it: Election Stress Disorder.

The election is about to be decided – finally. The runup to the final decision has been incredibly stressful, but it’s possible to breathe deeply as the results come in.

The endless news cycle. The posts on social media. Months of mailers attacking candidates. Even signs that have peppered your neighbor’s yard, that you haven’t agreed with have been putting a lot of people on edge.

It’s been nearly impossible to get away from it.

Mix that with a global coronavirus pandemic and heated debates over race, and this mass of stress we are experiencing feels like it has reached a crescendo.

There’s even a name for it: Election Stress Disorder.

Kristin Kosyluk is an assistant professor in the Department of Mental Health Law & Policy at the University of South Florida.

“If you watched the debate, you saw the moderator having to step in and try to get the candidates to abide by the terms that they agreed to in that debate,” she said. “And anytime we have uncertainty in our leadership – when we’re seeing those types of behaviors – I think that’s going to lead to heightened anxiety.”

A survey by the American Psychological Association after the last presidential election found that 57 percent of Americans said they were stressed by politics. Nearly two out of three said the future of the nation was a cause of stress for them.

Kosyluk says negative campaigning makes it seem like it’s “us” versus “them.” And if a group perceives it is going to be the target of discrimination, their anxiety is going to shoot way up.


Dr. Kristin Kosyluk. Image: Zoom

That’s definitely the case this year for Black Americans – with topics like white nationalism and Black Lives Matter dominating political conversation. Kosyluk says nearly three of every four Black Americans say they’re totally stressed out.

“If indeed they are thinking that the results of the election could result in a candidate that is not going to denounce white supremacist groups, for example,” she said, “then there is a great deal of fear that may come along with that.”

And it can get much more personal.

Spouses, significant others and other relatives may have been brandishing political swords in your own home.

“We’re seeing huge fissures in families as a result of differing political views. And I think it’s heightened in this election, moreso than it has in other election years,” she said. ”

So what can we do to cope with all this, rather than hiding under a rock until the votes are – finally – counted?

“Well, you know, vote,” Kosyluk said. “Because it’s your right. And it gives you a sense of agency and control, in what otherwise might fell like a really an uncontrolled time, where you have no control.”

As the results roll in, stop obsessing over every social media post. Maybe even limit the amount of news you’re subjected to. Staring at the results, Kosyluk says, will do nothing but send your blood pressure up.

“Practicing mindfulness,” she said, “and just realizing that we’re going to be OK, no matter what happens.”

That, and we can all take a step back. And breathe.



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