America's Election Anxiety — And How To Cope

by Myla Cruz
Historically speaking, this has been one of the most controversial elections in American history, and it’s driving legions of Americans to their therapist’s office to cope with election anxiety. “I’ve been in private practice for 30 years, and I have never seen patients have such strong reactions to an election,” Sue Elias, a Manhattan-based social worker tells The New York Times.

Americans Can't Wait for This Race to be Over

The collective mental health of the country has actually been greatly affected by the current presidential race, which comes to a close after we make our way to the polls on November 8th. Many Americans are really looking forward to getting this particular race over with, as looming anxiety surrounding the candidacy continues to set in.
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A recently-released national poll conducted by Harris Poll poll and dispersed by the American Psychological Association (APA) states that 52 percent of American adults are coping with “high levels of stress” brought on by the election, according to survey data released last week. Accordingly, therapists around the country shared in interviews that patients are coming to appointments bringing forth genuine horror, dismay and anxiety all surrounding the upcoming November election with Republicans and Democrats both sharing in the uneasy feelings.

The Election is 'A Major Source of Stress'

According to the APA, 55 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republicans say the election is a major source of stress for them. “People seem to be getting more worried every day,” explains Elaine Ducharme, a licensed clinical psychologist in Glastonbury, Conn.
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Additionally, aside from the personal worries brought about by what each each candidate represents, the election is causing palpable rifts among families. “It’s like the Civil War,” says Ms. Elias in the aforementioned New York Times piece. “I have never seen an election cause this level of conflict.”
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This Race has Triggered Deep Feelings of Discomfort

Unfortunately for women observing the election, this race has triggered deep feelings of discomfort particularly in regards to those who have suffered sexual assault. According to Ms. Elias, after the second debate, “many of my female patients came in and wanted to talk about Trump.” She explains that some patients came in needing to process their own feelings of belittlement and harassment in light of the national controversies.
“Women said their hearts were racing during the debate, they were that triggered,” Ms. Elias said. “Some came in complaining of having had nightmares.”
Without a doubt, this election has been a highly unique one, especially for observers who frequently use social media. According to the APA poll, stress was highest among Americans who use social media. Some patients even admitted to obsessively checking election forecasting site FiveThirtyEight multiple times a day.

How To Cope With Election Anxiety

In terms of coping mechanisms, rather than telling yourself not to worry, doctors suggest setting aside focused time to worry and contemplate on how the election is making you feel. Going for walks, exercising regularly and spending time with friends are also sound ways to get through the stress of this election season.
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Tell us in the comments: What are you doing to keep stress levels down in light of the current election cycle? 

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