I, like all Americans, have reached a saturation point. A point where I just can’t. Not anymore. I can’t see their faces. I can’t utter the name Trump, nor any word that begins with ‘trump,’ like trumpet. And despite my feelings about him and what he stands for, this is really not about him. I don’t want to be reminded of anything that vaguely looks or sounds like Hillary Clinton; like Bill or Chelsea. This has arguably been the ugliest, most contentious, vile, uncivil, unfocused, and damaging election in modern US history. But that’s not the problem. Print, video and social medias have inundated us with the rollercoastery 2016 Presidential election for well over the last year and a half. And we just can’t take anymore. Many of us are keenly aware of the fact that there is so much at stake. The future is at stake. This is an Animal Kingdom fight to the death type of scenario, or so it seems.
So how do we survive what many mental health professionals have dubbed Election Stress Syndrome? While not a true clinical diagnosis, it describes the cluster of symptoms that many are experiencing as a result of the drama and trauma of the approaching 2016 Presidential vote. Feelings of worry, stress and fear, difficulty making decisions because of unease about financial markets or job situations, impaired sleep, gastrointestinal issues. All fight or flight parasympathetic responses to the fact that our brains see our futures in jeopardy. And how about getting into heated debates or full-blown arguments, irritability, anger, or God forbid aggression? How is one to survive over the next few days with sanity intact?
- Limit your exposure to elections news updates: Turn off or restrict viewing of all stations (this includes CNN, MSNBC, nightly news broadcasts, and oh yeah Fox)! If your Twitter feed and Facebook timelines are full of political memes and mentions, then you might just have to give them a break until November 9th. Silence news notifications on your smartphones.
- Try not to engage in political discussions: We all know those folks in the office who have those off-putting, uncommon, or maybe just politically divergent views and are loud and boisterous about it, right? Stay away from them (if need be), and avoid any situation that might steer you into a heated political debate. You know the old adage — the one we seem to have forgotten: the two topics to NEVER publicly discuss are religion and politics. People’s emotions are running very high. And as you’ve probably seen, the heat will only get hotter as we near Election Day.
- Try mindfulness meditation: Y’all know this is my cure-all for all things stressful! The research backs me up on this! It will quickly and effectively focus your attention from elections drama and shenanigans to yourself (like your breathing, for example), divert your attention and tune your concentration, clear your mind, and reduce anxious feelings. The app that I like to recommend to patients is Headspace, (Disclaimer: I have no proprietary interest nor receive any compensation from its developers, and am not endorsing this one specifically). There are many meditation apps available for both IOS and Android. My point is, try one if you are new to mindfulness meditation. I guarantee you that with some practice, you will see great results and can apply this to other stressful situations in your life.
- Relinquish the illusion of control: The underpinning of anxiety is fear. That is the basis of it. We fear the unknown. And so we try to tightly control the future. This is an illusion, and really, a form of denial. I am of the belief that we mere mortals have no control over anything really, save the limited control that we have over ourselves exercised as free will. And so I relinquish the belief that there is anything that can be done or said to influence the outcome of this election, because the outcome has already been written. And for those who share similar beliefs, prayer may be a way to remind yourself that the results of November 8th are well out of our hands. You will find solace, then, in praying for the will of your higher power to be done.
- Know that it will all be OK: Try having a little faith that in the end, things will work out. History teaches us that no matter what happens on November 8th, and no matter who becomes our next President, we will accept it, roll with it, and move on. Things will be different, and we know that change isn’t always easy. And this will be true no matter who wins. But in the end, let hope kick in. Have faith that things will be OK, and let us learn a very valuable lesson from all of this, lest we find ourselves in this very uncomfortable place again.
The Good Dr. Nik
Dr. Nicole M. Alford, aka ‘The Good Dr. Nik,’ is a Washington, DC-based Clinical Psychologist, Life-ologist, blogger, lecturer and compassionate activist. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook @theGoodDrNik and view her website at http://www.TheGoodDrNik.com.