Nov 4, 2020
By Joe Grasso, PhD
Regardless of your candidate of choice and the outcome of the national election, people across the United States have experienced plenty of disruption, angst, and stress this election season. With a barrage of contentious dialogue from across the political spectrum, concerns about election security, and COVID-19 spikes, it can be hard not to feel tired or hopeless at times. This election season amid a global pandemic has been a turbulent and often overwhelming time for our country, and the journey is by no means over.
To protect your mental health both pre- and post-election, it’s important to take time to consider your feelings about the state of the world, and to better understand why you may be experiencing a range of emotions right now. So what can you do to combat cynicism and process your feelings about the pending election results?
It’s easy to catastrophize and slip into a thinking trap–a negative thought pattern that prevents you from seeing things clearly and rationally. But as chaotic as the national election and other events of 2020 have been, it’s still possible to find reasons to hope for a better future. Great strides have been made towards developing a vaccine for the coronavirus. Millions of people have rediscovered beloved old hobbies during lockdowns. Attention and resources to combat racial injustice are on the rise. And while these positive developments may seem small in the grand scheme of things, it’s important to focus on the reasons for hope we do have, and to proactively seek out positive news to fuel much-needed resilience and motivation.
Take a moment to remember past instances where people have come together to make progress on a difficult issue. When have the efforts of a group actively changed a nation’s circumstances? This can be seen in elections across the world, civil rights movements, the eradication of diseases, and more. Keep in mind that the world has been through dark times before, and emerged stronger than before. This doesn’t minimize our current problems or the complexity of solutions required to solve them, but it does remind us that through our voices and our actions, we can affect change
This is similar to the idea of finding reasons for hope and optimism, but involves actively countering the narrative that’s fueling your cynicism with new, additional information. If quick facts on social media and memeified news sources are making you feel overwhelmed with negativity and skepticism, try just sticking to reputable, reliable outlets and limiting your overall news consumption, instead of endlessly scrolling through your social media feeds. Learn more about strategies to cope with election-related anxiety here.
Avoid judging yourself for feeling a certain way in the wake of the election, and remember that everyone processes emotions and change differently. While you may find yourself instinctively trying to suppress discomfort through your usual coping strategies, it’s important to approach your emotions with a sense of acceptance and awareness, and to understand that everyone’s feelings will be different.
Everyone is entitled to feelings, which aren’t good or bad, but simply exist. Sitting with your feelings may mean practicing mindfulness, or “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” to what you are currently experiencing. Validate yourself, understand that things have been difficult, and simply recognize your emotions. Doing this can help promote acceptance of your feelings, which reduces the risk of difficult emotions sticking around longer or recurring more intensely.
Continue to practice and maintain a self-care routine that prioritizes your own wellness. Be aware of how much sleep you are getting, how nutritious your diet is, and make sure that you’re maintaining connections with and getting support from loved ones.
Make time for activities that sustain you. For example, if you have a regular pre-bed meditation practice that helps you unwind before you sleep, make sure to set aside time for it rather than anxiously awaiting the latest election news updates. While it can be difficult to prioritize your health and well-being while experiencing strong emotions, engaging in activities that will help you feel better is crucial in processing and ultimately soothing yourself.
While it may seem like diligently keeping up with current events is your civic duty, the last year has made it increasingly overwhelming to do so. It’s important to know that you can draw boundaries for yourself related to news consumption, and that doing so does not make you a less responsible member of society. 2020 hasn’t been easy for anyone. As it comes to a close, it’s a good idea to prioritize self-care, and take active steps to preserve your mental health.
If you want help connecting with a therapist, Lyra can assist you. You can get started today if Lyra is offered by your employer. Sign up here.
DISCLAIMER: The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joe Grasso, PhD, is the Clinical Director of Partnerships at Lyra Health and a licensed clinical psychologist. Dr. Grasso consults with employers on mental health initiatives in the workplace and leads the development and delivery of Lyra’s educational content. He also specializes in developing, evaluating, and disseminating evidence-based behavioral health care programs.