Strategies for Managing Election Stress

In an election year that’s shaping up to be as divisive as ever, how can people navigate their anxieties around the upcoming elections at work? Since political issues intersect with our identities, beliefs, and values, the stakes feel higher than typical conflicts. Even with the sensitivities around the political landscape, with the right tools, anyone can navigate election anxiety at work with professionalism, boundaries, and empathy.

Coping with political anxiety

It’s natural to feel stressed during election time when you’re invested in the outcomes. 

You may feel overwhelmed by constant news updates, have trouble sleeping and concentrating, and experience awkwardness or tension in your relationships. Healthy coping starts outside the office, and you can learn skills to help you feel more resilient and centered both at home and at work when your political anxiety is triggered with the tips below.

Accept your feelings

Sitting with your feelings may mean practicing mindfulness, or “paying attention on purpose” in the present moment by feeling your feelings and not judging them as good or bad. For example, if a divisive political issue comes up in a meeting, try paying attention to your body and senses to help you stay in the present moment and be less reactive. Feel your feet on the ground. Ask yourself where you feel tension. Try to relax those parts of yourself. 

Focus on what you can control

Shift your attention toward what’s manageable during election season, such as setting goals, carving out time for self-care, volunteering, and spending time with loved ones. This can lessen the stress of disagreeing with colleagues by putting your energy toward meaningful action outside of work.

Take care of yourself

Getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food, exercising, and spending time with loved ones are ways to prioritize your well-being. To combat election stress, make time for activities that sustain you. For example, if you have a regular bedtime routine that helps you unwind before you sleep, set aside time for it rather than checking news updates.

Be aware of thinking traps

Challenge negative thought patterns that can surface around fear, such as catastrophizing future scenarios and overestimating their likelihood, as well as discounting facts. When you feel yourself swirling and thinking about the “what ifs,” take a minute to notice that feeling, name it, and remind yourself that you are resilient and you have navigated challenges before.

Take a media break

“Doom scrolling” can be tempting during elections. Take a news and social media break or decrease the time you spend on news and social media.

Take care of your mental health

Prioritize self-care strategies like regular breaks, mindfulness, and getting support from mental health coaches and therapists to help you manage election anxiety.

Dealing with co-worker conflict during elections

Varied political opinions and heightened emotions can strain work relationships. Here are some ways to stay centered when interactions are charged by political anxiety.

Keep the focus on work

Concentrate on work-related tasks like setting goals and completing assignments. When politics comes up, steer the conversation toward work-related topics by asking a relevant question, such as “Oh, I’ve been meaning to ask you, how are we progressing on the Smith project? Do you need any help?” This helps your teammates focus on work and minimizes distractions.

Hold boundaries

You can’t control other people, but you can set limits that support your well-being. For example, if a coworker is trying to discuss politics, tell them that you prefer to keep communication about work. 

Respect differences

Recognize that co-workers may have different political beliefs and perspectives. Avoid making assumptions about others’ beliefs.

Practice emotional agility

Work on managing your own emotions and how you react to others’ emotions. Emotions aren’t good or bad, so allow space for all feelings without judgment. Practice acknowledging differing viewpoints without becoming emotionally reactive.

Communicate mindfully

Pay attention to how you communicate opinions and views. Using “I” statements to express your thoughts helps others feel like you’re not imposing your views on them. 

Managing teams during elections

Managers are in a tough spot during elections. Not only do they have to handle their own stress, they must maintain a peaceful and productive team environment. Teams often include diverse people with a variety of political beliefs, and managers can’t take sides at the risk of alienating anyone. Here are some ways to help you and your teams manage political anxiety and maintain a respectful work environment:  

Set expectations around political talk

Remind employees that everyone should feel safe, welcomed, respected, and included in the workplace. Communicate that the company doesn’t want to stifle healthy dialogue about social issues, but does expect limited disruptions and a culture of respect. Encourage employees who do decide to engage in political discussions to approach them with curiosity and accept that they may not find common ground. Conversation should be seen as an opportunity to understand each other better, not change each other’s minds.

Lead by example

Demonstrate respectful communication and professionalism in your interactions. For example, don’t express strong political opinions in the workplace and step away from conversations about politics or redirect employees to a work topic.

Teach conflict resolution strategies

Conflict at work is inevitable, so instead of trying to prevent it, focus on building a culture where conflicts are addressed openly and respectfully and people feel safe voicing their concerns. This could include a designated space or time to discuss concerns or training on conflict resolution.  

Emphasize shared goals

With so much political anxiety during elections, it can help to shift the focus from what divides us to common ground, such as shared goals or values, peer support, or projects that emphasize teamwork.

Schedule strategically

When possible, plan meetings to avoid peak periods of political activity — an all-hands meeting on election day, for example. This can minimize political discussions and help employees work together without the distraction of major political events. When this isn’t possible, set clear expectations up front by creating a clear meeting agenda and emphasizing the importance of staying focused on work-related topics for productive collaboration.

Know your mental health resources

Recognize that regardless of your team’s political party or beliefs, tensions are running high throughout the community, and many team members may be feeling stress or fear about the election. Familiarize yourself with your company’s mental health resources so you can point your team to the right support if they’re having a hard time. Make sure you’re taking care of your own mental and emotional health by taking breaks, practicing self-care, and reaching out for support when you need it.

Thriving beyond election anxiety

Election time can create challenges at work, but with self-awareness and the right support, it’s possible to get through this season with grace, resilience, and respect for your colleagues.

Get support with election anxiety at work

Lyra’s coaches and therapists offer tools to manage stress and conflict.

Learn more
By The Lyra Team
1 of May 2024 - 5 min read
Mental health at work
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