2020 has been a really hard year for mental health. One poll found that 1 in 3 adults have experienced symptoms of depression and anxiety during COVID-19. Amid a pandemic that has already upended almost every part of our lives, it’s also a major election year.
Regardless of your political affiliation, this is an important and divisive election. According to the American Psychological Association, in general, more than half of Americans say elections are a significant stressor. This year, mental health experts say people are feeling especially stressed about the election.
On top of anxiety about the results, you might be confused and worried about how you will vote during a pandemic. You may be unsure how mail-in voting works. You might not trust vote-by-mail, but may also be worried about COVID exposure during in-person voting. There are a lot of unknowns leading up to any election, and even more unknowns when that election is during a pandemic.
Uncertainty is distressing, as we have all learned from dealing with a novel virus. With much voting being done by mail this year, we will likely have to wait longer for results—in a process with which many are unfamiliar. This only adds stress to an already stressful situation.
Stress has all kinds of effects on both your mental and physical health, so it is important to try and manage it as best you can. Chronic stress affects the immune system—which, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to protect.
Most of us understandably want to stay informed, and that’s okay. But it’s also a good idea to take breaks to reset and take care of yourself. Social media in particular can cause stress, especially in the lead-up to an election.
Try regularly unplugging from the news and social media. If you can, take time without your phone. On my five-year soberversary this past August, I intentionally left my phone in the house and met up with friends in a park for several hours. Many people (myself included) constantly have our phones on us. Not having it made me feel present, which helped relieve stress.
Connecting with supportive people in your life is always important for mental health and recovery, but it has an added bonus when it comes to election stress. Many people’s social media feeds are filled with arguments and divisiveness. Being online too much can make you feel disconnected and angry. Spending meaningful time with people in your life can combat those feelings of disconnection.
If you have friends or family who share your political views, it’s worth talking to them about your worries regarding the election. They may be feeling similar things. Talking to a therapist is also extremely helpful; a therapist gives you the ability to discuss your stress in a non-judgmental environment, and they can help you practice healthy coping skills.
No matter what is happening in the world or your political affiliation, it is important to take care of your mental health. Regardless of how stressful life gets, there are always ways to cope.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offer high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff will help you build healthy coping skills and thrive in long-term recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.