Presidential election takes a psychological toll

October 17, 2016 Providence Health Team

Maybe it’s because you can’t discuss politics without someone getting angry. Maybe it’s because the stakes feel so high. Maybe it’s because your social media feeds have been overtaken by arguments about politics.

Whatever the reason, Americans are feeling stressed this election cycle. The American Psychological Association said a survey it conducted found that 52 percent of U.S. adults are finding the presidential election to be a “very or somewhat significant source of stress.” The stress is being felt on both sides of the aisle.

“We’re seeing that it doesn’t matter whether you’re registered as a Democrat or Republican — U.S. adults say they are experiencing significant stress from the current election,” said Lynn Bufka, the APA’s associate executive director. “Election stress becomes exacerbated by arguments, stories, images and video on social media that can heighten concern and frustration, particularly with thousands of comments that can range from factual to hostile or even inflammatory.”

Among the survey findings:

  • Stress crosses generational and ethnic boundaries.
  • Thirty-eight percent of adults say political and cultural discussions on social media cause them stress.
  • Americans with disabilities are more likely to report election-related stress.

The APA conducted the survey in late summer, so it’s likely that stress is even higher now, on the eve of the November election.

How you can cope with election stress

If you’re feeling election stress, the APA suggests:

  • Limit your media consumption. Read just enough to stay informed. Go for a walk or spend time with friends and family doing things that you enjoy.
  • Avoid getting into discussions about the election if you think they have the potential to escalate to conflict. Be aware of how often you discuss the election with others.
  • Instead of worrying about what might happen, channel your concerns to make a positive difference on issues you care about. Volunteer your time and effort to something that matters to you.
  • Vote. Instead of stressful worry, you will be taking a concrete step to settle the question that’s stressed so many voters.

To read more on election stress

You can find the APA’s statement about election stress from its press release, “APA Survey Reveals 2016 Presidential Election Source of Significant Stress for More Than Half of Americans.” This release has a link to a downloadable PDF that discusses the APA’s methodology and provides further context.

Stress is triggered by any number of things, from financial concerns to workplace conflicts. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers tips on its Coping With Stress page.  Among the tips: Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, talk to others.

Anyone may feel stress for almost any reason. Talk to your health care provider if you feel burdened or distraught about things. You can find a Providence provider here.

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