Addicted to watching presidential election news? Have you lost sleep over your country's divisiveness? Are you desperate for it to end?
There are ways to survive this election season despite the endless campaign scandals and divisive rhetoric exasperating our media screens. Steven Stosny, a therapist based in Washington, D.C., coined the term “Election Stress Disorder” and says that most of this stress comes from the “toddler part” of our brain.
“You're not capable of seeing any perspective but your own,” says Stosny. “Now the election has really reinforced that — partially on purpose and partially inadvertently. The easiest way to switch into [the] adult brain is [to] try to see another perspective.”
Stosny adds that anger and resentment are the most contagious of all emotions. This election cycle in particular, he said, has been fueled by negativity that contributes to a majority of burnt-out voters.
“Whenever we're against something, we have to be motivated by adrenaline,” Stosny says. “Adrenaline gives you a surge of energy and confidence, but then you crash, self-doubt comes in, and you feel depressed. The antidote is to be really clear of what you're for. Not what the candidates are saying so much, but your own analysis of the issues and what you think is best for the country. The more you're against something, the more you say ‘No,’ the less sure of yourself you get. You don’t know who you are; you just know who you’re not.”
Tips for avoiding election anxiety
We've collected a few tips from Airtalk listeners below on managing election stress. How are you coping during the last weeks of the presidential race? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook.
1. PUT YOUR ANXIETY INTO ACTION
“...if I stopped lying on the couch yelling at the television, and I went out and volunteered for my candidate (who’s Hillary), I feel much, much better.” - Jill in Mar Vista
2. SEEK QUIET IN THE CHAOS
"There’s so many issues today that we’re having to take a position on, and it’s just very confusing — Black Lives Matter, police violence, we have candidates that are shouting at each other [...] I'm losing a sense of myself as an American... I've been having a difficult time finding a center, so meditating has been really helpful.” - Patrick in Mar Vista
3. FAUX POLITICS CAN BE THERAPEUTIC
“Having found myself not really too thrilled about either of the candidates, or really any of the candidates, I found myself turning to Netflix and watching the joys of The West Wing. I might even write in Jed Bartlet on my ballot in hopeful thinking, and it’s actually nice to see some sophisticated dialogue and kinda learn a thing or two about the political system, as opposed to just hearing about their personal lives. I’m Bartlet all the way, ‘Team Bartlet’ all the way." - Matt in Glendale
4. POSITIVE SELF-TALK
“My way of dealing with the stress and the ugliness of the election is to try and hang onto my conviction that America is full of decent people who are good people of common sense, and I generally believe that come Election Day, the vast majority of people are gonna come out to cast their vote, and we are gonna be hearing from people who are good, who are thinking, who are decent, and who have the best interest of our country at heart. And when those people speak, we will have a good president, and I generally believe that — and that kind of helps get me through the stress." — Renee in Pasadena
5. HAVE SOME FUN
"After I sent in my ballot, I'm spending a lot of time at the L.A. Zoo. The animals make way more sense than the politicians." — Ron in Inglewood
6. SWITCH BETWEEN STRESSES!
“Well I'm going through a child-custody divorce and when I get sick and tired of listening to all the hyperbole on the radio and television, I focus on my paperwork…[and] honestly I think the opposite is true, too. When I get sick and tired of reading pleading paperwork and stuff, I go, ‘You know what, I’m gonna turn the television on and listen to Trump.’ I go back and forth, it’s amazing.” - Steve in Ontario
Steven Stosny, Couples Therapist based in the suburbs of Washington D.C.; Stosny’s most recent book is “"Soar Above: How to use the most profound part of your brain under any kind of stress" [Health Communications (HCI) 2016]
This story has been updated.
Pssst. Here's another tip: Let KPCC help you develop your Voter Game Plan. Use our election guide to find your personalized ballot.