Coping with Election Stress

Active Minds
Active Minds

No matter your political views, this has been a stressful 2020 presidential election season.

recent survey from the American Psychological Association and Harris Poll found that 68% of Americans cite the election as a significant source of stress in their life (compared to 52% in a similar poll in 2016), and levels of stress were consistent across party affiliations.

Experts are also suggesting we need to be prepared for prolonged stress this year; with the pandemic introducing mail-in ballots into the voting system on a mass scale, the outcome is not likely to be confirmed on Election Day.

With that in mind, get ahead of election stress with these simple yet impactful strategies:

Tell yourself that these feelings are normal. 

Certain aspects of elections are always challenging, but the feelings of division and strife we are experiencing collectively as a country are especially hard. As the recent poll suggests, most of us are feeling it. Feel your feelings and validate them as normal responses to stress. Don’t avoid or reject them.


Pre-schedule your Election Day. 

Because Election Day stress is likely inevitable, be proactive, and make a plan about how you will cope with those feelings throughout the election. Make a plan for the day, including when and how you will vote, and with whom you will watch the results if you plan to do so.


Identify simple actions that are in your control. 

This Election Day has a lot of potential to bring on developments that are out of your control. That’s why it’s so important to identify simple actions that are in your control and schedule them in your day. These actions may include participating in a workout class that helps you feel good, setting limits for your news intake (avoid “doom-scrolling”), stepping away from coverage to walk with a friend, taking a day off from work, or booking a therapy appointment (and know that it’s OK to use that appointment to process any election-related anxiety).


Talk to others, preferably those who make you laugh or offer helpful perspectives. 

Schedule a check-in with someone you enjoy talking to or ask them to give you a call on Election Day. If you plan to watch the results, recruit a few friends to watch with you virtually to help process your reactions to the news and balance with some connection and comradery in real-time. Work hard to be kind to everyone around you, knowing that most of us will be experiencing some level of stress.


Prioritize sleep. 

Stick to a constant time that you go to bed and consider going to bed early, especially the night before Election Day. When setting your routine, build in some time to decompress before expecting to get to sleep. Avoid endlessly flicking through the different TV channels or scrolling the feeds. Check out our other sleep tips here.


Lean into comfort and set boundaries where needed. 

For the night of the election and the days following, give yourself permission to indulge in the things that make you feel cared for: a movie, a good book, a subscription, a favorite ice cream, or a break from people or situations that also induce stress. Check out other healthy coping and distraction techniques here.


Make a plan for what you will do to build a better world beyond the election. 

Think about what actions you can take immediately to get to work supporting your family, your community, and the causes that are meaningful to you as your part of making the world a better place.

Overall, remember this will likely be a long haul, and the majority of us are experiencing stress related to the election. But stress does not have to be harmful, especially when we build in the time for recovery. Check out more of our tips here for channeling stress into positive action and for determining when your stress has become more serious and should be addressed with care.