Does this election stress you out? You’re not alone. According to a poll released by the American Psychological Association in October, 68% of adults say they find the election a major source of stress.
There’s even a name for it, “election stress disorder,” coined in 2016 by a Maryland couples counselor named Steven Stosny.
So how can you engage with friends and family across the political divide on Election Day and afterward without a fight and finger pointing? It starts with responding to your own feelings.
Prepare for no results.
There is a good chance that the presidential election will not be called Tuesday evening. This is not necessarily a cause for concern in itself, as it will take time for states to count this year’s deluge of ballots, some of which cannot be processed until election day. But be on the lookout for viral misinformation as contestants may attempt to claim victory prematurely or manipulate the results.
Refresh yourself if you need to.
Before discussing politics with your family, take a moment to assess where you are at. You may need “stew,” said Eva Escobedo, relationship therapist at Just Mind, a counseling center in Austin, Texas. She recommended taking a break for a day or two to allow yourself to be a little offbeat.
Limit your ambient social media exposure – Dr Stosny suggests setting aside specific times to check out the news or your social media feeds. If you interact with relatives or friends on Facebook or Twitter, try taking those conversations offline, where you can have a more successful and meaningful exchange.
Stay active and connected.
If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, go for a walk or run and try to spend at least 30 minutes outdoors. Studies have linked aerobic exercise to better emotional regulation; even moderate exercise like walking can bring benefits. Make plans with friends to occupy your mind.
But Dr Jena Lee, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Los Angeles, cautioned against assuming you’ll be anxious on Election Day. “Humans are pretty resilient,” she says. “Chances are you can cope.”