- Cast your ballot early to give your brain a sense of closure and a feeling like you've done your part.
- The election is just a little ways off -- take a hiatus from talk radio, newspaper sites, political sites and your social media accounts.
- The only choice you can really control is how you will react to the outcome.
Election anxiety syndrome (EAS) has gripped the country, destroying friendships, causing major rifts in families and severing business relationships. If you’re in the grip of EAS, you can overcome it.
The 2016 presidential election has been unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes. It has all the elements of “Survivor,” “Big Brother” and the plot twists worthy of any soap opera.
The furor resembles what happens when sports arch-rivals meet to determine a national championship.
Real psychological risks
A few days ago my stylist described what he was seeing in his clients. Some were severely depressed at the thought of their candidate losing while others would angrily bolt out of his chair if he even dropped the slightest hint that their candidate might lose.
When people become so immersed in the election that they become compelled to make it the primary focal point of their waking hours, they might be at risk for a serious psychological problem if their candidate loses.
For some, a loss will be akin to having their heart broken. Others might experience what is known as exogenous depression, where their candidate’s loss triggers a depressive episode that requires medical intervention.
A third group might strike out in anger at those friends and family members who were “responsible” for their candidate’s loss.
A fairy tale ending
Last week, a very funny spoof of the second debate made its rounds online.
Part of me wanted the fairy tale ending where the candidates would dance off into the sunset together, and we would all live happily ever after. Then it hit me — no politician, no other person is responsible for creating a fairy tale ending in my life but me.
If you find yourself becoming overly upset, feeling fearful or angry about the potential election results or having trouble sleeping because you are so worried, these symptoms are triggered by the release of cortisol and adrenaline.
Increased levels of these substances are highly correlated with increased levels of cancer and heart disease. To combat the effects of EAS, the key is to take physical action. Here’s what to do:
1. Vote early
If your state allows early voting or if you can vote absentee, cast your ballot early. This gives your brain a sense of closure that you have done your part.
2. Pound the pavement
Arguing with friends and family over the candidates is often futile. Instead, contact your campaign’s local headquarters and volunteer to make phone calls to get out the vote or to drive people to the polls on Election Day.
3. Eliminate the source of your frustration
The media is the primary driver of EAS, though it could be a family member, colleague, friend or client.
The election is just a little ways off — take a hiatus from talk radio, newspaper sites, political sites and your social media accounts.
If the source of your EAS is someone with whom you must interact with daily, see if you can agree to set up a politics-free zone when you’re in the same space together.
4. Physically release your anger and frustration
Taking your anger out on others or bottling it up inside can result in both damaged relationships and serious health issues. Ways to combat this stress include yoga, martial arts, running or other physical activities that burn off stress-related hormones.
A very different approach comes from my friend Marilyn Naylor who has taught fear and anger workshops for several decades. Here’s what she recommends doing:
- Go to your local thrift shop, and pick out at least six to 10 undamaged plates.
- Take a large trashcan, place rocks in the bottom, and then line it with a construction quality liner that won’t be damaged by broken glass.
- Write the name of the candidate at whom you are angry (or anyone else that has angered or hurt you) on the plate. You can also write down the feelings that you are experiencing as well. If you’re really angry, use all the plates.
- Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from any flying glass shards.
- Throw your plates. If a plate doesn’t break, dig it out, and throw it again. Sometimes it can take two or three tries.
Naylor also suggests eating a plain baked or boiled potato (no skin) as a way to soak up any excessive acids or toxins that may have accumulated in your system.
5. Divert your attention elsewhere
When you feel EAS coming on, physically shift your body by standing up to get a glass of water or leaving the room.
If at all possible, change activities as well, preferably to something that requires your concentration, makes you laugh or is so engaging that it will block out any other thoughts.
Examples include watching an action movie, calling a friend who always makes you laugh, yanking up the weeds in your garden or attending a concert, lecture or some other live event.
6. Let ’em have it
As much as you might want a particular outcome, the only choice you can really control is how you will react to the outcome. To lessen your EAS before the election, make a list of all the things you will do if your candidate loses.
Be as outrageous and angry as you would like, but then choose the one or two actions that best support your happiness.
7. Let the Serenity Prayer be your guide
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
If EAS has taken control of your life, you can find the courage to change it. If you do need professional help to cope, however, please do seek it.
Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Learn about her training programs at www.RealEstateCoach.com/