Presidential election is a stressor

scan-2I have a stress problem that has lasted for many months. Lately, I’ve been searching for a reason to explain it.  I have what many older adults dream of: a peaceful retirement where much of my time is under my control, which is why my rising level of stress is so puzzling.

It finally hit me today that one situation looms over all others to raise my anxiety, something that is completely out of my control: the 2016 presidential election.

I did a Google search to find out if my friends and I were the only ones who felt this way. It turns out I’m not. Here’s a headline from an article in The Atlantic, May 24, 2016, by Robinson Meyer:  How to Preserve Your Mental Health Despite the 2016 Election.” And from the Washington Post, September 26, “Feeling anxious ahead of the debate? Here’s how to cope with ‘Election Stress Disorder.’” The Post article opens with: “By now it has been well documented that this presidential election cycle has had a particularly negative effect on Americans’ mental health.”

The American Psychological Association polled 927 U. S. working adults in August and found that “more than 1 in 4 younger employees reported feeling stressed out because of political discussions at work, and more than twice as many men as women said political talk is making them less productive.”

According to The Atlantic piece, “experts stressed that anxiety about an outcome or existential threat is completely normal.” However, in the same article, the writer cites clinical psychologist Stephen Holland, who makes a distinction between “productive and unproductive anxiety.” Unproductive anxiety occurs in situations you can’t take action to change.

In the same article, other therapists share tips for living with election stress, none of which is a new idea: accept your emotions, focus on what you can control, focus on the present, meditate. The one piece of advice I appreciated most came from a psychologist named Robert Leahy. Leahy encouraged worriers to focus on the structural limits of American government. “Think about the constraints or limits that all politicians face—for example, Congress and The Supreme Court. If you fear Trump, keep in mind that he won’t be able to do a lot of what he claims he wants to do,” he said. Now that’s a thought that brings me comfort in this period of pre-election unease, that and the hope I won’t experience post-election unease.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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8 Responses to Presidential election is a stressor

  1. Evelyn says:

    This is the most stressful election that I can remember–and I can remember a lot of elections. I am sure I am not the only person who is totally baffled (and a bit frightened too) by the number of people who cannot seem to see clearly–or hear clearly–what is so completely obvious to me and who do not seem to be concerned about the future of the country..

  2. Americans aren’t the only ones undergoing stress over this election. Here, in Canada, we are watching in horror and disbelief, afraid that the terrible one may win. We will be profoundly affected if he does. And we have less control than you do—at least you can vote.

  3. stillalife says:

    Here’s hoping neither country suffers from upcoming election

  4. Darlene says:

    I like to compare the election stress to watching a Mariners or Seahawks only the election stress just doesn’t go away, especially when I wake up the morning after the debate and watch Trump announcing to an interviewer that all the polls show him winning the debates. He even said the CNN poll had him winning–oh, wait–CNN didn’t do a poll concerning the outcome of the debates. MORE LIES!! We all must find ways to alleviate our election stress as we still have 40+ days to go–November 8 will be the biggest stressor of all–get fit everyone.

  5. Shirley says:

    I’ve reduced the stress by refusing to let my neighbors talk politics with me. And, when I’m seated in the Community Room, if another resident sits at the table where I was seated first and try to bring up the election, I let the know “No politics at this table”. I can tell they’re bursting to voice their opinions, but I was at the table first and don’t want to hear it. Sit elsewhere.

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