Dr. John Delony: Election Anxiety
OCTOBER 27, 2022
America will soon be heading to the polls again. If you’re like millions of your fellow Americans, you’re feeling a little anxious about the outcomes. Elections create anxiety and make us feel small because they cause us to face this truth: There’s so much that’s out of our control. We get one vote. That’s it. But regardless of the outcome, I promise the world will keep turning. Don’t let anxiety and fear steal your joy, mental health or determination to do what’s right during this season. Here are a few ways to deal with election anxiety as we head toward November 8.
You have to vote
You must vote. You have to. Voting is your opportunity to let your voice be heard. It’s your responsibility to participate in making this country a better place—for yourself, your family and your neighbors. Take ownership of your life and your future by casting your ballot.
Voting is one of our sacred rights as citizens of this country. Even if our democracy is flawed at times (and it is), we get to carry on a legacy that was hard won by generations of courageous women and men before us. The only way this democracy stops working is if the people stop participating.
Limit your media intake
Have you heard the term doomscrolling? It’s the habit of mindlessly scrolling through the latest videos, articles and tweets, searching for the next shocking headline. We’ve all been there—it feels like being caught on a hamster wheel of death and destruction. And that’s not much of an exaggeration, because a steady diet of catastrophic news—especially when you can’t do much about it—is bad for your health. Information that creates fear, panic and stress triggers a complex physiological reaction. Your heart rate and blood pressure spike, and stress hormones flood your body. It’s hard to sleep, focus, rest and breathe.
On the side of each electronic device is an off button. Use it.
By now, you know who you’re voting for (and by the way—everyone around you does too, so there’s no need to keep arguing and adding to the noise). You don’t have to keep flooding your brain with the latest arguments and opinions and predictions. Just put down the phone. Protect yourself by setting boundaries for when and how often you’ll access media of any kind.
Get involved locally
Very few of us will ever make a big splash in Washington, D.C., but you can make a difference in your neighborhood, town and state. In fact, you can make more of an impact on this level than you realize. Decisive action helps reduce anxiety because it empowers you to focus on what you can control.
Read up on your local candidates. Learn what they stand for, and talk to people in your community about them. Who are the judges, representatives, senators, school board members and city commissioners on your ballot? Their time in office will directly impact your streets, your kids’ classrooms, and how local businesses are run.
Set an example
You don’t have to hold political office to model what it means to be a good citizen. And if you haven’t noticed, we’re in need of some good citizens! Whether we realize it or not, our families, coworkers, internet friends and real friends are watching us. They’re paying attention to our bickering, our complaining and our mindless fixation on our screens.
Being a good citizen looks like getting intentional about kindness. Tip your waiter or waitress obnoxiously. Be grateful with salespeople. Let folks over in traffic. If you’re in a season of financial blessing, pay for someone’s groceries. Take your dog for a walk and pick up trash in your neighborhood while you’re out.
Specific to the election, I’m going to take my son with me when I vote. I want him to sit in that line with me. He’s 12—it will be painful for all of us—but it’s important to me that he has memories seared in his heart and mind about how important this was for his dad and for our country.
Make time for rest, kindness . . . and play
Make time to just be a human being. Laugh. Plan a super hot surprise date for your spouse. Get your friends together to kick a soccer ball around. Take your family on a walk around the neighborhood and wave at people in crosswalks.
Let’s choose to be kind over the next couple of weeks. We’re better than how we’ve been acting.
Connect with others and value your community
I want you to think of valuing your community in two ways. First, when you’re feeling anxious, it’s a sign that you’re feeling disconnected. Spend time with those who support and love you—your spouse, your children and your friends. Talk about your fears and listen to the fears of others. Seek to listen first and explain second.
Next, I want you to value people who don’t align with you politically. No matter who wins, we’re going to pump gas next to each other at the same stations. We’re going to wait in the same carpool lines to get our kids from school. We’re going to share meals next to each other at restaurants. Let’s be with one another as human beings and choose not to go on the offensive.
Folks, we must choose to move forward, united as one group of people, doing the best we can.
We need each other.
* Dr. John Delony is a mental health expert with PhDs in Counselor Education & Supervision and Higher Education Administration from Texas Tech University. Prior to joining Ramsey Solutions in 2020, John worked as a senior leader, professor and researcher at multiple universities. He also spent two decades in crisis response, walking with people through severe trauma. Now as a Ramsey Personality, he teaches on relationships and emotional wellness. Follow John on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube or online at www.johndelony.com.