This article was contributed by the San Benito County Behavioral Health Department.
The recent elections process has added an immense amount of anxiety and stress to the already high levels caused by 2020 events. San Benito County has been dealing with COVID-19 stress, concerning wildfires in our neighboring counties as well as the rest of the state, and the tense elections certainly are not helping our mental health.
This election in particular seems to have caused greater tensions amongst people. With many working reduced hours, working from home, or unemployed, it is much easier to get caught up in the seemingly never-ending news cycle of politics. Concerns about COVID-19 have also affected individuals of every political party. With our minds being fed information about the worst possible outcomes, stories of disaster and trouble, and worst-case scenarios if your ideal candidate or party does not win this election, it feels as if the weight of the world rests on voters’ shoulders and makes it hard to recognize what good there is around us.
This is normal. You are not alone. It is normal to feel stressed and anxious in these times, but we have to be aware of our limits. We created a simple tip sheet to help manage the stress and anxiety that comes with the elections and the uncertain times we have all been living in.
Identify your limits and when you need to ask for help
It is important to know how stress and anxiety has been affecting you. If you notice that the stress or anxiety has been causing you to lose sleep, change your eating habits, making it difficult to focus or affecting your moods, or increase in alcohol or drug consumption, it might be a sign to ask for help.
If you notice these increased symptoms or identify something that is out of the usual for yourself, reach out to your primary care doctor, insurance carrier, or reach out to San Benito County Behavioral Health at 1131 San Felipe Road, Hollister, CA 95023 (831) 636-4020 for a screening and additional resources.
Limit your political consumption
It is important to be able to identify just how much information your mind can take before it starts taking a toll on you. Knowing how much news you can watch, who you can talk to, or how long a conversation about politics can go before it starts affecting your mental health is vital to controlling stress and anxiety. If you feel like the stories on the news are too much, or the conversation is upsetting, turn off the tv, change the channel, or change the conversation.
If you do decide to partake in political conversations, do not take them on with the intention of convincing someone to conform to your ideas. Rather, think of it as an opportunity to understand a different point of view. Knowing that you are not responsible for the mindset of someone else and being willing to be open minded about why someone thinks differently than you may give you a sense of control that can help in these situations.
Take a social media break
Diving into social media sites may be a mindless pastime for many people. However, during elections, our feeds can be consumed with political breaking news stories, immediate alerts on potential scenarios, and even misinformation being pushed to cause panic and fear. Disconnecting from social media platforms can be hard to do in the technology era. Give yourself a break, connect with friends via phone, text, Zoom, or make a physical, socially distanced visit when possible. This connection with friends and family will help you feel connected to the outside world without having the constant influx of media as you scroll to see your friend’s posts.
Remember about self-care
Part of the anxiety and stress we feel during elections may be tied to our friends and family too, and how the results may affect them. It is easy to get caught up in our worry for others that we forget to care for ourselves. Take time to carve out dedicated time for you to do exercise, take a calming walk, read a book, take a bath, or any activity that makes you feel good. Make sure you get enough sleep and exercise, eat a healthy diet, and avoid using drugs or alcohol to cope. Regardless of the election results, begin making plans on how you’re going to handle this environment in the future.
Celebrate the good things
Although it may be hard to see at times, there are still good things out there in the world around our lives. The good thing may be as simple as being able to see the sun rise again for a new day. It may be that more people are invested in our government. Even if it feels hard to identify large-scale good things in your life, we can all be grateful to have our world regardless of politics.
If you would like more information about mental health or substance use disorders, please contact San Benito County Behavioral Health at (831) 636-4020 or at 1131 San Felipe Road in Hollister.