4 Tips to Ease Election Day Stress

Try these tips to stay calm in the midst of a hectic Election Day.

Posted on | By Erin L. Olivo, PhD
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How Stressed Were the Presidential Candidates? (2:09)

Anxious. Stressed. Angry. Disgusted.

If any of these words describe how the contentious election season has left you feeling, you are not alone.  More than half of Americans say that the presidential campaign has caused them significant stress, according to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican; respondents from both parties are equally stressed out.  

Social media appears to be playing a huge role in the stress. People who regularly use social media are more likely than those who don’t to say that the election is a significant source of their stress.  There’s no doubt that this election has been very antagonistic, and the videos, arguments and hostile comments you see on your social media feed every day are almost certainly exacerbating your negative emotions.

Unfortunately, just because the campaigning is over, don’t expect the stress to go away overnight. In fact, whether your candidate wins or loses, you’re likely to feel the negative effects for a while. Negative emotions and their effects can take time to recover from -- think of it as an emotional hangover!

Here are some tips for how you can feel better:

Take a Time-Out

One of the best ways to manage your election stress is to limit your media consumption. It’s important to stay informed, but after you’ve done that, turn off the television, shut down your computer, and go do something that makes you feel good.

Stop Arguing

Discussions about this election tend to go one of two ways: either they turn into a heated (or sometimes down-right hostile!) argument, or they turn into a venting session that only fuels your anxiety. Be mindful of how much time you’re spending talking about politics with friends, family and coworkers. And flat out avoid talking about the election with people who are likely to escalate the conversation into a full-blown fight.

Calm Your Body

If you’re feeling the effects of stress on your body (which is highly likely), then it’s important to actively do things to relax. Any stress you feel is, at root, physical: the product of an activated nervous system. So the key is to calm that system down. Try going for a brisk walk, taking a soothing bath, or doing a relaxation exercise like this one

Get Productive

Worrying isn’t productive; it usually just leads to a negative thought spiral that makes you feel worse. Watch out for catastrophic thinking, and instead do something to channel your worry into productive action. Choose an issue or cause you care about, and find a way to make a difference in your community. Look for opportunities to volunteer for an organization you believe in. Research shows that this can increase your overall sense of well-being.

Related: How the Candidates Handled Campaign Stress

Article written by Erin L. Olivo, PhD
Erin L. Olivo, PhD is an Asst. Professor of Medical Psychology at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons