(WTRF) – With only days until Election Day, emotions are heightened.
Some people might say they have what’s called “election stress disorder”.
It turns out, that not actually a diagnosis, but that doesn’t mean the emotions aren’t real. There are reasons why we feel the way we do, and ways to cope.
Fear, anxiety, being scared about what happens next; if you feel this way, you’re not alone.
While emotions run high each year before the election, that’s not the only factor this year. We’re also living through a global pandemic and heightened racial tensions. Experts say we categorize our feelings as “election stress disorder” because in some ways it’s easier to talk about.
It’s an easier thing to point to and say ‘we know there will be an end’, right? We know next week there will be an end. Whereas, with COVID or with the racial pandemic we continue to face in this country there’s not a discernable end in sight.Dr. Jen Randall Reyes, Behavioral Health Clinician
Not everyone has the same reaction to this year’s election because not everyone is experiencing it the same way, which is partially due to social media channels.
That also makes it more difficult to escape the stressors.
It’s kind of like whatever’s happening on our social media devices, it never goes away.Elizabeth Cohen, WVU Associate Professor of Communication Studies
While social media isn’t all bad, it’s designed to keep us coming back and not necessarily to have a feel-good experience.
I think it’s taking a very natural tendency of ours, which is when something’s making us feel bad for us to sort of look for solutions and look for ways that we can anticipate more problems. It really makes that tendency of us to constantly be seeking information, to go a little bit out of whack, and that only feeds our anxiety unfortunately.Elizabeth Cohen, WVU Associate Professor of Communication Studies
Cohen said we must remember that these sites make money by stirring our emotions, whether they’re positive or negative.
So, it’s important not to get caught up in someone’s short status because it’s not really the place for deep discussions.
I don’t think it means that our friends on social media are all bad people, or that we’re all so different from what we think we are, but we’re certainly given that impression because divisiveness sells. The people who stand to benefit from social network sites don’t have a lot of incentive to make us feel like we’re all together.Elizabeth Cohen, WVU Associate Professor of Communication Studies
So, how do we alleviate the stress?
Take a break from social media and consume less of the content that elicits these emotions.
There’s a common refrain that I hear from people is, ‘well, if I do that Jen, will that mean that I’m not a concerned citizen or that I’m not doing my part?’. My answer to that is absolutely not.Dr. Jen Randall Reyes, Behavioral Health Clinician
You could also try going for a walk, and make sure to connect with people, in more ways than clicking the like button. While that may be hard right now due to social distancing, this is an area where technology can enhance our experience.
We still get to make choices in the moment and in our day-to-day world about what we’re going to focus on, right? And if we focus on fear, it’s going to generate a lot more fear in our experience. But, if we focus on what’s going well or what’s going right, we’ve gotta start somewhere in order to shift back to a more positive experience.Dr. Jen Randall Reyes, Behavioral Health Clinician
If your feelings of stress at this time turn into feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, thoughts of self harm or feeling like there’s no way out, it may be time to seek help.
You can text the crisis hotline at 741741, or call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.