The heightened distress of this polarizing political climate combined with the anxiety of the pandemic we have been experiencing since March 2020, has us all riding an emotional roller coaster. It is accelerating and we feel like we can't get off. These environmental stressors impact our daily lives and we have little control over the course of these traumas. Thus, we must find ways to manage our distress and anxiety.
In his 2016 blog "Do You Suffer from Election Stress Disorder?" in Psychology Today, psychologist Steven Stosny, Ph.D. coined this term to describe the level of anxiety and obsession that many of us feel surrounded by the tense and polarizing political climate. He noted that is hard to consistently use our "adult brain" (logic and reason) during non-election years, but that the chaos and emotional rhetoric makes it even harder now. Our "toddler brain" (emotional, all-or-nothing, "Mine! No!") hijacks the adult brain, impairing its ability to take other perspectives, weigh evidence, see nuance, plan for the future, and create value and meaning. The toddler brain is highly susceptible to emotional contagion; toddlers take on whatever negative emotions are around them, as any parent who has been tense or irritable near one can attest."
These core techniques are similar for facing unknown and uncertain times:
- Focus on what you have control over. Pandemically, we can mask, sanitize, distance, and remain vigilant. Politically, we can campaign and vote.
- Limit media consumption if it causes you distress: Reduce social media and news "doom-scrolling" and "headline news obsessions." We can keep informed without being overly absorbed.
- Connect with those who give you support. Ask them to avoid stressful topics when you need a break.
- Engage in calming techniques: Meditation, strategic breathing, visualization, progressive relaxation, mindfulness, exercise, prayer, music, pleasure reading, or through apps like Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer, or countless others.
- Remain hopeful. We can overcome obstacles and challenges with planning, persistence, effort, and choosing the right strategies. We are more resilient than we think.
- Be a realistic optimist. Don't resort to apocalyptic or end-of-the-world thinking.
- Embrace gratitude by appreciating moments of joy and kindness.
If you are finding yourself becoming overly anxious, clinically depressed, or struggling with how to cope, contact Work/Life Connections-EAP to set up a confidential appointment with one of our EAP Counselors by calling 615-936-1327.