For many of us, the end to the 2016 presidential race cannot come soon enough. We have two candidates with the lowest approval ratings in history. The steady stream of insults and accusations are adding stress to our already busy lives, leading one psychologist to give it an official disease designation: election stress disorder.
If you find yourself in a chronically worried state, know that you are not alone.
Last week, the American Psychological Association (APA) released the findings of a survey which specifically measured election stress among Americans. The annual Stress in America™ survey included the election for the first time in its 10-year history.
Health Consequences of Stress
Being under duress can cause the release of chemicals and hormones into the bloodstream that are normally reserved for our innate “fight or flight” response, according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH). Over time, the presence of these substances can impact your mind and body in ways that might surprise you.
Chronic stress can impair your immune system, making you more prone to colds and flu-like illnesses. It also can cause:
Left untreated, chronic stress can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety disorder, and other illnesses, according to the NIH.
Stress Management Tips
With just two weeks left, there are things that you can do if you are finding the election stressful.
Pat Durgin, director of Cape Cod Healthcare’s “partial hospital”, or day treatment center for mental health, advises her patients to limit screen time.
“The single best thing you can do is, turn off the television and get off social media,” she said. “With a 24-hour news cycle, now debated and argued endlessly on social media sites, stress can be exacerbated.”
This is a sentiment echoed in the Stress in America ™ survey, where 54 percent of adults who use social media said that the current political and cultural discussions online are a somewhat or significant source of stress.
Durgin has a few other tips to help us get through the remainder of the 2016 election season:
- If you have to be online, seek out content that is optimistic in nature.
- Block people who are bringing negativity into your world.
- Stay socially connected to people around you, in person.
- Avoid isolation when there is an endless cycle of bad news.
- Laughter is the best medicine-seek out humor by watching a Seinfeld rerun or something like that to lighten your mood.
- Get outside and feel a connection to nature- take a walk by the ocean every day.
- Practice gratitude, including giving yourself you own affirmation.
- Be mindful of the space you occupy each day and the people you are surrounded by.
- Work to change negative thoughts. It takes practice, but can be effective.
Stress Level Is Non-Partisan
The APA survey was conducted between August 5 and August 31 of this year. It included 3,511 resident adults 18 years and older who participated in an online psychological survey. It included both English and Spanish-speaking participants.