There’s a lot going on in 2020: a global pandemic, widespread protests against police violence and racism, a presidential election, and countless down ballot races.
Any one of these of events makes for stressful times; the combination of all of them can be traumatic. Per an American Psychological Association survey, 68% of U.S. adults say that the 2020 presidential election is causing them significant stress. That’s up 16% from a similar 2016 survey.
So it’s not just you – it’s (almost) everyone. This time is legitimately stressful, but we have strategies for maintaining your emotional equilibrium when current events bring up negative feelings.
Set aside regular and brief times to review reliable news outlets. When you’re done, stop and do something else. The same advice applies to social media, both for passive consumption of what others are posting and active interaction (e.g., fighting with people on the Internet).
If you find yourself regularly feeling upset during or after consuming the news or social media, step away from those platforms more frequently.
Live in the moment and focus on what you can control. This is hard if you’re constantly refreshing the FiveThirtyEight electoral map, which is why cutting back on media consumption is the first step.
The worrying that accompanies anxiety can feel productive, but often it isn’t. Rumination has no effect on external events, and a distinctly negative effect on your mental health, so avoid it when possible.
Do things you enjoy to self-soothe and channel your thoughts away from unproductive worrying. Exercise, cooking, making art, spending time with loved ones, prayer, meditation (try the Calm app), or spending time in nature are all great options.
If you find it difficult to stop ruminating, try SilverCloud, where you will find a series of interactive learning modules that teach cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques. Full-time Hopkins students can access this platform for free. It even has specific modules on coping with anxiety, stress, and challenging times.
Get enough sleep, enough nutritious food, and enough rest. The gravity of current events can make it feel like you cannot take breaks, but doing so will rejuvenate you.
You can’t do everything, but you can almost certainly do something. Don’t let stress paralyze you so much that it prevents you from sharing your time, energy, and unique talents with the world.
When you’re experiencing anxiety about a particular issue, try to think about what you can actually do to address the problem, in large and small ways. Changing personal habits – like living more sustainably in response to global warming – or becoming involved in organizations that align with your values are accessible and effective ways to manage those feelings.
Keep in mind that involvement looks different for everyone. Attending protests or knocking on doors for candidates is doable for some people; others find less visible but equally important ways to contribute.
Hopkins has a plethora of social wellness resources available to help you, during and beyond election season, including SOURCE (serving East Baltimore) and the Center for Social Concern (serving Homewood).
2020 has been an extraordinarily stressful year. If you are experiencing high levels of stress for any reason, consider reaching out to clinical professionals for a consultation. Some key Hopkins resources include:
These strategies are useful all the time, but they can become especially important on the day of a big event like the 2020 presidential election. Think ahead and make a plan for days you can anticipate being stressful, and make sure those plans include relaxing activities, connecting with like-minded people, and thoughtful news consumption.