Coping with 2020 Election Season Stress

This election season in the U.S. is more stressful than ever before (and that’s saying something).

Some common difficulties I’ve been hearing about include doomscrolling, feeling hurt and unsupported when friends and family hold discriminatory views, and fear and hopelessness about the future.

All of these feelings and MORE are completely valid. And the question is… what do you DO with them??

I’ve created an acronym to help you cope with the days preceding November 3 and beyond. When dealing with election season stress, just ASK PETE. NOT Buttigieg, for goodness sake. Just… a hypothetical Pete.

Accept that this is Hard

Self-Care

Keep Laughing

Preserve Energy

Express Emotions

Turn Off News, Social Media

Edit Content

This post will explore each of these skills, how to do them, and how they will help you.

1. Accept that this is Hard

Most people are having a really hard time in this current political climate, for a multitude of reasons.

One of those reasons that social media and apps are intentionally designed to maintain our attention with quick serotonin hits.

News outlets intentionally publish negative stories because they get better ratings (the psychology behind that is for another blog post!).

Many Americans feel that their basic rights are being neglected and trampled over. Even if you don’t personally feel that way, so many people around you do. We pick up on that energy, consciously or subconsciously.

So it’s not easy. Even if it seems like others are coping with it better than you are, they probably aren’t. Remember that people often choose the best parts of their life to show on social media.

2. Self Care

You are probably sick of hearing about self-care. But it is SO IMPORTANT, which is why it has become such a buzzword.

Self-care is not necessarily scheduling vacations and bubble baths.

More than that, self-care is about the basics. Remembering to drink water, take your meds, eat at regular times, and breathe. Stretching and taking walks are also important.

Many of us (cough cough, me) wait until we are already exhausted and burnt out to do self-care. Ideally, you’ll do it preventatively, even planning ahead for stressful days.

One suggestion a dear friend made is to take the day after election day off. If you know you’ll be up late watching the election results come in, it’s a good idea to plan ahead. Maybe even come up with something relaxing to do the day after the election, like go for a walk in a local nature preserve.

3. Keep Laughing

Please follow some meme accounts – about politics or about other stuff. Follow singers and dancers on TikTok. Better yet, make some goofy TikToks.

I’m serious. Laughter is really good for us, and it’s important.

woman reading book on bed in morning
Photo by Nadi Lindsay on Pexels.com

4. Preserve Energy

DO NOT ARGUE WITH PEOPLE ON THE INTERNET.

You will not change anyone’s mind. You will walk away with frustration at best, death threats at worst.

If you *really* want to have political conversations with folks, have them with your family members and friends, in person, and listen more than you talk.

You don’t have to do that either, though. Especially if their views denigrate your personhood, or they are toxic or abusive people. IT IS NOT WORTH IT. There are so many other ways to make a difference politically.

That leads me to my second point: Don’t try to do everything all at once.

If you want to become more involved in activism, give what you can give, in the areas of expertise or interest that you have. Make your own corner of the world better, and trust that others are doing the same.

faceless young woman with stress ball on white background
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

5. Express Emotions

Common emotions that come up around election time include… ANGER. FURY!! Sadness. Fear. Guilt.

When we push these emotions down or aside, they find ways to pop back up – like whack-a-mole. They might pop back up as irritability, anger outbursts, irritable bowels, muscle tension and pain… the list goes on.

When we allow ourselves to sit with and process emotions, we have more control over them.

Here are some ideas for adaptive ways to express these emotions:

  • Talk to someone
  • Write in a journal
  • Work with clay or knead dough
  • Listen to, sing, or make music
  • Cry
  • Dance
blue jeans
Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

6. Turn off the News & Social Media

You do not have to watch the news. Not even the debates (or now I guess “town halls”??). You definitely do not have to follow 45 on Twitter.

What I often hear from people when I say this is, “…but I want to stay informed!”

I get that. But we can all agree the presidential debate was in no way informative. On the contrary, several clients actually told me it was re-traumatizing due to dynamics similar to their families of origin.

There are SO many ways to stay informed. The New York Times Daily podcast gives a brief summary of the most important news every day. You can learn the highlights from friends or family.

If you’re still hesitant to disconnect, at least consider giving yourself a break. A night or even an hour in which you turn off all news-related notifications on your phone. Better yet, you might establish a time every evening when you choose to put down your phone.

7. Edit

Not only is the AMOUNT of content we consume important, but so is the content itself.

Notice how specific Instagrams, TikToks, news websites, and Facebook posts make you feel.

If you’re not sure how you feel, observe what’s happening in your body. Is your heart pounding? Are your shoulders and neck tense? Is there a pit in the bottom of your stomach?

Unfollow and mute anything that that drains energy from you.

By the same token, FOLLOW accounts that will help you feel empowered, validated, and hopeful. You may consider following hashtags like #bodypositive, #mentalhealthmatters, and #anxietyrelief to find accounts that uplift you.

I hope ASK PETE helps you cope with election season stress. Hang in there. And remember, there are a lot of good things and people happening in the world. They just don’t get shown on the news.

Warmly,

Rebecca

Rebecca Ogle, LCSW, is a psychotherapist who provides compassionate tele-therapy through a politicized lens. She helps folks heal from anxiety, depression, people-pleasing and burnout using their strengths and inner wisdom.

Stop Reading This.

I’ve started about a hundred blog posts about Black Lives Matter, and Pride month.

None of them felt right.

And it FINALLY dawned on me why.

A a cis, straight, white woman, I have nothing to add to this conversation that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) haven’t already been saying for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Duh.

White people talking over BIPOC is part of the problem!

That definitely doesn’t mean I’m off the hook, though. I want to be part of the solution. Advocating for social justice aligns with the social work code of ethics, as well as my own personal morals.

I know fighting for social justice is going to take time, and commitment, and sacrifice, and a lot of self-reflection.

And yet, we all have to start somewhere. So I’m going to start by amplifying Black voices.

Photo by Tina Bowie

Start Reading This.

Between the World and Me – Book by Ta-Nehisi Coates. A heartbreaking and eye-opening letter from father to son.

Heavy: An American Memoir – Memoir by Kiese Laymon. A vulnerable account of a brilliant Black man and his relationships with his body, his mother, and his liberation.

Redefining Realness – Memoir by Janet Mock. Not only the story of growing up poor, multiracial, and transgender in America, but also, of a self-actualized woman currently living her dreams.

We Should All Be Feminists – Essay / book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her intersectional and affecting take on feminism in the 21st century. 

1619 Podcast – Podcast hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones. Learn through a gripping combination of storytelling and facts how the history of slavery in the U.S. continues to impact our lives today.

Still Processing – Podcast hosted by Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris. Reflections on pop culture and media through a Black, queer lens.

With all of this said, I would love to diversify the blogs I read. If you are an LGBTQ+ and / or BIPOC writer, PLEASE comment below and let us know what your blog is about! Thank you in advance!

– Rebecca

Rebecca Ogle, LCSW, is a psychotherapist who provides compassionate tele-therapy. She helps folks heal from anxiety, depression, people-pleasing and burnout using their strengths and inner wisdom.

A Letter to Children of Emotionally Distant Moms

Dear You,

If you’re reading this letter, you may be wondering… was my mom emotionally distant? Here are some signs that she may have been…

  • During childhood, you spent a lot of time alone, being looked after by siblings, or looking after siblings.
  • Your mom didn’t come to your recitals, shows, or games.
  • Your mom didn’t look at or comment on your grades (or, only did if they were extremely bad or good).
  • She had extremely rigid rules.
  • She was / is overly controlling or critical.
  • She doesn’t ask how you are feeling or doing. Or she asks, but doesn’t seem to listen to the answer.
  • She seems most concerned about how you reflect on the reputation of the family and/or herself.

If your mom was emotionally distant, Mother’s Day may be difficult for you.

Maybe it brings up unpleasant memories of Mother’s Days past.

Maybe you worry whether or not your mom will like your gift to her this year. Maybe you dread calling her because of the guilt trip you know is coming, i.e., “Too bad you only ever call me on Mother’s Day!”

Maybe you see these wonderful, gushing posts about moms on Instagram or Facebook and feel envious.

These negative or mixed feelings may be compounded by guilt: This day is supposed to be about her, not me.

It’s okay to have mixed emotions about this day, and to let yourself feel them.

Others of you are estranged from your emotionally distant mom. You may be toying with the idea of calling or texting her. The decision may be putting a lot of pressure on you.

Or perhaps you already know you aren’t going to reach out to your mom, and are feeling guilty about it.

It’s okay to feel guilty. AND it’s okay not to contact her.

Still others of you may be thinking of an emotionally distant mom who has died. You may be grieving not only the loss of her, but also, the relationship you never had with her. Let yourself grieve.

If you feel nothing for your dead mother, let yourself feel nothing.

Know that whatever your situation, whatever you’re feeing is normal, and okay. There is no right or wrong way to feel.

Also, there’s no comparing how you feel towards your mom with others – not even your siblings. Your relationship with your mom is entirely unique to the two of you, and may change by the year, the month, or even the moment.

This Mother’s Day, give yourself permission to feel however you feel.

Take care of yourself in the ways you wish your mom took care of you.

I am holding each and every one of you in the light today.

Warmly,

Rebecca

Rebecca Ogle, LCSW, is a psychotherapist who provides compassionate tele-therapy. She helps folks heal from anxiety, depression, people-pleasing and burnout using their strengths and inner wisdom.

When Self-Care Doesn’t Work

Self-care is a struggle for all of us at times.

Here are some common problems that people come across when trying to implement self-care practices, and my suggestions for how to course-correct.

I don’t have time for self-care.

Self-care is a lot of things, and it doesn’t have to be time-consuming.

We all have 24 hours in a day. People make time for things that are most important.

Your own well-being is one of the most important things in your life. You may not completely agree with that, but a part of you must if you’re reading this post.

If all you are willing to do for self-care is take a deep breath the minute you open your eyes in the morning, start there.

If the only time you have to yourself is in the shower (I know sometimes even that is difficult to do… looking at you, new parents and folks with depression), buy a scented body wash and spend that time relishing in the scent and sensations.

The amount of time you spend on self-care isn’t as important as the willingness to be present and mindful during the time you do have.

So find pockets in your day. Carve space for yourself where you can. Make the time.

Self-care isn’t important.

All human beings are deserving of love and care.

Agree? Well, I have news for you. All people includes you.

You are just as important as your parents, kids, neighbors, friends, students, clients…

In fact, you are a little bit more important than those people. Each of them is responsible for their own happiness, and so are you.

It is really hard to feel happy when you are stressed, and the purpose of self-care is to decrease stress, and increase wellness.

What’s more, if you’re stressed and unwell, you are not able to provide your best quality care to others. And surely you can agree that others deserve your best. So if nothing else, use that as your motivation.

Okay, fine, self-care might be important for other people, but I don’t need it. I can push on without it.

You, like everyone else, are human. Whether you like it or not, you have wants and needs, and those wants and needs are important!

You can push on without self-care, but what happens when you do? What happens when you go all day without eating, or two days without sleeping, or a week without showering?

My guess is, it has a negative impact on the people around you. You’re hangry, you smell, you’re irritable and drowsy (this isn’t personal, it’s just what happens when most people don’t take care of themselves).

Self-care is selfless, because it is ensuring that you are at your best for others.

So for the sake of argument, let’s say you’re the exception. You can push on without caring for yourself, and still be a ray of sunshine. No one notices anything is the matter with you.

How long does that typically last before you bite someone’s head off? Or get really sick and have to take time off work? Sure, you can push on without self-care, but is it worth the cost?

Self-care doesn’t work for me. Even when I do it, I still can’t relax.

Don’t worry too much about how relaxed you are, or when it will happen. Just do your self-care anyway, and do your best to be present.

When you notice your thoughts wandering back to your to-do list, just bring them back to noticing your five senses in the present moment.

When your attention wanders again, bring it back again. Do this as many times as you need to.

If at the end of your self-care you still don’t feel relaxed, don’t sweat it. You’re still better off than before you started. Keep trying!

The other thing you can do is rate your stress level 1-10 when you start self-care, and when you end it. This will give you a more accurate of how much self-care is helping.

Self-care doesn’t work for me long-term. I always go back to putting others before myself.

One of the things my husband always tells me is, “Show yourself a little grace.” To me, that means finding patience and compassion for yourself.

Remember, you are trying to change what may be lifelong habits, things you have been doing for years! Something that took that long to become entrenched in you isn’t going to change overnight. It’s just not realistic.

There may also be emotional blocks, like excessive guilt or past trauma, in your way. If you think this could be the case, the best advice I can give you is to seek therapy.

If you’ve tried everything and still, self-care doesn’t work for you, a therapist may be able to support your unique needs. And if you live in Illinois, I might just be the therapist for you! Call me today – 773-819-0494 – to set up your free consultation.

Warmly,

Rebecca

Rebecca Ogle, LCSW, is a psychotherapist who provides compassionate tele-therapy. She helps folks heal from anxiety, depression, people-pleasing and burnout using their strengths and inner wisdom.