Doctors dub clinical term for anxiety related to 2020 election

Dr. Lauren Grawert on planning a Nov. 3 strategy to cope with Election Day anxiety

Nearly 7 out of 10 Americans reported that the upcoming election is a significant source of stress in their everyday lives more than the 2016 election was, according to a poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association. A Northern Virginia psychiatrist has advice for how to cope.

“Find ways to express how you’re feeling in a safe and therapeutic environment,” said Dr. Lauren Grawert, the chief of psychiatry for Northern Virginia within Kaiser Permanente.

Grawert said it can be helpful to write a letter to yourself or write in a journal, “explaining how you’re feeling in the moment.”

You can also talk with family or friends.

“Sometimes, we call them election dialogue partners,” Grawert said. “Somebody who’s going to validate your feelings and understand where you’re coming from and understand how you’re feeling.”

Other tips: Stay off social media. Go on a media diet. Cut back on soda and caffeine. Take short exercise breaks, even if it’s just a quick walk.

“Even a 10-minute walk is as effective in anxiety reduction as a 45-minute workout,” Grawert said.

Try staying busy with various activities or distractions, such as cooking, reading, yoga, meditation or mindfulness. And even TV works.

Recognizing the emotional trauma some people are experiencing related to uncertainty about the upcoming presidential election, Grawert said physicians now talk about a real syndrome they anticipate people will experience when it’s all over.

“Postelection stress disorder or postelection stress syndrome,” Grawert said.

It doesn’t matter whether the outcome is something you did or didn’t want.

“Either one can be anxiety-provoking, because it’s going to be a huge pivotal change,” she said. And it’s all right if you’re upset.

“That’s really the most important thing — just having an awareness that if you’re really struggling in the days and weeks following the election, that it’s OK.”

Recognizing what’s going on is key because that way you can begin to implement coping strategies that may have worked best for you in the past.

“Whether it be the exercise, the distraction, journaling, talking with somebody — all of those are going to apply to help manage and navigate those difficult feelings in the postelection season,” Grawert said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing extreme anxiety, loneliness or depression, you can communicate with a crisis counselor by texting the word HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

There’s also help at the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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