How many hours of election coverage have you watched since November 3rd? Be honest now. For me, I started the morning of Election Day by watching Hamilton so I could put myself in a patriotic mood.
Then around 12 pm, I switched the channel to CNN. It is the only channel that has been on my TV for the last 72 hours. I have been staying awake until midnight each night watching the news.
That is a lot of hours. It has been an incredibly stressful time for me, and all of my fellow Americans. There is a term for it, and it is called Election Stress Disorder.
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” – Abraham Lincoln
What exactly is Election Stress Disorder?
According to Dr. Robert Bright, and a Mayo Clinic article, election stress disorder is not a real mental health diagnosis, but there is no doubt that this contentious election is causing anxiety and tension on a national level. Anxiety and stress are both very real. Dr. Bright reminds us of the effects of those:
“We notice it in our bodies, the tension in our shoulders. Sometimes people get GI (gastrointestinal) upset or headaches. People have trouble sleeping.
There’s a lot of sleep disturbance going on right now — tossing, turning and worrying, and not being able to get to sleep — or having bad dreams about the election. (There is) a lot of fearfulness (and) a number of mixed emotions ― people with fear and hypervigilance and constantly searching the news and being on whatever social media outlet you have, and getting these messages.
I was watching the television this morning, and every commercial has this catastrophic message, ‘If you vote for this guy or that guy, horrific, catastrophic things are going to happen.’ And that constant message creates a sense of anxiety and fear and diffusely feeling overwhelmed in ourselves.
And it affects our emotions after a while. So we start getting irritable and short and snapping at people, not trusting people, seeing people as the other, or the same. And that starts affecting our relationships at home. It starts affecting our work.”
It is affecting our streets too. Walmart pulled all the guns and ammo from their shelves because they were worried about civil unrest. Cities boarded up businesses in case there were riots in the streets. I have seen nothing like this in my lifetime.
“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote… that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.” – Samuel Adams
How many people are affected?
A study by the American Psychological Association proves that Election Stress Disorder is another thing that unites us as Americans and is a bipartisan issue.
The study states, “more than two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) say that the 2020 U.S. presidential election is a significant source of stress in their life, a large increase from the 2016 presidential election when 52% said the same, according to a new survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association.
The survey also found that regardless of political affiliation, majorities say that the election is a significant source of stress (76% of Democrats, 67% of Republicans, and 64% of Independents).”
I have a diverse group of people on my social media, and I say this seems to be accurate. The Trump supporters are convinced that their vote is now meaningless because they genuinely believe that there is “so much fraud and he will lose because it’s rigged.”
The Biden supporters are disheartened because it is so incredibly close, and the Democratic party didn’t win as many victories as they hoped they would. They struggle with knowing that so many people support a candidate they see as a bully, a liar, and frankly dangerous.
The Trump supporters see the Biden supporters the same way; like they are socialists who want to ruin America. No one understands one another. No matter what ‘camp’ you find yourself in, you are likely feeling exhausted, especially as this continues on.
I know that my children are tired of the news being on. We don’t watch a lot of news and my son just wants to play his video game. I get it, kid; I wish I could just watch The Bold and The Beautiful or Lucifer. But like many of my fellow American’s I am glued to the John King and the ‘Magic Wall.’
How Election Stress Disorder is shaping the world
I heard from someone today that she feels her vote doesn’t count because the election is not in our control. She feels the counters, the supervisors, and the government are skewing the numbers and ensuring they get the outcome they want.
This is a college-educated professional who believes there is no point in voting because it is all fake. She is not alone, and if Americans lose faith in our election process, where does that leave us? Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. It is what sets us apart from our origins in England.
To quote King George from Hamilton, “George Washington’s yielding his power and stepping away ‘Zat true? I wasn’t aware that was something a person could do. I’m perplexed. Are they gonna keep on replacing whoever’s in charge? If so, who’s next?”
That is what we do every four years. We replace our leadership through the voting process, and then power transitions peacefully. It has worked that way for centuries.
We have had 58 presidential elections over the course of our history, and the world has watched us get through it. The winner accepts the great responsibility of leading this great nation, and the party who is not elected transfers power peacefully.
Countries around the world have adopted similar election processes because we proved it could be done. Now, our allies and our opponents are watching this election like hawks. Will we live up to our promise, or will we unravel? Our allies are feeling the tension of this election, too.
So what exactly are the leaders in other countries saying about the US election? Germany’s defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said the uncertainty clouding our election is “a very explosive situation.”
She added, “This is a situation that can lead to a constitutional crisis in the U.S., as experts are rightly saying, and it is something that must cause us great concern.”
Also in Germany, parliamentarian Norbert Röttgen told NPR that Trump’s unwarranted victory speech demonstrated “a total lack of respect for the law. [The] counting process is ongoing. Nobody has a basis or a right to declare victory.”
France is questioning our entire electoral process. French journalist Sylvie Kauffmann said leaving the decision to the states “creates a lot of disparities and complicates the counting of votes at the national level.” The states determining who the leader is going to be is a foundational piece of our democracy, but other countries are viewing it as a flaw in our process.
Daniel Finkelstein, a UK writer, opened his piece by saying, “It is hard to look at our closest ally without concluding that it is in trouble.” If our closest ally can see this, then our most dangerous enemies can too.
Again, no matter what camp you are in, this should be concerning. The world is questioning our ability to govern ourselves. This moves beyond tension and anxiety and becomes a legitimate cause for stress.
“[The spirit of party] opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.” – George Washington
Is there a way to combat Election Stress Disorder?
Find an activity that calms you and make some time for that. I think this is too important an issue to step away from, but it is important to take care of yourself.
Arguing, with people on social media will not change the outcome, so limit the energy you spend engaging with people who share false information. In fact, I have removed them from my friend’s list.
To be clear, not because they disagree with me on policies, but because they are contributing to a larger problem. If you can’t handle the play-by-play of the changing landscape of votes, then don’t watch the live coverage. Instead, just check in every once in a while.
I wish all of us well. Hopefully, this will end soon. The good news is that eventually we will get all the votes counted and we will know who the next President of the United States will be.
How we behave between now and then says more about who we are than many of the things we have said during this election cycle. How have you been handling the stress of this election? Let us know in the comments below.