Oct 14, 2016 1:00 AM

Author: Libby Mitchell


As the days count down to Election Day blood pressure is rising all across the country. People are taking the political choices being made by their friends and neighbors more personally than ever before. As the politicians trade barbs on television and at rallies, their supporters are waging similar wars online and in break rooms. It’s pushing nerves to the limit and testing relationships between friends and families to the breaking point. So, how is one to remain sane among the chaos?

“What you need to do is let go of the idea that your point of view is the only correct one,” says Megan Whitlock, a clinical social worker with University of Utah Health. “Conflict happens when we cling to our respective views and refuse to accept differing values or priorities.”

Yep, that’s right. You need to accept that people may have a differing opinion than you. You need to accept that you probably won’t change it. Then you need to move on. “I try to remember that my ideal is someone's worst nightmare and my worst nightmare is someone else's ideal,” says Whitlock.

Focusing on what’s going on right now may make it easier to let go. Remember that getting upset right now won’t impact what happens on November 8. “We often try to change the past or control the future, which is a great way to cause anxiety,” says Whitlock. “So focusing on what is happening now and asking what is most important for each day helps us live with the assurance that we did what was important to us that day with the information we had at the time.”

It’s also important to remember that while politics are important, so are the people in your life. Remind yourself of the good in the people who surround you. Remember they are more than their political opinions. “When I assume a whole person can be explained by the label of ‘Democrat’ or “Republican’ I create a mindset that is black and white,” says Whitlock. “That is when a whole person can become a symbol of fear for me. When I view that label as just a piece of the person, that symbol becomes less powerful. That person is simply a human being again.  And human beings want to be compassionate; they yearn to connect.”

Part of the increased stress of this election cycle is there is so much news about it. The 24-hour news channels, online news sites and social media channels are providing a never-ending stream of items that can raise election anxiety. Some people have posted they are compulsively checking the live election forecast on the website “FiveThirtyEight” just in case anything has shifted in the last few moments. Stepping away from the noise may be key in reducing your election angst.

“There are definitely times that I disengage in order to re-center,” says Whitlock. “I’ll take some time and figure out what is making me angry or scared, and be open with myself about it. Then when I choose to re-engage, I can do it from a much better place and find ways to connect with people who disagree with my views.”

Taking care of yourself physically can help mentally as well. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep. If you don’t feel good, you are more likely to feel stresses or be unable to handle difficult circumstances. Use exercise as a stress buster. If a Facebook conversation has your blood boiling, take a moment to walk around the block while taking deep breaths. Your endorphins will help sweep out your frustrations.

Above all else, remind yourself this is nothing new. Every election has some level of divisiveness . In 1828, John Quincy Adams campaigned against Andrew Jackson by calling his mother a “prostitute” and claiming Jackson was an “adulterer.” We have previously had campaigns where opponents claimed disastrous results if their opponent was elected. Yet, our country is still intact and functioning.  It will remain so after the election of 2016. “Every election feels overwhelming to many people,” says Whitlock. “So remembering that you made it through the last one helps.”

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