It's Not Just You. The Election Is Screwing With Everyone's Mental Health

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We've got less than a month to go until the presidential election. Which doesn't seem that long until you consider the angry bile we've been marinating in for months. If you're angrier, more anxious, less optimistic or full-on freaked out about now, you're not alone. 

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Choosing our new president is taking a toll on pretty much every American's mental health.

A recent Politico article pointed out that over the summer, some 3,000 therapists signed a manifesto declaring that Donald Trump's overt sexism, intolerance, and scapegoating behavior posed an actual threat to the well-being of their patients. Months ago, these mental health professionals were already seeing an uptick in their clients' feeling of anxiety, fear, shame and helplessness.

And when a University of Minnesota psychologist polled 1,000 voting-age Americans, he found that 43 percent were feeling emotional distress because of Trump's campaign. (In turn, 28 percent said Hilary Clinton was stressing them out.)

Do we really need to unpack why this campaign is torturing us so? Is "Good vs. Evil"/"Love vs. Hate" not clear enough?

Okay then. Let's break it down.

"Many people are more anxious [about] what's going to happen because the two [political parties] are so polarized. They fear the other side winning and the consequence of that changing their lives," explains Dr. Gail Saltz, MD, a psychiatrist in New York City and host of "The Power of Different" podcast.
 
Our anger's bubbling up, she adds, "because the gloves are off in terms of politicians modeling civilized behavior and curbing what they will say. That's given many people permission to speak angrily and disparagingly, which has inflamed our collective way of relating and feeling."
 
Some people are bummed about what they perceive as no good choices for president, says Saitz. But let's face it -- confidence in politicians has been on the wane for a while now. And feeling like no one you trust is at the wheel leaves people with "a degree of hopelessness about being able to control and protect their futures," Saltz says.
 

 
There's a name for what you've been feeling
 
Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, JD, a licensed marriage and family therapist who practices in New York City, has a name for this phenomenon: "Election Neurosis."
 
"I've observed a definite spike in anxiety and depression in my patients that's directly related to this election cycle," he admits. The emotion that comes up again and again, Hokemeyer says, is betrayal.
 
"My patients feel betrayed by the very system that is supposed to protect their liberties. They feel the vile and base actions of the candidates violate their very beings and the American promise of the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness," he says.
 

More from CafeMom: Real Talk: Donald Trump Ruined My Friendship

If you're pro-Hilary (also known as "voting with your conscience" or "doing the right thing"), you might have bitten your fingernails down to the nubs by this point.

"At a minimum, it's frustrating to watch [Trump's] childish attacks," notes Denise Shull, MA, a New York City therapist and founder of The ReThink Group. "It’s scary to see bullying tactics played out on the stage of a presidential election. It creates, as the perpetrator desires, an environment of fear."

And it ain't over yet. But as powerless or pissed off as you feel right now, there ARE things you can do to prevent yourself from cowering in a corner until Nov. 9.

1. Stop watching the news.

Seriously. "How many times do you need to hear the same sad story?" Hokemeyer asks. "Check the news at the start and end of the day."

2. Consider this an opportunity to take stock of your life.

"Use this experience to reflect on what you want on a day to day basis, then go after one small thing that you can get from self-empowerment," advises Jeanette Raymond, PhD, a licensed psychologist in Los Angeles.
 
"Write your day to day feelings in a journal... It will stir up other losses and disappointments that are buried, giving you the chance to 'cleanse' yourself and have more room for self compassion and tolerance."
 
3. Get over the hatred already.
 
Do volunteer work, take up a new hobby, do something nice for a neighbor who needs support and help right now. "Focusing on someone else's misfortune helps you feel better and motivates you to make something of your life," says Raymond.
 

4. Vote.

"Not voting is a form of passive-aggressive behavior that is ultimately unhealthy," Hokemeyer says. "The political is personal. We need to reclaim our political system and change it to be responsive to human, family and social needs."

In other words, follow Michelle Obama's advice and take the high road.

 

Image via Chad Zuber/Shutterstock

 

 

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