Alex Rojas, advertising and broadcast communications senior, said she has been stressed “to the max” for the last few weeks. She constantly listens to the news with her father, a huge news junkie, everywhere — in the car, at dinner, on TV.
Although she described the 2016 presidential election as a train wreck, Rojas said this year’s election is exponentially worse.
“It’s crazy — my mental health for this election has just been crappy,” she said.
The possibility that election results won’t officially be tallied until later in the week because of mail-in ballots only increases her anxiety, she said.
With the presidential election finally here, many Americans’ stress and anxiety levels have skyrocketed. Amid COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, many have hailed this year’s election as the most important in our lifetimes.
Interest in this year’s election is as high as it has been in two decades, according to Pew Research Center. In 2000, only half of registered voters said it “really mattered” who won the presidential election. This year, 83% expressed this view.
Because of election stress, it’s important to practice self-care this week to keep your mental health afloat.
University studies senior Hughes Cowart said the realization that the election is finally here after months of dread hit him hard.
Cowart said he focuses on two things for self care: taking time to tune out and taking time to process what’s going on.
“If I’m hyper-connected, then I just get super depressed,” he said. “But if I’m completely tuned out, the anxiety about it just builds up.”
It’s all about balance, Cowart said. Balance tuning out with staying informed, but don’t pretend that you’re OK if you’re not.
“You can definitely trick yourself into thinking that you’re moving past something when in reality, you’ve just pushed it aside and you’re just going to have to deal with it later,” he said. “This is definitely something that’ll be easy to just act like you’re over it and then break down one day.”
Rojas said social media is a distraction she immediately eliminated.
First and foremost, delete Facebook, she said. Nothing good comes from it. She isn’t active on Twitter, but if she was she’d delete that, too. She also plans to limit her Instagram and TikTok usage and mute notifications from news apps like BBC, The Associated Press and CNN because she knows the alerts will be constant.
“I won’t lie, it’ll be a little weird limiting my social media intake just because I am on it so much,” she said. “But ultimately, I’m already stir crazy right now. I don’t need to do that to myself more by checking social media.”
She isn’t alone. Some 55% of adult social media users said they feel “worn out” by the volume of political posts and discussions they see online, according to Pew Research Center.
That number is 18 percentage points higher than in the summer preceding the 2016 election, and nine higher from just last year.
During her hiatus, Rojas plans to stay at home and focus on her remote work. After that, she’ll catch up on some anime and meet remotely with her student organization.
Her family has subscriptions to multiple streaming platforms, so she said there will be plenty to entertain and distract her.
While a part of her wanted to know what’s going on at all times on Election Day and throughout the week, she realizes that will only drain her. Instead, she said she needs to focus on her mental health.
Social work junior Deanna Thompson agreed with Rojas that it’s essential to take at least a day without reading about politics or doomscrolling through social media.
“We expend so much of our energy towards politics and all that,” she said. “Having a day for self-care and ourselves is 100% necessary to be able to focus and to put our energy into things that make you feel better.”
Although she has to work during election week, she plans to take care of herself in her off time. For her, that means baking gluten-free cookies and watching “The Haunting of Bly Manor” on Netflix.
Another thing that helps her is making a list of the tasks she wants or needs to do for the day. She said if she has a list to follow, she’s going to want to complete it, and it’ll keep her occupied.
Cowart said he’ll focus on his job and homework this week. Although he plans to binge watch some TV like many other students, he said that’ll get old. Instead, he plans to stay productive and work on art projects he hasn’t had the chance to get to.
If we weren’t in a pandemic, he said he’d spend time with friends and family, but since we are, he plans on calling them to vent, laugh and catch up.
Multiple workshops covering stress management, self-compassion, loneliness and isolation, anxiety and academics, and mindfulness are also on offer.
It’s important to remember that it’s OK to need time off, and it’s OK to ask for help, Thompson said. If personal self-care doesn’t work for you, consider a therapy appointment.
Some people might disagree with taking time off or disengaging with politics, but Thompson said it isn’t lazy to do so. She sees it as recharging so she can do her part in the future. That’s what makes her feel better.
MAVS Talk 24-Hour Crisis Line is available for students at 817-272-8255.
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, you are not alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.