After receiving “7 Ways to Deal with Election Stress” in my inbox and learning that there is a new DSM diagnosis for Election Stress Disorder, I asked a few friends 1. If they are feeling more stressed as a result of this election, 2. Why? and 3. What are they doing about it?
Everyone I asked told me they were feeling more stressed. Two friends said they were upset that neither major presidential candidate felt like a good choice. I usually mock my spouse for being overly attached to CNN but found myself drawn into staying up late watching hours of debate and commentary, not because I needed information to make a decision, but because of a kind of morbid curiosity; eventually telling people “It’s like road kill. You just can’t look away.”
I’m typically a pretty happy person and at first I thought that the election wasn’t stressing me at all. Then I remembered the other day when I was looking at the alpenglow on the ridge (that warm reflected light you can see sometimes at sunrise when looking west). I realized to my surprise that I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I did the last time. I wasn’t able to be fully present. I was blocking my joy.
One of my clients even developed an election-related injury. She approached me the other day for help with severe pain at the base of her thumb that seemed to come out of nowhere. We eventually realized that repeated tapping on her iPad screen while lying in bed searching for disturbing developments in the election was the cause.
It is important to notice when people in this country are becoming more stressed, unhappy, and self-injurious. More stress makes us more likely to hurt each other both emotionally and physically. Can something be done besides creating a diagnosis and sharing “7 ways to deal with election stress?”
One of my friends is going to help at Standing Rock, where the problems are real. Another told me that she “goes Zen,” reflecting that change is constant and many of our daily experiences will remain the same. She qualifies this by saying she feels selfish in that she does not worry as much as she would if she had her own children.
Whole species are dying. Our weather is changing. We are fighting with each other about divisions we create according to race, class, gender, religion and nationality. Many of us are impassioned about our right and the need to own and carry weapons.
Our political conversation has been missing a consistent voice for peace, reconciliation, mutual understanding, and compassion for far too long. Rather than just discuss coping strategies for our stress, let’s identify the cause and address it at its source. It’s extremely urgent now for each of us in our own way to seek for peace and pursue it, to value gentleness with ourselves and with others, and to teach our leaders to do the same.