By Sonny Tapia
Taking a step back from talking to someone with opposing views is a smart decision during the election in the United States. The East Los Angeles College Emergency Preparedness team said on Thursday that the elections have brought a high level of anxiety to society especially in lower income areas.
Senior Department Secretary of Nursing Monica Lopez said there is a medical disorder for election anxiety called Election Stress Disorder.
This disorder does not discriminate between who is affected and impacts people on both sides of the political spectrum. A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, it suggests that 70% of Americans feel that the elections add stress to their lives.
“We are all invested in this election, and sometimes when we are invested in something that can add more stress to our lives,” Lopez said.
During this political climate as a whole, people need to continue to go to work and take care of their families Lopez said.
Election anxiety brings worry and confusion, because there is an overflow of information from the candidates and news sources.
Staying away from destructive coping mechanisms such as declining self-care, drinking or substance abuse can help.
Elections become personal because it impacts people personally, so taking a step back can give an individual the right head-space Lopez said.
“A lot of the conversations we have with others about our political views may not be to change their mind. It is to be heard and not dismissed,” Lopez said. There are grey areas to the term “Right is right and wrong is wrong.” There are compromises that are made and not in the best benefit of everyone.
“Unfortunately there are grey areas to everything. There are ideological things that someone might agree with from one candidate, but you might not agree with the bigger picture,” Emergency Preparedness Team Member Ernest Burnett said. Being conscious of a situation is important, Lopez said. Due to COVID-19 and the elections happening at the same time, some people have become more defensive.
Something that is in control of the people is the choice to support one side or another. The anxiety comes from not knowing what will happen in the future and for the most part people are angry because of what is currently happening, Lopez said.
Hopelessness is also a part of the anxiety from the elections and a way to cope with this is by reconnecting with family members and letting them know the feelings at hand. The mindfulness of knowing when someone is overwhelmed means allowing them to relax and take care of themself.
Losing relations with someone due to different political views is common during this time. Taking care of your personal life is the most important thing to do. Making time to be happy is crucial to fill some part of their day with everything going on. This can go hand in hand with surrounding yourself with positivity.
“Surround yourself with positivity because if someone walks in a room and they are in a bad mood you can feel it. Stay away from that by adding people that are relatively more happy than upset and angry,” Lopez said.
Burnett said that an oasis for some people right now can be Netflix because after you finish a show the streaming company shows the viewer recommendations on similar shows or movies. Lopez said that other coping mechanisms for election anxiety is to avoid overly opinionated people and picking specific times to view the news.
Avoiding overly opinionated people can reduce stress levels, because if there are not people around you that only talk about politics then you can have a gap of time to have a mental break. Mental breaks can give a sigh of relief to someone that has been only hearing about the bad in the world right now Lopez said.
Picking specific times to view the news can also be helpful during election time. If someone is particularly stressed about what is happening it would not be in their best interest to view the news right before bed.
Instead the person can schedule a specific time that they may call the news hour, to find out what is happening in the world. This gives time for the person to unwind throughout the day instead of trying to sleep on it. It was also recommended that the time should not be in the morning because it may be difficult to go through the day.
Some grounding exercises that were displayed during the presentation. The body, five senses, self-soothe, observe, breathe and distract were explained by Lopez.
The body exercises that can be used are laying on the ground, pressing your toes into the ground and squeezing playdough to reduce the built up aggression. Wearing your favorite sweatshirt, use of essential oils and making tea are examples for grounding with the five senses. Self-soothing exercises can help with relaxation like taking a bath or shower, finding a grounding object or relaxation object and lighting a candle.
Observing allows a person to live in the now Lopez said. Describing an object in detail, color, texture, shadow, light and shapes are all things to do for observations. A breathing technique to use is called the 4-7-8 technique. A person will count starting at one and will inhale to four, hold it in to seven and exhale slowly to eight. Distractions add a sense of relaxation by giving the mind a break from the elections. A person can pick a color and find all the objects in the room that are that color, a person can count by sevens or twos or threes and a person could say the date or spell it out.
Staying grounded is key to relaxing and staying conscious during the primary elections Lopez said.