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Navigating anxiety during an unprecedented election season

How voting, leaning on others and holding onto hope helped me cope with election anxiety

This is the first major election that I voted in, and as a woman and person of color, it was empowering to vote.
This is the first major election that I voted in, and as a woman and person of color, it was empowering to vote.

I know I’m not the only one who has lost sleep over the 2020 election. The past few weeks have been stressful, and I think it’s safe to say that this election has made many people feel vulnerable.

Quite frankly, I’m scared. I’m scared for the outcome, and while I want to be hopeful, it seems to be an anxiety-arousing kind of hope. We cannot say with certainty that presidential candidate Joe Biden will win this election, so in the event of another four years with incumbent president Donald Trump, we need to be prepared. 

The lives of many are up in the air. The reality is this election will have major consequences on everyone’s lives. In the midst of ongoing conversations about systemic racism and injustice, climate instability and a pandemic, proper leadership is crucial. Plus, with the recent appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the futures of reproductive rights and same-sex marriage are also uncertain.

Many political and social issues I hold dearly are being held in contention. How does one reconcile this? How does one cope with the consequential fear and dread?

The stress crosses party lines as the future of this country worries 77 percent of Americans, with two-thirds of Biden supporters and one-third of Trump supporters saying they are nervous about the country’s future. The political climate is tense, and it’s a high-stakes election. Understandably, no one wants their desired candidate to lose — personally, I don’t want to see Biden lose. 

While a common experience, election anxiety is not often talked about. For some, this anxiety can manifest as being nervous when you receive an election-related news notification on your phone or being scared you didn’t fill out your absentee ballot correctly. In 2020, nearly 70 percent of Americans say that the election is a significant source of stress, up from 52 percent during the 2016 election cycle.

While the nature of this election doesn’t allow us to evade our fear, there are ways to mitigate it that I have found helpful — primarily through voting and leaning on others for support.

This year, there has been an outcry of requests for Americans to exercise our right to vote. Voting provides us with agency and strengthens our community because we are taking a collective action to produce our desired result and give us a say in matters that are important to us. Because of that, each of us has a responsibility to vote. 

This is the first major election that I voted in, and as a woman and person of color, it was empowering to vote. It’s no secret that Trump is, in fact, racist and sexist, among other things. Voting against him made me feel like I’m actively serving as a voice of opposition in an attempt to dismantle all the discriminatory systems he has fostered.

Another point of stress was out-of-state voting. I sent my ballot several days in advance, but I was still concerned that it wouldn’t arrive in time. Thankfully my ballot did arrive in time, but the U.S. Postal Service is overworked with such a high influx of mail-in ballots, and this presents an issue for many.

It’s comforting to know that I am not alone. There have been lighthearted moments. My roommates and I have projected the debates onto the wall in our apartment. We laugh at the blatantly ridiculous statements that the candidates have made, their facial expressions and petty banter — mostly in awe that this is, in fact, our reality. We’ve used our sense of humor as a way to cope.

Another reassuring aspect has been the widespread calls to vote made by young voters in particular. It’s encouraging to see people offer resources, education and support on social media during this time. It’s evident that many people feel this sense of urgency and are aware that this is not the time to be complacent.

My friends and I were witnesses to one another’s mail-in ballots, and we cheered each other on as we dropped them in mailboxes. This shared connection is notable. It’s comforting to know that there are so many other people out there who are in a similar position and who are experiencing the same joys and fears.

Without this acknowledgement, the situation seems bleak. There’s a seemingly countless number of issues in contention this election, but one of the biggest issues I see this election concerns simply that of human rights. It’s upsetting and frustrating — understandably so — when you feel like your core tenets and values are up for debate.

Although cliche and even sometimes dangerous, holding onto hope can be beneficial. Hope presents itself as one of the few certainties here. We can hold onto hope — hope for a desired outcome, hope for a better future and minimize this election anxiety together.