As of this writing, the 2020 presidential election has been called for Joe Biden, but remains a source of conflict. President Donald Trump has allegedly told friends that he will not concede if he loses, filed several lawsuits to stop the count, and tweeted more than a few conspiracies that Twitter decided to remove. Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden has been a calming voice for his supporters but a damning one for Trump’s, many of whom fear the former vice president will take away their AR15s if he wins. 

It’s just another example of how divided we seem to be as a country, and it seems to be taking everyone’s post-election anxiety to a new level of concern.

Local Profile sat down at a safe social distance (by email) to speak with Kimberly Presley, a licensed clinical social worker and clinical director at Taylor Counseling Group, about post-election anxiety and tips for how to manage it. 

What is post-election anxiety and how is it different now than it was in the 2016 election?

From my perspective, post-election anxiety is feeling worried and concerned about the outcome and impact the election will have on our lives. Anxiety can be described as excessive worry over something we have limited control over. Most of us have done our part to vote and stay educated on the issues at hand, but outside of that, we have limited control over the outcome of the election. Our lack of control is one of the main reasons people are feeling helpless. In comparison to the 2016 election, the media and politics surrounding this election feel much more polarizing and divisive: most people feel like we have much more on the line.

Why is post-election anxiety bad if left untreated?

If left untreated, anxiety can lead to temporary issues with sleeplessness, change of appetite, increase in stress, feeling uptight, increased heart rate and blood pressure and can impact relationships. Anxiety can also take a toll on mental health, leading to depression and feelings related to hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness.

We all experience anxiety and many of us have some degree of post-election anxiety. It is important that we learn to manage and treat our anxiety so that it does not affect relationships with our family, friends and coworkers.

I read over the tips for dealing with post-election anxiety and noticed one was avoiding social media. How are people supposed to do that and for how long? It seems like this election mess will be going on until December, maybe January. 

I recommend scheduling limited times during the day to check social media. We all have structure during our days even without realizing it—we structure our days for when we exercise, eat, run errands, work and more, so why can’t social media be added to our schedules? This might be two to three times a day—whatever works best with your schedule. I also encourage people to be intentional with the sources you read and follow to reduce post-election anxiety.

Any last thoughts you would like to share with readers about post-election anxiety?

With this election, it is easy to let our thoughts spiral into thinking about the significant issues in the world and that whoever is elected may not resolve or handle these issues how we want. Focus on what you can do in your family and community today to combat that feeling of helplessness. We cannot predict what may or may not happen, but what we can do is consider the impact we have on our families, friends, workplaces and community and support causes we care about. Ask yourself, “Where is my sphere of influence, and how can I help those I care for regardless of who is elected?” This can also limit the divisiveness within your groups. 

Here are a few tips to combat post-election anxiety: 

  1. Manage your news intake. 
  2. Turn your energy toward something positive – donate to a cause, march for an organization or gather with friends to promote something you care about.
  3. Get moving! Exercise and meditate daily. 
  4. Surround yourself with positive people who don’t need to constantly debate politics. 
  5. Seek professional help when the anxiety is impacting your day-to-day life. 

Christian McPhate

Christian McPhate is the managing editor of Local Profile. He has been working as a journalist for more than a decade. His work has appeared in a number of publications, including the Dallas Morning News,...