Puget Sound medical experts offer advice on managing election stress

Nov 2, 2020, 12:46 PM
Vote by mail, ballots, election stress, lawsuits...
Trays of ballots in King County. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Trouble sleeping, mysterious tummy aches, a general feeling of anxiety? Maybe it’s election stress disorder. Mercer Island MD Dr. Gordon Cohen joined Seattle’s Morning News to discuss.

“Well, tomorrow is the big day, and there’s so much anxiety right now over this particular election. There is a concept called election stress disorder, and it isn’t really a scientific diagnosis, but the concept itself is really quite real. It’s an experience of overwhelming anxiety, and it really shows up in a number of different ways,” he said.

“It’s typically the way that people experience stress in their bodies — they feel tension, whether it’s in their head or their shoulders, stomach issues, they get headaches, trouble sleeping, tossing and turning, having bad dreams. And a lot of people are having this right now about the election,” he added. “What’s interesting is that the American Psychological Association does a regular survey to try and determine how affected people are by this. And right now, in 2020, approximately two thirds or 68% of American adults say that the U.S. presidential election is a significant source of stress in their lives.”

Should politicians or doctors be making policy on COVID-19?

Part of the anxiety isn’t simply due to the election itself, but fears of what will follow, in terms of social unrest, and that the result they don’t like is a threat to their way of life.

“In contrast to this, only 52% said the same thing before the 2016 election. I actually saw a poll yesterday that said that 75% of people expect there to be some degree of social unrest following the election results … given what we’ve seen over the past year, it’s hard to imagine that that won’t be the case. So I think that people have a lot of anxiety over that and you can see that businesses are preemptively boarding themselves up,” he said.

“I also think that the country itself has become so politically divided to one extreme or another that people really feel that whatever the outcome of this election is, that it’s a true threat to their own way of life and I think that has increased the anxiety tremendously because you feel like you really have something to lose.”

For UW School of Medicine’s Assistant Dean of Wellness Anne Browning, part of the issue is to not always be on your phone stressing yourself by over-indulging in political news.

“I’ve debriefed with a lot of colleagues who have used the term ‘doom scrolling,’ where you just kind of find yourself on a device and you’re stuck on it,” she told KIRO Radio. “Before you click to view some video or read an article, actually pause and just ask yourself the question, ‘Will reading this or watching this actually improve my well being? Or is it likely to make me feel worse with more stress, more anxiety?’” she said.

Determining how Amy Coney Barrett would rule on religious freedom cases

While it may sound a bit strange, Dr. Cohen says experts recommend imagining that one candidate or the other has won as a mind exercise, and then come up with a plan for dealing with your emotions should that be the outcome.

“One of the recommendations from a lot of experts is just thinking about it,” he said. “And also, if your candidate doesn’t win, rather than being angry and aggressive toward the other side, try to understand why people chose the candidate other than yours, and try to work with them, to learn from them. People are allowed to have an opinion that differs from you. That’s what makes society interesting.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave's Commentary

Dave Ross

Dave Ross

Ross: An odyssey of awe, a leaky ceiling and the power of self-confidence

Three weeks ago, Colleen and I interviewed researcher Dacher Keltner on the subject of Awe – which he defines as follows.
3 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: Ticketmaster’s monopoly challenged in congressional hearing

Members of a Senate committee – Republican and Democrat seemed to agree at yesterday’s hearing that Ticketmaster has become a monopoly.
4 days ago
McCarthy house republican spending cuts...
Dave Ross

Ross: Republicans know their spending cuts are unpopular

Have Republicans specified what it is they would cut that's a big enough spending item to make a difference in the debt?
5 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: A big, trillion dollar platinum coin can solve the debt crisis

A $1 trillion coin obviously has no practical use – my barista won’t take a fifty – but it would instantly put debt below the current limit.
6 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: Finland’s affordable housing strategy could work here too

You can’t make a profit building low-income housing and providing support services to the residents, but one Finland resident found a way.
9 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: The coffee jitters are the least anxious part of my morning brew

Is it environmentally responsible to make your morning coffee with a single-use coffee pod? Dave dives into the data.
10 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Puget Sound medical experts offer advice on managing election stress