Updated: Nov 14, 2020
Coping with Pre-Election Panic and Anxiety
There you are—and here I am—and here we all are!—in a state of high anxiety over this Presidential election that’s right around the corner. Our anxiety is unprecedented. Never before have so many people felt the stakes are so high and the risks so great, to themselves and to the country. Never before have so many felt that there are so many ways that things can go wrong.
So how can we best cope between now and...whenever the hell it is we know the results? The answer lies in your perspective, how you take in information and what you do with it once it’s inside you.
Note: Nothing we’re saying here should be taken as tilting toward any candidate or
party. Since we at the CHI are here to help everybody, we are totally non-partisan in
the help we offer. Everyone’s anxiety is welcome at the table for healing.
Don’t let anyone, especially yourself, tell you horror stories. Don’t pay attention to them. They’ll just rev you up. Remember that the press, ALL the press, ALL the outlets, ALL the websites, ALL the social media posts on ALL sides have a stake in capturing your attention by using scare headlines. “So and so is doing/is going to do/has already done something of unparalleled dastardliness that’s going to DESTROY our country.” That’s pretty much every headline out there. Everything else is a big yawn to us these terror-filled days.
And what do you do with the scary stories you have in your head already and can’t get rid of? There are lots of things you can do.
Stop focusing on worst-case scenarios. For both sides, the worst-case scenario isn’t exactly losing; it’s feeling the election was stolen from you. Unfortunately, for many voters in this election on both sides, the feeling is that the only way we can lose is that the election is stolen from us. Well, I don’t know about you, but to me this is a bitter, paranoid, depressing, and not all that accurate view of the situation.
If you’re a Trump supporter, it may just be the case that your guy came in, did his job as best he could, and more people ended up not liking him than you’d have thought. Hey, that’s happened a lot in American politics. It happened to Bush I and to Carter. It might be hard for you to think this way, but if you’re over-anxious, this is the way to go. Plus, hey, he might even win fair and square.
If you’re a Biden supporter, you have the comfort—if you can call it that—in that your guy is way ahead in the polls. But like most survivors of 2016 and 2000 all you can do is think of ways this election can be snatched away from you. You’ve read countless stories of potential threats to a fair and complete vote count. Okay, fine. In the catastrophe zone, this is all true. But there is the other zone, in which there are other countervailing forces at work. Lawyers, poll watchers, and many others on the job working to make sure things work properly. And the thing is that both practically and politically the larger Biden’s margin in key states the less scope there is for the tactics you’re afraid of.
Take things four years at a time. Okay, so the wrong guy gets in. People are saying, Let’s go berserk! Let’s move to Albania! Let’s crawl in a hole and not come out for four years! Life as we know it is OVER. Except, no, it isn’t. Four years from now, the then-incumbent will be gone or, if doing a lousy job or if things aren’t going well, voted out of office.
Then what? The arc of political change is long and slow, even though it’s punctuated by shocks now and then. If things start moving too far to the right or left and people don’t like it, they will react against it. It may take time for them to react, and it may take time for the reactions to coalesce and gain strength, but people will get what they want.
And if they want more of what you want, then over time you and they and all of us will get there. If you’re impatient? Well, life is always hell for the impatient.
Remember: you can cope! In a way the worst worst-case scenario is that things don’t go your way in this election and that the country—and the people of this country—continue to move in a direction away from where you are now. Sounds like a nightmare. But is it?
It could be. It has been for some people, for sure. But if you look at the changes we’ve gone through as a country since 1945, there are so many things that have happened that almost everyone thought unacceptable and now are just fine with. There are also many things people thought had to change that still haven’t changed, and even if those changes still need to happen, badly, we’re still getting along somehow.
The point is, let’s look at what actually happens to people who don’t get what they want in this or any election and so at the time think the sky is falling.
Sometimes, they just plain old change their minds. There is no issue or candidate out there about which people haven’t changed their minds. The thing you thought was a nightmare turned out to be not bad or even good once you got to experience it.
Most often, though, people discover that it is far easier to cope with the negative outcome than they’d thought. We confuse our probable short-term reactions with our likely long-term reaction. “If my candidate loses, I’m gonna have to get drunk for days to cope with it.” Well, okay. But are you going to stay drunk for four years? Come on! I doubt it!! You’ll do what the rest of us do. You’ll get back in the saddle, back to your life, back to things you have control over.
The grass is greener... Finally, it helps to remember this. As you think ahead to the election, let’s face it. If your candidate wins, it’s not going to be a piece of cake. In fact, it’s going to be more a story of the dog who catches the car. What’s he going to do with it? Either candidate, once in office, will face unprecedented challenges and opposition. The guy you voted for...you voted to put him on a pretty hellish roller coaster ride. For him and for all the rest of us. So: less fear of losing if there’s a greater realization that it won’t be heaven if your guy wins.
So in the end, relax. Live your life. Be kind to the people you come in contact with. Be extra kind to the people in your life. Spend less time worrying about how this can be a better country and more time trying to become a better person yourself. If we all do that, it’ll matter a lot less in the end who our leader is.