If the American election is bumming you out, you’re not alone

Takeaway: According to the American Psychological Association, more than 50% of Americans are stressed because of this year’s election. Luckily, the same survey found that disconnecting from the news and social media are a way to minimize that stress.

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 8s.

 

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If you live in the US, you’ll probably agree that this election is a stressful one—regardless of which political party you support.

While observing the election, I’ve found myself more bummed out than usual—and that as the election drags on for longer, I’ve become increasingly depressed. I say this as a Canadian who usually finds US elections oddly intriguing to watch. Every time I step back from the news and resist visiting sites like The New York Times and Five Thirty Eight, I feel more energized, motivated, and happy. But when I decide to catch up on the news, my mood is dampened all over again. It pretty much sucks the life out of me.

As it happens, I’m not alone. The American Psychological Association (APA) recently released the results of a survey into how stressed this election was making people. What they found was astounding: more than half of Americans are experiencing significant levels of stress because of the election. And, curiously:

  • The party you support doesn’t matter: 59% of Republicans and 55% of Democrats called this election a “very or somewhat significant source of stress.” From a statistical standpoint, this difference is insignificant.
  • Your age matters a little, but not a ton: 59% of those over the age of 71, and 56% of those aged 19-37 say the election is a large source of stress. Those in between fared a bit better, but not by much—half of those aged 52-70, and 45% of those aged 38-51 were stressed by it.

But there’s a silver lining: the APA also found that those who didn’t use social media experienced significantly less stress. While 54% of American adults are experiencing significant stress from the election, that figure is reduced to 45% for those adults not using social media during the election period–9% fewer people. I’d love to see a similar stat for people who both don’t go on social media and aren’t keeping up with the news.

Whether election season or not, it’s worth keeping in mind that we are what we consume. When we predominately read gloomy and scary stories, we feel sad and afraid. When we watch news about an overwhelming presidential race, we feel stressed.

We almost always have the choice of whether or not we consume a piece of information. While news may be entertaining, and may feel important in the moment, don’t forget to step back and consider how it could affect you and your mood. If you’re anything like me, you may find it’s not worth consuming in the first place.

 

  • Juande SantanderVela

    I think this is a good sum up of the story: «Whether election season or not, it’s worth keeping in mind that we are what we consume. When we predominately read gloomy and scary stories, we feel sad and afraid. When we watch news about an overwhelming presidential race, we feel stressed.» Being informed is sometimes about not letting “information” get to you…

    • So true—and I’d add, consuming information that relevant on a longer time-span. I value staying informed, but find consuming information that’s relevant for longer (like news from the NYT or The Economist) to be much more valuable and rewarding!

  • Gabriel Garay

    I agree. I have made a choice to stop watching evening news, especially CNN, which I kept on whenever I was home. Its hard not to glance at newspaper headlines, but I am resisting until its all over. I just found myself stressing out too much.

    • So true. I find it hilarious how even the smallest of headlines is BREAKING NEWS on CNN!

  • Mark Bellaire

    Keep social media an *option*, not a requirement.

    I recently (~2 weeks ago) stepped off social media as a way to gain more productivity in the workplace and in my relationships. It has proved to be astronomically freeing and stress relieving for this election and for life in general. It gives me the ability to inquire about my friend’s and family’s opinions about the election more critically and with more awareness instead of ignoring it whilst thinking, “I’ve heard all this garbage before.”

    As for keeping up with the news, I still do subscribe to many RSS feeds that inevitably bring up the election, but I find an RSS feed to be much easier for me to scan through rather than feel burdened by it. This is mostly a result of the variety of the feeds I subscribe to; Apple, general tech, consumeristic EDC, web development, business development, productivity, and so on…

    • Awesome! I’m thinking of going a month without social media of all types, as an experiment. The Apple/tech/productivity worlds are so much more positive than the political world!

      • Mark Bellaire

        They certainly are! Thanks for being such a bright light in the productivity world yourself! I not only get great advice out of your writing, but I thoroughly enjoy it.

        • Thanks so much! Happy to have you as a reader :-)

  • Lui Cartin

    We consume information because, among other things, we feel that it has immediate relevance in our life and interests… And so we are invested in the outcome of this election, because it feels so crucial. Consuming information then is about seeking reassurance that we will “get our way”, and all we’re get from the news is that the future is a tossup, hence the stress…

    • I agree, but I think at the same time it’s worth stepping back from the more immediate news, like on social media, to consume news from sources that focus more on the longer-term, like newspapers and magazines. Maybe stepping back completely isn’t the best approach if you’re seeking reassurance, though

  • Chris, thanks so much for this enlightening article! I’ve been pretty stressed lately (about the election and other things), and am taking your advice and disconnecting from both Facebook and political news for a few weeks. We’ll see how it goes!

    • Let me know! It’s working wonders for me so far :-)

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