This week, the nation waited with bated breath to find out who the next President of the United States would be, and as the days went by with little more information released, many Americans experienced prolonged stress and anxiety. Though the election has been called by major news outlets, talks of recounts and litigation on both sides of the aisle make the road ahead look just as unclear as it was Tuesday night, so we’d better buckle in for a long journey.
I know I’ve been having a difficult time dealing with election-related stress, and I’m sure I’m not alone. I went into Election Day expecting contention, but I could not have predicted just how much. I’ve only been eligible to vote in two presidential races, but I can already tell that we’re living through history with this one.
2020 has created the perfect storm: a global pandemic, civil and social unrest, record numbers of mail-in and absentee ballots, the U.S. being on track for the highest voter turnout in roughly a century, and now the integrity of the entire election being called into question by the incumbent.
With the election not being called for four days, and with the margins in each battleground state growing smaller and smaller, tensions rose across the country at an alarming rate until they reached a boiling point on Saturday. Some of the country cheered and celebrated the possibility of a new era of political and social awareness while some rioted or flat-out denied the results.
I’m in the camp of the cautiously optimistic. I’m relieved that the stress and anxiety I’ve been feeling all week was worth it, but I know I’m in for a lot more of it as we face inevitable recounts and litigation before the next President of the United States takes office. I also know it’s going to take a lot longer than four days before we actually know what will happen come January. I can’t let myself constantly worry over if the initial count will remain the same. I know the toll it took on me this week, and I’m working on a plan to escape that anxiety over the next several weeks. I encourage anyone else who might be in a similar position to do the same.
I’m going to start with limiting my social media intake and stop repeatedly refreshing the New York Times homepage for any new updates. I’m trying to let go of the idea that I need to be the first to know everything the second it’s reported. I’m also starting to rewatch some of my favorite lighthearted tv shows. As much as I love Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing is going to have to wait. We’re already living in a political drama, I don’t need to be caught up in a fictional one, too. Finally, I’m using this time to re-focus my energy on preparing for the LSAT and applying to law schools. Even if we have a new President, there’s still work to be done in the fight for equality, and I don’t want to be complacent.
It’s been a long week, and we’re in for a longer couple of months. We don’t need to work ourselves up more than we already have, though. Of course, it’s important to be politically active and passionate about the results of this election, but we don’t need to let our mental wellbeing hang in the balance.
Stay healthy. Give yourself a break from stress.