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How to cope with Election Day stress in 2020

A women inserts her ballot in a ballot drop box Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY — 55% of people in a new survey say Election Day is the most stress-filled day of their lives. 

Nearly six in 10 people can’t imagine being more stressed than they already are this year.

95% in the survey say the stress from this year is negatively impacting their health.

“We notice it in our bodies, the tension in our shoulders. Some people get GI upset or headaches. People have trouble sleeping, tossing and turning or having bad dreams about the election,” said Dr. Robert Bright at the Mayo Clinic.

Peel back the layers

Peeling back the layers of feelings and thoughts can help get to the bottom of the stress.  Clinical psychologist Dr. Liz Hale says it actually isn’t the election or Covid-19 that worries people, it’s their thinking about those things that does.

This theory goes back to Greek philosopher Epictetus, who said that man is not troubled by events, but by his or her thinking about those events.

“It is our belief about the politicians that we are cheering or fearing,” said Hale.

She suggests asking yourself two questions: What are your feelings teaching about you that is positive, and what are they teaching you about your core values?

Election Day stress: take back control

Focusing on the election and worrying about it for so long means some people feel like things are out of their control.

“We have to figure out, how do we control what is controllable? What is in our control, what can we do?” said Bright.

Hale tells her clients to prepare for an alternative outcome by asking themselves a different question: “How are you going to make peace with the candidate who is not of your choice getting in?” 

The long election cycle coming in an already stressful year wears on people.

“It affects our emotions after a while. We start to get irritable and short, snapping at people, not trusting people. Seeing people as ‘the other’ or ‘the same.’ It affects our relationships at home and our work,” said Bright.

But Hale said you can change the story you tell yourself about that, too.

“They are just like me, my neighbors, even though they have the opposite sign in their yard. I am not going to let politics get in the way of those relationships. I refuse,” she said.  “Don’t let politics come between you.”