To De-Stress Before the Election, Try the “Titration” Method
How to open and close the tap on difficult emotions
“Tick… tick… tick…” That’s the sound of the timer on the bomb forecast to detonate on November 3, 2020. Its rhythm is in step with society’s heartbeat (and fluctuating nervous system), a nagging reminder of this election’s high stakes. From right to left, few are immune — and many are anxious.
A new survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that more than two-thirds (68%) of American adults say that the 2020 U.S. presidential election is a significant source of stress in their life. This is a substantive increase from 2016, when 52% said the same. This increase exists across political affiliations: 76% of Democrats, 67% of Republicans, and 64% of independents report election stress.
The uptick is understandable, given that this election coincides with a number of crises: the coronavirus pandemic, a struggling economy, political intransigence, racial unrest and protests alongside violence and looting, and unprecedented natural disasters and climate concerns.
An added stress is the fact that the two candidates have diametrically opposing views on and strategies for addressing these (and other) social ills. We’re seeing fierce alliances form with one candidate or side, which raises the issue of “social sorting,” a term social scientists use to describe the phenomenon of groups self-isolating based on ideology and identity.
Perhaps the weightiest reason for 2020 election anxiety is the perceived existential threat that it represents.
This sorting is, as Lilliana Mason suggests in her book Uncivil Agreement, deteriorating the crosscutting social ties that once allowed for shared purpose and partisan compromise. “The more isolated we are from our social outgroups, the more we’re going to think of our own group as the best and think of our outgroups as terrible. It becomes this either-or, us-versus-them type of politics.” What we’re left with is an electorate that is deeply disgusted with and biased toward the “other side” and more willing to act on that disgust and bias. Sadly, this leads to nowhere good, as research shows…