Election Stress Disorder Is Real — Here Are The Symptoms

Williamsburg Bridge

This week, I tweeted that I hadn’t slept so poorly since November 3, 2016. I also have had a major headache, nightmares and anxiety, and I am refreshing my phone every hour to see poll updates. This is not uncommon for many other Americans. Election stress disorder is real, and the symptoms are intense. In fact, I am completely stressed out from the elections with not knowing who is going to win.

The 2020 presidential election with Joe Biden and Donald Trump is a source of significant stress for more Americans than the 2016 race with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, according to a report from American Psychological Association. The organization did a poll and found that 68% of Americans this election cycle are experiencing stress from the elections, as opposed to 52% in 2016.

Ih the report, more than three quarters of Americans (77%) say the future of our nation is a signification source of stress.

Symptoms of election stress disorder vary, but my symptoms include headache, tossing and turning in bed, not wanting to go to bed, mild anxiety, not eating well, overeating, having nightmares about the election, waking up 3-4 times throughout the night, and of course, monitoring the news and social media on poll vote status in key states like Pennsylvania and Georgia.

Election Stress
American Psychological Association.

Why does election stress disorder feel so familiar?

The symptoms mirror those we experienced in March and April 2020, when Covid-19 became a pandemic.

During that time, many people in the world were experiencing stress and anxiety in levels they’ve never felt before. I personally had two panic attacks for the first time in my life. I couldn’t get any sleep, my back hurt, and I was nervous and anxious about leaving my house. I also spent a lot of time monitoring the news reports of Covid-19 cases as they spiked, as well as the number of deaths reported daily, the same way I’m obsessing over the election results.

For election stress disorder, my symptoms are a little different but still very intense. As I mentioned, I am waking up three to four times a night. I am having incredibly vivid nightmares, especially surrounding the election. I wake up an hour earlier every morning due to anxiety. I am someone who never gets headaches ever, and I’ve had a constant pain in the back of my head for three days now. I find myself overeating (stress eating). And I am up all night monitoring the election results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada, then doing the same first thing in the morning.

For both Covid-19 and the elections, the idea of uncertainty is what truly causes the stress for me. It has been a week since Election Day, and we still haven’t announced a president, and the margins are razor thin. It’s uncertainty that makes everything feel so stressful, and “uncertain” has been a buzzword all year long.

Here’s the good news: The results of the presidential election with Biden and Trump will be announced soon. It may be a few days, it may be another week. But once that happens, there will be a sense of relief, relaxation and stress knots will melt away.

Ferry in Williamsburg Brooklyn
Ferry in Williamsburg Brooklyn.

In the meantime, the most you can do is take deep breaths and put yourself in a good headspace. Put down your phone and limit social media. Call your friends. Go for a walk. Focus on things you can control. But also try meditation. I do a one-minute meditation that is incredibly helpful and simple.

Close your eyes. Take a deep breath for four seconds, and think about positivity and love and light and people you love as you inhale. Hold for four seconds. Then exhale all the anxiety and stress and negativity from your body. Do this five times.

And when the president is announced, your symptoms of election stress disorder will ease.

Are you feeling symptoms of election stress disorder? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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