If you feel a bit sick to your stomach just thinking about the coming November 8th U.S. presidential election, you’re not alone. In fact, not only can you feel a bit anxious about the outcome of any election (and the process leading up to it), there are some bonafide health issues that could be attached to your worries as well.
Elections of any scale inundate us with information, debates, ads, and general squabbling from both sides of the fence. Regardless of which side you support (or perhaps neither), the buzz leading up to the ballots could be having an impact on your well-being. Here are six health concerns related to elections to consider…
1. Elections Could Lead to a Heart Attack
Literally. According to a report in Men’s Journal, watching debates or news about election campaigns can build up insurmountable anger in you. So the natural response to this for many is to hit the gym, but this could actually put your heart at risk.
“Exercising vigorously while you’re raging mad can triple your heart attack risk, even if your heart is otherwise healthy,” notes the article. This information was gleaned by the journal from the American Heart Association.
2. The Process Can Become Depressing
Psychology Today says that 52-percent of American adults are feeling stressed about the election, regardless of political stripe. This prolonged “election stress” could be harder on us than we think—and lead to depression.
The source notes that “negative campaigning” is linked to heightened anxiety. This “fear-based” stress elongates what should be a short-term fight or flight response, and it evolves into more complex and chronic mental issues. Psychology Today suggests limiting your exposure to media, and reminding yourself that even if your candidate doesn’t win, “change takes time and that governing is a slow process.”
3. Elections Can Erode Self-Compassion
The Atlantic magazine also weighs in on the pressure that elections can put on people, especially the magnitude of this year’s presidential bout. The magazine spoke to a number of psychological clinicians that had a similar message—to maintain self-compassion.
What does this mean? Basically, if you’re feeling frustrated or helpless from the election process, don’t blame yourself for not doing enough. It’s normal to be worried about an important outcome, but you must accept your own feelings, which will help end the “energy-draining cycle, where someone’s mind has to defend itself from its own attacks,” notes the magazine.
4. Unproductive Anxiety Can be an Election By-Product
The Atlantic also distinguishes between productive and non-productive anxiety relating to an election. While productive worry can help motivate you to take action—whether it’s to vote early or rally support for your candidate—unproductive anxiety isn’t going to help anyone, least of all yourself.
Unproductive anxiety causes you to think about the worst-case scenario if the results don’t go your way. “Focus on how unlikely it is that the worst case scenario may happen,” explains the article. As mentioned before, remember to keep in mind there are checks and balances in politics, and the new president won’t be able to push through changes without due process.
5. Following the Race May Reduce Healthy Activity
While no one source directly refers to this health concern, they all note that many people are glued to their screens or computers tracking the latest developments in the presidential race. What that says to us is that they may not be taking the time to unwind and get proper exercise, which will help deal with pent-up stress (just be wary about the first point we made about heart attacks from overdoing it).
In any situation, it’s important to take some time to take a walk, stretch, and give your mind a break. It’s especially important when the stakes are high, and you could become burned out more quickly while losing out on connecting with the outdoors as you’re fuming over a comment a candidate made. Oh, and remember to take time to properly nourish yourself as well between rants.
6. Elections Aren’t Always a Vote of Confidence
Those who are normally confident about expressing political opinions could become more silent out of fear, notes an article from The Times of India (which has nothing to do with the current U.S. presidential election). The article discusses “side effects” of big elections, such as backlash on social media.
“Political discussions on a public forum like Facebook or Twitter make some people extremely uncomfortable,” notes the Times article, which explains elections (at least in India) can cause usually outspoken people to be silenced out of fear of being targeted by “the powers that be”. Whether this is true in the U.S., people can be very critical of political opinions of others, and friendships have been known to end during elections due to expressing individual views.