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Presidential election anxiety: How to beat the stress

The vitriol between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton

The vitriol between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her Republican rival Donald Trump has left many Americans feeling overwhelmed with election anxiety. Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images; AP

America voted Tuesday to elect Republican Donald Trump to be the next president over Democrat Hillary Clinton. With an election volatile enough to cause protests across the United States and prompt threats of moving to Canada, the country looks understandably frazzled.

"There is usually some stress around elections, but it's definitely heightened this time around," said Dr. Scott Krakower, a Long Island child and adolescent psychiatrist from Zucker Hillside Hospital at Northwell Health in Queens.

Even after the election results are finalized, "a lot of people will be uncomfortable" for at least the next four years, said Krakower, an alumnus of New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine who served as chief resident at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

Here are some of Krakower's suggestions on how to beat the anxiety, discomfort and stress of the post-presidential election.

Don’t feel like you have to talk about this all the time.

The verbal battle waged by the candidates has taken the attention off almost every other news story. It can be “so stimulating,” Krakower said, that it is easy to become enthralled and even overwhelmed. Unplugging from the constant news coverage, Facebook arguments and conversations around you at work can help ease the stress.

Educate yourself.

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In such a contentious race, the mystery of what the postelection era will hold can be worrying.

“Understanding the logistics of how things work” in politics can help lessen those worries, Krakower said.

“Yes, one of them is going to be president, but there’s more to it than that. They have advisers to help them make decisions. We have other politicians who mediate and help make laws.”

Ignore the theatrics.

Focusing on candidates’ platforms rather than the theatrical way they present them can also help.

“Understand the topic instead of the people talking about it," Krakower said. "If they’re discussing abortion, for example, find out what their thoughts are, one way or another,” instead of focusing on the drama behind their words, he said.

Have a stopping mechanism.

“It’s good to be informed and to know what’s happening,” Krakower said. “But if you find yourself obsessing or ruminating, you may need to get away from that topic.”

To do so, Krakower suggests having a stopping mechanism as a way to immediately divert your attention.

“If you like reading about sports, go read about sports,” he said. “Or do anything else you enjoy that will get you away from that topic.”

Limit TV for children.

While Krakower says you don’t have to turn the television off altogether for children, limiting what and how much they watch is important for their own stress levels.

“Some of the things being discussed are just not appropriate for children,” he said, adding, “A topic that a 12-year-old will understand may not be appropriate for an 8-year-old.”

Therefore, parents should be vigilant of what their children watch.

“With kids, they are enamored by the back-and-forth but they don’t understand what the candidates are speaking about,” Krakower said. “They don’t know the process, or how the House of Representatives works. They only know Trump and Clinton, which is sad.”

As with adults, children should also learn the political process and policies the candidates represent, Krakower said. Beginning that education early on will also help children develop their own political opinions later on in life.

Get some me time.

Having fun can sometimes be the best answer to election anxiety.

“Do something you like, get some quiet time, take a vacation, or just take a few deep breaths” if you are overwhelmed, Krakower said. “Get some quiet and peaceful time to yourself and get your mind off of things.”

If you're on the losing side ...

Amid this tense political atmosphere, Krakower said he doesn’t have a good answer for what to do if your favorite candidate loses. If he or she does, Krakower said it’s fair to be emotional.

“It’s OK to be angry if the person you want doesn’t get into office,” Krakower said. “We’re all human, we all have emotions, we’re all passionate about sensitive subjects."

He admitted that finding something in common with your opponents may be more difficult during this election.

"Normally, I would say try to find a middle ground and understand the other side,” he said. “But it’s hard to find a middle ground when the candidates are such opposites.”

Above all, Krakower said stress, anxiety, fear and sadness are normal emotions to feel.

“Some people are really scared,” Krakower said. “But it’s a normal reaction. Our country has always had, will always have problems in elections, but this is one of the scarier ones we’ve been though. So that feeling is normal.”

Whatever the outcome, however, the candidates and the rest of the country will ultimately have to accept the results of the election.

“When it’s done, it’s done,” he said.

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As a public service, this article is available for all. Newsday readers support our strong local journalism by subscribing.  Please show you value this important work by becoming a subscriber now.


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