Election Anxiety at Record Levels

63825918_sCommentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

A new survey has found that more than half of Americans – on both sides of the aisle – say this year’s presidential election has become a major source of stress in their life.

Bloomberg is reporting on a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) which found record levels of angst among the American populace regarding this year’s election.

This finding is even more disturbing because it was based on a Harris Poll taken in August among 3,511 adults 18 years and older – before the recent Trump allegations of sexual abuse and waves of Clinton emails being released by Wikileaks that reveal everything from hatred for Catholics to disdain for “everyday Americans.”

And adding to these already high levels of anxiety, Christian  Americans are faced with the frustration of knowing that the only other options in the race, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, are both pro-abortion.

Considering all of the above, it’s no wonder the APA found high levels of stress among all age groups in their survey.

“Historically, work, money, and the economy are the top three [sources of stress],” said clinical psychologist Lynn Bufka, part of the APA’s Stress in America team, which has been conducting surveys of what freaks us out the most for 10 years. Now the election is “right up there,” she said.

Several factors are weighing into reasons why this election is so stressful. First, people are stressed by the candidates in particular, both of whom are enormously unpopular with voters. Second, people are worried about how the outcome will affect the country’s future. Third is the tenor of the campaign which is uglier than any in recent history. Fourth, non-stop news coverage of the campaign is pumping this negativity into our living rooms every night.

“In general,” Bufka said, “humans like harmony.”

But harmony is in short supply this election season.

Even though social media followers are prone to higher stress levels, it’s actually the oldest among us who are suffering the most, Bufka said. Known as the “silent” or “greatest” generation by some, they usually report the least amount of stress during an election.

“They’ve weathered a lot, they have good perspective” Bufka said. But in this case, the opposite seems to be true. “We’re wondering if thinking about the implications on their children and grandchildren might be the source of the stress,” she said.

What’s her advice to voters?

Take positive steps to reduce your stress level. Don’t get drawn into conversations that will lead to more conflict; turn off your phone; and read only what you need to read to stay informed. And then, on November 8, get out and vote.

As for Christians, they have the advantage of their faith in a God who has already conquered the world. We know that no matter what happens on November 8, 2016, we are already the victors. We may have to endure a time of scourging, but “He will again have mercy” (Tobit 13:5) and upon this truth we can stake our lives.

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