As you go to vote, take care of your mental health as well

As the local election is approaching, we need to know the ways to combat worries, dread and uncertainty about it. Here are a few tips.

Photo: Pixabay

Grishma Paneru

  • Read Time 3 min.

Due to the pandemic and rising prices of fuel and commodities, people are under great stress at the moment. This can have an adverse impact on the mental health of individuals and society. We also know that our mental health system has been under severe strain for many years and that despite evaluations, reports, and suggestions to enhance our system, progress is low and no actions have been taken to accelerate it.

The local elections coming Friday are taking place in this context.

It also offers an opportunity to look at how each election topic affects the mental health of individuals, families, our communities and our overall mental health system. This is our opportunity to look outside the health portfolio and consider all topics and policy developments with a mental health focus.

As we approach the elections, there will undoubtedly be tensions, angry debates among loved ones, and possibly emotions of despair following the electoral loss. Each can have a substantial impact on a person’s well-being. Much of the role of our anxious thoughts as humans is to defend ourselves from dangers of harm, whether present or future. One way that politics generates stress and anxiety is that we expect our politicians to lead our communities in the right direction which they often do not. When a political candidate or other major individual maintains opposite values, stress is unavoidable as our minds attempt to resolve the disagreement.

Uncertainty is typically stressful, and some people cope with it better than others. The election, the worldwide epidemic, and societal upheaval are all adding to our sense of insecurity. As such, we need to know the ways to combat worries, dread and uncertainty. Let me present a few tips here.

Know the tips

First, we need to recognize our fear. Fear, like all of our emotions, requires processing. While some dread is justified, our brains can distort the threat to make it appear closer (or worse). You need to use your fear to inspire you to look for areas where you do have control, where you can take action, and where you can best prepare yourself for the task.

Second, we need to avoid concentrating on things over which we have no control. When faced with uncertainty, many people instantly envision the worst-case situation. This habit of dwelling on negative outcomes should be broken.

Third, we need to concentrate on what we have control over. Limit your media consumption if following the news, watching discussions, or scrolling through social media is causing you stress. Allow yourself to take a break from the news.

Third, take part in significant activities. Rather than focusing on news coverage, select an activity that you truly enjoy and devote time to it. Get involved in issues that are important to you. You are more likely to vote well if you plan ahead of time.

The election is important. Taking part in it is also important. But let us not take unnecessary stress that could ruin our mental health.

Fourth, we need to maintain our social connections. Take a walk or spend time with family and friends. According to research, those who have at least one or two friends or family members to turn to for emotional support during stressful times fare better than those who do not. Seeking out a therapist is also always a healthy means of support.

Likewise, one also needs to continue to be active. Moving allows us to discharge the energy we feel when we are anxious.

Finally, we need to recognize that we may not know who won the election until after the polls close on Election Day. If you believe this will increase your anxiety, keep yourself occupied with activities you enjoy and stay connected to social support so you aren’t always searching for what may be perceived as “bad” news.

The election is important, no doubt about it. Taking part in the election is also important. But let us not take unnecessary stress that could ruin our mental health. Mental health is more important than anything.

Grishma Paneru is a psycho-social counselor, mental health advocate and consultant.

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