How To Cope With Election Day Anxiety Spikes

Today is Election Day, and if you’re feeling stressed, worried, anxious, scared, I want you to know that those feelings are valid. I honestly have no perfect solutions for you. And when it comes to anxiety regarding news and the political realities we exist in, I think the solutions are complicated. It’s easy to tell someone to unplug, to look away, to distract. But that shouldn’t be conflated with pulling the wool over one’s eyes. Some people need to channel their anxiety into actionable work; a lot of people with specific privileges should be channeling their feelings productively. Who gets to look away and who doesn’t? Too often, it’s the people who are most negatively impacted by the results of electoral politics who feel like they can’t look away, while wealthy white liberal queers get to engage in uncomplicated “self-care” on tricky days like today.

So please know that when I write this short little post on Election Day anxiety coping mechanisms, I’m writing first and foremost for my personal community of queer people of color as well as the new community I exist in of queer folks who live in “red states” as well as other intersectionally marginalized communities who face voter suppression and who will not be saved by politicians. I am giving you permission to take small breaks for yourself, to take care of yourself, however that might look to you.

If you are wanting to channel your rage, fear, anxiety, or grief into something productive — or if you’re someone with enough privilege that this is what you should be doing — my advice to you would be to participate in something beneficial to your immediate community that exists outside of electoral politics. No matter who wins or loses today, there are mutual aid funds in your community that need money to keep providing services and goods to people who need it. Rather than donating money to big organizations or national movements, focus on the work you can do and support you can give in the actual community you live in. This might require some research, but you can start with Autostraddle’s mutual aid coverage. Worried specifically about how election results could impact access to abortion? Give to an abortion fund in or near your community or sign up to be a clinic escort. I find Instagram to be a good place to find out about local mutual aid movements. It’s also almost time for Trans Santa, the service that allows people to send holiday presents to trans youth anonymously and safely. Make a plan to sign up once applications go live (and maybe even pre-plan to budget for it) or make a cash donation now.

But again, I do think it’s valid if you feel a need to unplug to cope with anxiety — especially if you are anyone in the LGBTQ+ community who is not a wealthy white liberal queer person. It is okay to look away for a moment. If you don’t get a chance to recharge and take care of yourself, you won’t be able to fight anyway. And the ruling class depends on that exhaustion to maintain power.

So how about you take that Twitter app off your phone today? Twitter’s dying anyway. How about you make some rules with yourself about how much news you’re allowed to consume. Does watching the news or watching results come in on social media help or exacerbate your stress? Listen to your cues, and respond accordingly. If the temptation to doomscroll is too vast, then find an accountability partner who’s in a similar boat. Make a pact with a similarly anxious friend to text each other at certain times throughout the day to ask if you’ve logged off. When faced with logging off or lying to a friend, wouldn’t you rather log off?!

Leave your home if you’re able to do so. Maybe meet up with likeminded friends. Don’t be hard on yourself if the conversation starts veering toward the election. Again, totally disengaging is nearly impossible for a lot of people. But it helps to feel like you’re not alone in your feelings, to be able to talk freely about what it is that worries you the most.

It’s likely that many election results will be contested, which means your election-based anxiety could extend into Wednesday and beyond. Make a plan for your week. Plan at least one thing to do that will bring you joy. You shouldn’t feel guilty for that. Minimize screen time if you can. Try reading, which can be used for both functions: Escaping or engaging. You can read a great romance novel to escape or you can read work by revolutionaries, abolitionists, and queer activists. Both choices have their benefits. Figure out the right way forward for you.

I’m not saying I have perfect fixes. It’s possible that no matter what you might feel down today. But I hope you find at least one thing to do — or not do! — to ease the pressure valve. If you need a place to vent or to share the ways you’re coping, feel free to do so here. But also if unplugging really is the right choice for you, don’t make an exception for Autostraddle and actually log off and do what you gotta do!


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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Miami. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 458 articles for us.

9 Comments

  1. I work in a library that is a voting location–in Texas. So, my anxiety is going to be at 100 all day, watching the folks who come in, and trying not to judge who they’re voting for by appearance and failing. Because I can always tell by the way they stare at me: a black librarian wearing a rainbow “Libraries are for everyone,” pin, unapologetically.

    I’ll finally get to unplug at 6 p.m. and I can’t wait. Thank you for this validation!

  2. I am completely avoiding everything Election related today. I already had a panic attack last week thinking democracy was doomed. I can’t have another today. I’m focusing on work, fantasy sports, and TS Nicole, plus my fur kids. I just wish I’d win the lottery so I could go somewhere and live the rest of my days without drama because I’d have so much money no one would care. Lol. I legit cannot do this insanity anymore where the minority voice rules the majority. I know there are more of us then there are of them and I pray we all vote today and keep the house and gain seats in the Senate so we can pass voting rights and abortion rights and lgbtq+ rights and contraception rights (Jesus we are really there aren’t we) and so much more to make them impenetrable laws of the land. I’m not religious but I’m praying to whoever will listen to make this happen. We cannot become a fascist country. I’m by no means a nationalist or even patriotic but I believe in rights for all and freedoms for all and anyone that supports suppressing those hurts my Libra scales.

  3. I’ve done I feel like all I can do – I’ve already voted by mail. To manage my anxiety I’m limiting my news and election coverage consumption as much as possible; I’m chatting and posting on Reddit and Discord to connect with like-minded folks; and I’m trying to distract myself with TV, video games, music and Youtube.

    May everyone here find at least some ways to cope with anxiety in these hard times. Love y’all.

  4. I fully support people doing self-care of this experience makes them panic or feel extreme anxiety. I have a lot of privilege so I am in line to vote and it’s not super long and no one is trying to suppress my vote here in Brooklyn.
    Some things I’ve done in the past that channeled my many feelings:
    Volunteered with Election Defenders in Philly the year we voted out trump
    Did a lot of postcards for a candidate in Georgia
    Phone banked for Obama
    Knocked on doors in Scranton, PA for Obama
    Sign up for text and email notifications for anti-death penalty actions
    Sign petitions to stop individual executions
    Give $10 per month to Abortion Care Network
    Increase my monthly autopay to Abortion Care Network to $25 per month
    My job is activism, because I am a school-based social worker for students in temporary housing, so my role is to give support to people in family shelters and also people sharing the housing of others. It feels great to refer people to food pantries, immigration resources, other resources, provide free new coats, soap, school supplies, and counseling. Not to mention informal mental health counseling for families living in poverty.
    I recommend using one’s privilege to enter a field of work where you can apply your values, political views, and skills to making things better for vulnerable people.

  5. grateful to adriene maree brown for this wisdom – https://www.instagram.com/p/CkrPAo8MSk9/ “we recognize that voting
    is only meaningful when we act together
    as movement, as future ancestors

    today we put aside our egos
    we set down perfection,
    and our privilege,
    and our butbutbutandand righteousness

    today we show up for those furthest from power
    those carrying the most of our burden
    those we’ve already lost to hate in this pale time
    we say no where it is the only humane word
    and yes where it is a way forward, another breath

    we hold history and future in the balance.
    we vote to take up our responsibility
    we vote as both prayer and blessing
    we open the way, widen the way, change the way
    ashe”

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