How To Cope If You're Overwhelmed By Politics Right Now

The US Election, coupled with the pandemic, is all a bit much.

With a global pandemic as its backdrop, it’ll be a US election like no other. The result – whether it’s Trump or Biden in the White House – will speak volumes about the mood in America, but it’ll impact Brits, too.

The fate of a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the US will sit largely with the new president, potentially impacting our food standards, heath care system and more.

It’s a lot to take in, not least because we’re limping towards a second national lockdown, and feeling drained after four years of tumultuous British politics.

Finding it all a bit much? Here are some tips ahead of election night that may help.

Pace yourself

This will not be a US “election night” as you know it. Due to the pandemic, there’s expected to be a higher number of people voting by post, rather than at polling stations. This will slow down the system, so we might not find out who’s won until days after.

Oh, and there’s the possibility that Donald Trump might refuse to leave the White House even if he’s defeated – and who knows how long that debacle could take to resolve.

If you’re feeling drained already, it might be wise to resist the temptation to pull an all-nighter and instead, get rested for the long-haul. Sleep consultant Maryanne Taylor, founder of The Sleep Works, told HuffPost UK the short-term impacts of sleep deprivation include “fatigue, lack of focus and concentration, and short temper” – is this what you need to be dealing with on results day?

Consume news with caution

A common recommendation for boosting wellbeing is to switch off from the news, but that might not feel appropriate on the cusp of a huge election result, or during an ever-changing pandemic situation.

If a blanket ban isn’t an option, try to read with a critical eye. If a newspaper is leading you to believe that the election result/pandemic/Brexit means the end of the world, ask: how do they know that?

“There can be a lot of scaremongering because this sells papers,” Dr Laura Thomas, a counselling psychologist at Nightingale Hospital previously told HuffPost UK.

“This activates our amygdala [the part of the brain responsible for emotions and survival instincts] and threat system, so we feel constantly hyper-vigilant to danger and on edge.”

Turn off WhatsApp notifications

Yes, it’s important to talk to people outside your bubble, but if you’re feeling emotionally drained, now is not the time to get sucked into a WhatsApp debate. Realistically, you won’t enter the conversation with an open mind, anyway.

Switch off notifications and put your phone down. You can have a calmer chat with friends and family with opposing views when you genuinely feel ready to listen. As for social media debates with complete strangers? They’re only likely to make you feel worse.

Reach out to help others

Numerous studies have linked charity and volunteering with improvements in mental health, with the act of doing something seemingly selfless boosting our own happiness.

If you’re worried how the US election result might impact a certain community, or you’ve been frustrated by recent political decisions made here in the UK, research how you can help affected groups – and sign up to offer support.

Get the basics right

When there’s a lot going on in the world, self-care can take a back seat. Let this serve as your reminder to eat nourishing foods, stay mindful, practise gratitude and get out into nature. Your resilience will be boosted because of it – and you’ll be in a better headspace to deal with whatever is thrown at us next.

Useful websites and helplines

Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.

Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).

CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.

The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email help@themix.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on rethink.org.