The 2020 election is still about a year away but it’s already wreaking havoc on people’s mental health.
About 56% of U.S. adults said the upcoming presidential election is a “significant source of stress” in their lives, according to new data published by the American Psychological Association this week. That’s a slight increase from the 52% who’d said the 2016 election was a significant stressor in the months before that contest. The data comes from the APA’s annual Stress in America report, which surveyed 3,617 U.S. residents from Aug. 1 to Sept. 3.
Other issues in the news are also notably upsetting people. Approximately 71% of those surveyed said mass shootings are a significant stressor. That figure is also up from last year’s Stress in America survey, in which 62% said mass shooting events were a significant source of stress.
Some 69% said health care, particularly the cost of services and uncertainty over whether they’ll be able to afford it in the future, causes major stress in their lives. Stress over climate change is an issue for 56% of people surveyed; immigration is another stressor for 48% of adults.
“There is a lot of uncertainty in our world right now ― from mass shootings to climate change. This year’s survey shows us that more Americans are saying these issues are causing them stress,” Arthur C. Evans Jr., the APA’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.
“Research shows us that over time, prolonged feelings of anxiety and stress can affect our overall physical and mental health. Psychologists can help people develop the tools that they need to better manage their stress,” he added.
Stress over discrimination also increased this year compared with previous years. Some 63% of people of color feel that discrimination has impeded them from living a full and productive life. About 64% of LGBTQ adults said the same.
Obviously this is all a huge cause for concern, even if these results aren’t totally shocking. Mental health experts have been worried for the past few years about the increase in anxiety over mass shootings, political discord and more.
It’s important to curb those feelings of stress as much as possible since, as Evans noted, they can take a major toll on your emotional and physical well-being. Here are some ways to do that:
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. But it isn’t always easy when you’re in an anxious or depressive state. Experts recommend incorporating movement any way you can, even if it’s just doing one minute of cardio, walking outside for a moment, or performing a few body weight exercises in your pajamas.
Reach out to friends.
Especially to those who you think are also struggling. Research shows that social connection can reduce stress, even if it’s not always easy telling a loved one you need help. Spend some time with others so you can help them while helping yourself.
Ditch your phone.
It doesn’t have to be forever (although the idea is tempting). Even minor breaks from social media and the news can help you unwind and reenergize.
Talk with a professional.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with going to therapy. Everyone can benefit from talking to someone. Curious how you can fit mental health help into your own life and budget? This guide is a good place to start.
Get politically active.
The best way to stop feeling helpless is to be helpful. Volunteer for a candidate you care about. Cast a vote. Offer your skillset to a cause that moves you. Experts say this can ease anxiety while actually making a positive difference in the world.
Read the full 2019 Stress in America report here.