The countdown has begun.
A crispy Autumn leaf is precariously clinging to the branch for support, even though it will inevitably fall to the ground. Likewise, we are grasping to understand the platforms behind the politics before we cast our vote on November third.
This article is not about the politics or who you should vote for—or even if you should vote at all. Instead, we want to educate you on how to cope with the anxiety and worry that you’re facing in this season.
Anxiety vs worry
Your world goes black as you turn off the news or set down your phone. Why do you wound up tighter than the string of a kite? When did your shoulders begin carrying tension tighter than a taut slingshot?
Those are symptoms of anxiety and worry, both of which are commonly experienced during seasons of change and transition. But what’s the difference between the two?
Anxiety is a feeling. Worry is a thought.
Anxiety feeds worry. Worry attempts to resolve your anxious feelings; it’s a tactic to help you anticipate and prepare for future uncertainties.
And worry lingers, especially during the months before you fill out your ballot. That compounding worry (especially while watching or reading the news) heightens your stress levels, tenses your muscles, and intensifies your pain. Sound familiar?
That worry stalls like your dog standing at the back door, debating if it’s worth running into the rain to empty his bladder. It procrastinates better than college students. And it loiters more than stray cats.
Your worry is the same way. You’re in the drum roll season leading up to the downbeat on November third. It seems as if you have no choice but to dawdle, wait, and hang on till the end of the ride.
Your mind ruminates, striving to settle into one position, trying to navigate the choppy waters of government. The shifting waves of the political climate shove your feet to and fro like a sailor on deck during a tropical storm.
What to do with your worry
Consider the reality: can you personally alter the outcome of this year’s election? No.
Yes, you have a role to play, but your decision will not produce an immediate cause-and-effect result. Elections are not like vending machines: you put in a dollar, press a button, and then a candy bar drops down. Instead, you determine your position and…wait and see.
Really hopeful, huh?
It’s normal to experience worry. Worry shows that you care about the future, that you want to play a positive role in how events unfold. However, worry is a reminder that you are not in control.
Don’t sit in your worry. Don’t pause in the puddle of spilled milk. Take action. Grab a towel to sop up the milk.
Notice that you aren’t preventing the milk from spilling—you are responding to the event that has already happened.
What does that look like during this election season?
- Watch the news—but set a timer so you only view it for 15 minutes.
- Read the news—but only read the daily headlines from one news site.
- Talk about politics—but don’t allow it to consume your conversation.
- Do your research—but view both sides of the argument from a neutral position.
- Decide if you will vote—but don’t enforce your opinion on others.
- Consider which candidate/platform you will vote for—but don’t allow the final decision to make or break your entire life.
Setting healthy boundaries
Some degree of worry is expected during the elections. After all, the leaders of our country directly impact your freedoms and way of life. Some degree of non-worry is essential as well.
Set healthy boundaries surrounding politics, like the suggestions mentioned above, to decrease your worry. Then, channel your worry into other outlets: exercise, music, writing, visual arts, volunteering, etc.
If you know that worry is going to swirl around your election decisions, don’t ignore it. Instead, enforce boundaries that help you flourish and find an outlet to express your emotions.
Is worry being a bully?
Do you feel bullied by your worry? Are you frantically holding on to your ship’s railing as the waves of worry roll over the deck? Have you stalled out like your puppy gazing at the rain, rooted to the spot in uncertainty and fear?
Let’s talk. We can calm the storm so you can walk upright and steer your boat to safety. We can teach you how to make decisions in the midst of unsettling environments like a thunderstorm. We can navigate this political season together—without ever delving into politics.
Worry doesn’t have to be a bully. Let us be your advocate and wise counsel before, during, and after November third.Teen Social Anxiety