HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – With Election day less than two weeks away, candidates are making their final attempt to sway undecided voters. But those last-minute efforts can be a source of stress for anyone casting a ballot.
Voters who are anxious or fearful about upcoming elections sometimes suffer from “Election Stress Disorder,” according to the American Psychological Association. Over 50% of Americans were believed to have had the disorder during the 2020 Presidential Election.
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While the exact number of Americans anxious about the midterm elections is unknown, local psychologists are experiencing a rise in patients concerned about the state of the country.
“It’s something that’s coming up more and more [often], probably more than any other time than I can recall,” University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Psychologist Dr. Rafat Omar said. “Financial stuff [is a stressor], the economy is a huge one, [same with] social issues.”
Harrisburg-based psychologist Dr. Ingrid Krecko told abc27 News that the majority of her anxious or fearful patients are Millennials and Generation Z.
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“I would say 60% of my [patients have] talked, at least at some point or another, about social issues and the election,” Krecko said.
Both Omar and Krecko believe there are a number of things people can do to cope with election anxiety.
“I always tell people to turn to the things that are closest to your heart – things that bring you peace and joy and comfort,” Omar said. “Do what you need to do to preserve your peace in a time where that’s hard to do.”
For some, that can mean turning your cell phone off, limiting your news intake, or even practicing meditation and mindfulness.
“Many of my clients first balk at the term, like ‘no, that means I have to turn my brain off or reach this Zen state,’ and that seems really unachievable, but that’s not the case,” Krecko said. “It really just helps us focus on one thing at a time and stay in the present moment.”
Krecko said studies show that just five to 10 minutes of meditation or mindfulness can change the way your brain works, and in turn help with anxiety.
More than anything, experts urge people to know that what they feel during this time is normal and valid.
“It’s not normal to have threats of large-scale nuclear war hanging over people’s heads, or this inflation which we haven’t seen in our lifetimes,” Omar said. “It makes total sense and you’re valid in being afraid and worried.”