This is paralleled by statistics now put out by the Office of Statistics in the UK. After several years of dropping rates, England has seen a new rise in anxiety from 2014, coinciding and quite possibly connected with the rise of political uncertainty.
Anxiety is less logical. A free-floating and growing sense of worry, you might notice yourself having unbalanced emotional responses, such as a tendency to blow things out of proportion or cry over small things. And you’ll experience inexplicable nervousness and even fear.
Fear is actually the main feeling behind anxiety. Fear is generated when we feel helpless, like things are unknown or way beyond our control.
So if you just worry about the state of the world lately, you might have political stress.
But if you read an article about the elections and feel a strange sense of doom and danger that is bigger than the facts you just read, you might suffer anxiety.
Sure it’s because the world is now in a more unbelievable place than ever before? It’s probably the same kind of thinking people had before World War I, or after hearing of the horrors of Hiroshima.
What has changed is the way we now access and consume news. News is on offer not just twice a day on TV, but 24 seven on a phone in our pocket. And not only is it more news, it’s more viewpoints – meaning we have to process more angles, and faster.
It’s essentially an addictive format. It’s ease of use means that if we seek a distraction from something – a boring job, an emotion we want to repress or negative thought we don’t like – we can open a browser and read the news. Convinced we are just keeping on top of events, we don’t notice that we are connecting our life anxiety to the news.
The APA report also showed that close to 40% of American adults found political discussions via social media caused stress. And those who used social media were 10% more likely to find the election stressful than those who didn’t.
Why am I the sort to have ‘election anxiety’?
Bad news globally can lead us all to worry and feel anxious. But ongoing anxiety doesn’t come out of nowhere. It does, however, grab onto random things to feed its growth – some people, for example, even become anxious about having anxiety. Already prone to anxiety, or having experienced it at another point in life, the impending election would become a new focus or trigger.
If you are sure you’ve never had anxiety before, consider carefully your life events before the election. Was there a substantial life change that left you feeling fractured? It could be you’ve displaced your anxiety onto the election without realising it. It could even be an event from as far back as childhood that has been triggered.
Why would you be the sort to experience any anxiety at all? Like most psychological issues, there is rarely a single cause. Instead it tends to be a mix of genetics, environments, and experience. You might have a naturally anxious personality. If you were then raised in a home where the adults around you modelled anxiety as a coping mechanism, you’d be more anxious than otherwise. And if a trauma in childhood or early adulthood left you with negative core beliefs around issues of safety (the world is a dangerous place, I can’t trust anyone) then anxiety can become a habit.
Listen to your body when it comes to anxiety. Quite physical in its symptoms, anxiety can leave you constantly sweaty, with a palpitating heart, and suffering headaches and muscle tension. If it’s bad enough, panic attacks can start, which can be so overwhelming many mistake them for heart attacks.
It’s of course better not to let things get to such a point, and to get help for anxiety before it leads to full-blown anxiety disorder.
If your anxiety over politics and elections is affecting your day-to-day living, meaning you want to socialise less, don’t have the energy or focus to get work done, or are upsetting your family and loved ones? Then it’s time to seek some support.