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Got Election Anxiety? Here’s How You Can Deal With It

The perception is that never before have friends, families and colleagues feuded as much as today on politics.

Updated
Mind It
3 min read
Some of you may find your anxiety levels all over the place during elections.
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The world’s largest democracy has recently announced its 17th General Elections. With 900 million of India’s 1.3 billion people eligible to vote, a larger percentage of its bulging population will head out to cast their votes, followed by the mandatory seflies to be posted on social media. The elections will last over a month and will take place in seven phases spread across the country.

If those number themselves are not enough to make you anxious, some of you may find your anxiety levels all over the place during elections. We have an official name for it. It’s called ‘Election Anxiety Disorder.’

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Is Election Anxiety Real?

Here in India, the perception is that never before have friends, families, colleagues feuded as much as today on political affiliations.
Here in India, the perception is that never before have friends, families, colleagues feuded as much as today on political affiliations.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Here’s some interesting data from the other largest democracy, the United States of America. A survey released by the American Psychological Association done around the US Presidential elections in 2016 showed that nearly half the country felt that the election is very or somewhat significant source of stress in their lives.

The high level of anxiousness was linked to a very partisan campaign between then Republican Party candidate Donald Trump and Democratic Party candidate Hilary Clinton.

Here in India, the perception is that never before have friends, families, colleagues feuded as much as today on political affiliations. There are stories of marriages being called off, on childhood friendships breaking up and some actual fistfights between colleagues.

We reached out to Dr Samir Parikh, director, Mental Health And Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Hospitals.

‘Is there a prevailing sense of anxiety among Indians as elections approach?’

Well, among some people, for whom elections form an important part of their lives; at the top level political leaders, party affiliates and foot soldiers, at another level people who have passionate views on politics etc, there is certainly an emotional arousal that may cause anxiety. Think of it as your first big exam in five years
Dr Samir Parikh

Dr Parikh feels this ‘emotional arousal’ may be positive or negative.

Due to the sheer chatter of news, real or fake, it’s difficult to alienate yourself. But there is also an exaggeration of this perception that everyone is divided on, or is feuding about politics, feels Dr Parikh.

Look if relationships are going to break off due to certain opinions held by people, then there was something fundamentally wrong with that relationship in the first place.

Polarities have existed forever, there is nothing wrong with them – they are essential to any democracy. But the spread of social media platforms that give anonymous people a voice have certainly degenerated the social fabric of the country. The real question to ask is how big is their reach in a country like India?

Dealing with Election Anxiety

So if you are feeling anxious, you are worried that your future will drastically alter if the part you voted for does not come to power, here’s what you can do:

  1. Limit how much exposure you have to opinions masked as news.
  2. Check multiple platforms that priorities factual news over opinion and make up your own mind
  3. If the social media chatter is affecting you, take a break.
  4. Find commonalities with those who are on the opposing side. You’ll find that besides politics, there is very little that differentiates you.
  5. Finally, know that certain amount of anxiety is normal. It’s even good. Put it to some constructive use.

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