How to Cope with Election Stress When You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

How to Cope with Election Stress When You're a Highly Sensitive Person


The election is stressing me out! I think we’re all ready for this presidential election to be over. It’s deteriorated into mudslinging, polarization, divisiveness, hate, intolerance, and plain old immaturity. And it seems like it’s getting worse every week.


If you’re a highly sensitive person, as I am, you feel things deeply. You’re not only sensitive to criticism and sensory input (like sounds, lights, smells); you’re intuitive and sensitive to the energy around you.

The collective energy in the United States is very negative right now.

There’s a lot at stake in a presidential election, so it’s only natural for the election to dominate the news and create strong emotions. Part of the problem is we’re overloaded with political news. I can’t seem to get away from it. I’m being barraged with election materials — my mailbox is full of campaign flyers, I can’t turn on the TV or computer without the election being front and center, and I don’t even dare to read social media posts.
I like to be informed. I generally think it’s important to know what’s going on in the world, but I just can’t tolerate the negativity. And I know I’m not alone. The American Psychological Association polled Americans back in August, 2016 and found that 52% of adults feel the election is a “very or somewhat significant source of stress”. Chance are that our election-related stress has actually gotten worse as we draw nearer to election day. Numerous people have told me they’re experiencing anxiety, insomnia, headaches, nausea, fatigue, hopelessness and even nightmares related to the presidential election.


Over the years I’ve figured out some strategies for dealing with negative emotional energy that may be helpful as we endure the last few weeks of the election.


  • Avoid the source of negative energy. I know this is tough because it seems to be everywhere, but to the extent that you can, avoid social media posts about politics, the debates, news, talk shows, and newspapers.


  • Do things to promote a positive, optimistic mood. While it’s important to acknowledge your feelings, it’s not helpful to dwell on negative thoughts and feelings. Find something fun and energizing to do this weekend – read a book, watch a comedy, head out for a hike or trip to the pumpkin patch. A change of scenery and spending time in nature are helpful mood lifters for many people.


  • Set boundaries. You’re not obligated to have political discussions with your family, coworkers, or friends. Allow yourself to gently say, “I’d rather not talk about politics”. Most people will respect your wishes.


  • Treat yourself well. Whenever you’re under a lot of stress, take special care of your body, mind, and spirit. For example, try to get enough sleep, exercise regularly, limit alcohol and caffeine, relax and have some fun. Meditation, prayer, time outside, music, and art are other enjoyable ways to restore yourself.


  • Take steps to calm your overactive mind. Worrying is wasted energy. When you notice yourself spiraling into catastrophizing or overthinking, try to challenge your negative thinking, write about your worries, or distract yourself.


  • Spend time alone. This is an important coping strategy for highly sensitive or introverted people. As I mentioned earlier, highly sensitive people are easily overwhelmed – that’s just how they’re wired. If you know this to be true of yourself, be careful not to over-schedule yourself and block out time to be alone and enjoy the solitude that you need.


Yes, it’s tough to deal with all this negativity, but sometimes you need to insulate yourself a bit in order to cope. Remember to take good care of yourself!

Is it November 9th yet?


If you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed, counseling in my Campbell office can help! Feel free to email, call, or schedule an appointment online.


©2016 Sharon Martin, LCSW.

Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.

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