Super Tuesday, a pivotal day in the U.S. presidential primaries, can significantly impact the mental health of voters due to its crucial role in shaping the electoral landscape. Mindpath Health’s Julian Lagoy, MD, discusses how to cope with heightened stress and anxiety and when to intervene with mental health support during such high-stakes political events.

March Super Tuesday MAT image Julian Lagoy, MD Mindpath Health

With Super Tuesday around the corner and the next presidential election looming, many of us are feeling our anxiety rise. If you’ve found yourself tossing and turning at night, unable to relax the tension in your shoulders, or even having stomach discomfort, you’re not imagining things: you might be experiencing election stress disorder.

While election stress disorder isn’t an official diagnosis, it is a real phenomenon, according to the Mayo Clinic. A recent study found that 68% of adults attributed a rise in anxiety to the 2020 election, significantly up from the 41% who said the election caused them anxiety in 2016. Election anxiety is even worse for minority and marginalized communities, with the percentage of Black adults reporting election stress jumping from 46% in 2016 to 71% in 2020.

Election stress can significantly impact people with existing mental illnesses. Around the 2020 presidential election, office visits for mental health support and prescription drug usage for mental illness rose sharply. The 2020 election also saw a marked rise in self-reports of anxiety and depression. Though the election won’t be happening for another handful of months, a major milestone is coming up that can cause significant stress: Super Tuesday.

What is Super Tuesday and why does it matter?

This year, March 5 will mark Super Tuesday, when most states vote in the presidential primary. Fifteen states will cast primary votes on Super Tuesday: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.

Historically, Super Tuesday has given us a pretty good idea of the presidential nominees. If you’re feeling stressed about the presidential election this year, along with over 70% of the rest of Americans, then Super Tuesday’s results preview what your anxiety might focus on for the next six months.

Voting and civic engagement can have benefits

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Though politics remains a significant source of stress and anxiety for many, engaging with politics and voting in a healthy way can improve your mental health. Voting and other forms of civic engagement, especially starting in young adulthood, are positively correlated with mental health. Young adults who vote have lower overall rates of depression throughout their lifespans.

Voting can also increase a sense of connection to your values and community, and some researchers hypothesize that voting can help people with mental illness feel less excluded from society. Participating in presidential elections also allows us to vote with our values, which is an empowering experience.

Voting and civic engagement are rarely simple, and this is reflected in the data. Presidential elections can cause large amounts of anxiety as a country, but voting can also lower your depression and help you feel connected. This makes it important to engage in politics healthily, both for the upcoming Super Tuesday and the upcoming presidential election this fall.

Tips to engage in voting and Super Tuesday in a healthy way

  1. Plan ahead with your care team. Talk to your therapist or psychiatric clinician about how to manage the increased stress around election times before you feel overwhelmed. This can look like creating a self-care plan, adjusting medication dosage, or putting a few extra therapy sessions on the calendar in March or November.
  2. Unplug from constant election coverage. We’re living in the era of the 24-hour news cycle, and especially around election times, we get more information than we know what to do with. Don’t be afraid to step away from the constant cycle to protect your mental well-being.
  3. Avoid dwelling on the things you cannot control. Trying to control the uncontrollable is a recipe for anxiety. During Super Tuesday and election season, try to stay grounded in what you have control over. A handy tool is the Circles of Influence, Concern, and Control model, which helps remind us of when to let go.
  4. Engage socially and civically. Depending on your level of energy and time, engaging in your community on a civic level can help you feel connected and grounded this election season. Make sure to honor your limits and seek support when you need it.
  5. Stay non-judgmental about yourself and your feelings. Election season brings considerable anxiety and stress for many of us. Remember to stay open to the experience and hold compassion for yourself, whatever emotions you experience.

Want to learn more about your mental health? Visit our Patient Resources for articles, tips, and education from Mindpath Health’s expert clinicians.

Julian Lagoy, MD

San Jose, CA

Dr. Julian Lagoy is a board-certified psychiatrist. Dr. Lagoy’s research focuses on post-suicide attempt survival and provider attitudes toward LGBTQIA+ patients, which he has presented at the American Psychiatric Association national meeting and the World Psychiatric Association International Congress in Spirituality and Psychiatry. Dr. Lagoy has a passion for service and has participated in medical missions and service trips worldwide. ... Read Full Bio »

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