by Mike Blacet
So here we are as a nation, just hours from determining or cringing at who our next president will be. For months this has been quite a roller coaster ride and a source of distress for many. People worry about the safety and security of the nation, their communities, their financial future, their children’s future, and more.
Believe it or not there is actually a label for this distress: Election Stress Disorder. Though it isn’t a formal disorder, it is widespread and specific enough to the election that some mental health professionals are using the label. This shows up as worry about the future, restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, fatigue, depression, and can adversely affect various areas of life: productivity at work, school performance, relationships, physical health, sleep, and more.
What about you? How are you responding to all of this? What are you believing about the unknown future, maybe without even realizing it?
It is realistic to anticipate some distress in yourself or others. We are made for order, peace, and the kingdom of heaven, but don’t get to experience it in full measure here. Difficult emotions are a normal symptom of not being in heaven.
The God given purpose of emotion is to push us to do something. The word “emotion” literally means “to move”. We are supposed to respond to emotion by getting information (truth), taking positive action, or both. However, sometimes our mind can get stuck, going over the problem repeatedly, not allowing us to turn our mind off, for a few reasons: We can’t find a satisfying solution, the true solution is beyond us, we have incorrect information, or we believe we are doomed if we don’t solve the problem.
What to do? What to do?
Is God pacing heaven, wringing his hands, wondering what to do about these all-powerful humans? Does God imagine the story ending in tragedy? Not that I’m aware of. If God’s not worrying, then why should we? Instead:
“Do not worry.” – Jesus
- Pray, seek God’s will and “Do not worry.”
Matthew 6:33-34 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
I have heard this scripture quoted lately as people consider the course of our nation and its place in the work of the Kingdom of Heaven. Each of us as individuals has to decide how to respond to this election, with the Lord’s guidance. We should certainly pray, for ourselves, our nation and leaders. If we can hear from God personally and clearly and experience His direction and care for us, He can certainly set us as ease.
- Talk about it.
Do not keep your thoughts and tension inside. Share with trusted family and friends how you are reacting to the election, your thoughts and concerns, and ideas about what actions to take. Invite them to share theirs as well. This can relieve tension, gain connection and support, get other helpful perspectives, and increase wisdom.
- Disconnect from media.
If you find that election related images and information in the media triggers stress in you, take a break. Turn off your phone, computer, tablet, and television, as much as needed. At times, you may need to disengage from toxic or overwhelming conversations that others have about the election.
- Engage in stress reducing activities.
There are many things that effectively help us to relieve anxiety and stress. Some common ones are: Exercise, meditative breathing, stretching, practicing a hobby, reading, journaling, playing, coloring, completing simple rewarding tasks, and more. Spend 30 minutes or so doing something you enjoy daily. At the least, engage in activities that distract from what is bothering you. We have the right to be at peace, as promised by our Savior.
- Focus and act on what you can control.
We often can’t completely eliminate distress. Maybe we aren’t supposed to. If that’s the case, let the distress move you into action. First, acknowledge what you cannot control and stop tending to it. Trying to control what you can’t control disempowers you. Focus on what is within your power and take action in ways that impact issues you are passionate about. Share your faith. Adopt. Be a Big Brother or Sister. Visit prisons. Donate. Invite people into your home. Intervene when you see bullying. Help when tragedy strikes. Take a mission trip. Participate in community action. Influence others. Love your neighbor. What is God prompting you to do? Do the good that no one can stop you from doing. Remember, you are the Church, the most powerful body of people in existence.
- Anchor yourself to Hope, and again “Do not worry.”
Times of political uncertainty may be distressing, but it’s important and steadying to maintain a Big Picture view. Put government into perspective. And set your anchor.
Romans 13:1b “…for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
1 Corinthians 2:6 “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.”
Nothing that happens in, or after, this election can truly interfere with Christ’s reign and rule.
Hebrews 6:18 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain…”
Christ our Hope. Always King. Anchor to that.
And how do we do that?
- “Stack some stones.” In Joshua 4:1-9, God has the Israelites create a pile of stones as a visible reminder, a memorial, of a miraculous God.
- Meditate. In Psalm 77:12, the psalmist reminds us to soak in God’s goodness.
- Think about excellent or praiseworthy things. In Philippians 4:6-8, Paul tells us what to focus our thoughts on.
What helps you to hold to unalterable truths? Here are some ideas.
- Make a list of scriptures, quotes, and other sayings that anchor you to the truth.
- Use tangible reminders (memorials) for truths you are trying to hold to: pictures, objects, rituals, screen savers, phone alarms, sticky notes, works of art, jewelry, etc.
- Write down in detail something that God has personally done for you.
- Create an ongoing gratitude list, adding to it daily.
- Memorize and say specific, comforting prayers.
- Recall and visualize how God works through human authority for our good.
- Write down promises that you are sure of.
- Listen to your favorite Christ-glorifying music.
- Take pictures of beauty you see in the world. Notice God’s work around you.
- Listen to or watch inspirational messages.
- Listen to others’ testimonies. Share your testimony.
- Write down in detail who you want to be in the midst of this.
- Write down in detail who God is in the midst of this.
Do one or more of these daily to anchor yourself to Christ.
Mike Blacet is a therapist with Cornerstone Christian Counseling Services. His first career choice was engineering, but God got ahold of him and turned many things upside down, or right-side up. Mike and his wife Angela have been married since 2001. They enjoy their time together as a family with their two daughters, Madelyn and Grace, and their son, Noah.