With one week to go before election day of 2020 (can you believe it?!), it seemed fitting to kick off my blog with a post about coping with stress, anxiety and other difficult feelings leading up to the election. No matter your personal or political beliefs, you may find that the increased attention on politics over these last few weeks has been impacting your mental health. As a therapist who specializes in women’s sexual and reproductive empowerment, I want to take some time to draw attention to an area where women may be experiencing stress and worry as the election draws near.
Over the last few months women have watched as the media draws attention to issues that include family planning, birth control, abortion, childcare, pre-existing conditions, pregnancy, and sexual assault. These topics, especially when highlighted in a political context, can bring significant stress and anxiety to women as they begin consider the impacts of how the results of this election may influence women’s sexual and reproductive health for years to come.
So has all of this been impacting you? Let’s talk a little bit about reactions you may be noticing if the stress and anxiety of the election is impacting your mental health. First and foremost, you may be noticing yourself feeling more irritable, fatigued, worried, or anxious. You may notice changes in your sleeping and eating patterns. You might also notice changes in your relationships with others, including changes in your libido (sex drive) due to stress or conflict.
When it comes to your sexual and reproductive health, you may be concerned about your future ability to access healthcare or certain options for family planning that you have come to count on. You might also be asking yourself questions such as “Is now the right time for me to get pregnant?” or “How will the results of this election impact my ability to start a family?”. You may also notice that you are increasingly aware of emotions related to abortion, infertility, or other reproductive traumas that have been discussed in the news lately.
The combination of these concerns and emotions is a lot to handle! Most importantly, know that you are not alone and that these responses are understandable reactions to a time that feels uncertain and overwhelming. Over the next few weeks, keep in mind that you may need to devote some extra time and attention to taking care of yourself. Here are some tips for prioritizing your mental health over the next few weeks.
- Assess your social media use: Social media can be a helpful tool to keep you updated and informed about current events. However, too much time on social media can be overwhelming even if you have the best of intentions. Take some time to assess what healthy social media use looks like for you in the upcoming weeks. Consider who you want to interact with online, sources you want to get information from, how often you want to be on social media, and if there are any emotional or physical signs that indicate you may want to take a break from social media.
- Set boundaries that support your mental health: Your boundaries may need to look a little different over the upcoming weeks. You may need a little extra time to focus on yourself or take some time away from others. Remember that it is okay to set limits on interactions with people, news sources, or environments that cause you to feel stressed and anxious. You may also want to put limits on certain types of conversations or interactions that bring up difficult emotions.
- Put off decision making for a limited time: This election has highlighted many of the difficult choices that women and their families make every day, ranging from “Do I want to have a child?” to “How am I going to find balance as a working mom?”. These are important questions for women to be asking themselves! However, this may not be the week (or the month) to make any major decisions for yourself or your family. Current politics and the election can create a lot of uncertainty around these topics, which can create stress as you try to plan your future. If this is true for you, know that it’s okay to take some time to re-center and gain some clarity before you move forward.
In my practice I empower women with the information they need to make informed choices about their reproductive and sexual health. I understand that these choices are strongly intertwined with the political, social, environmental, and relational contexts that impact how and why women make choices about their bodies. I work with my clients to build awareness of the issues that are impacting their mental health and create authentic, empowered change in their lives. If you’ve connected with any of the concerns mentioned in this blog post, I encourage you to reach out to me and set up an appointment. Let’s work together to understand how this election has impacted you and build confidence in your future!