8 mental health tips to cope with the election

Election Day is Nov. 3 and is sure to be an emotional day for many. No matter if your candidates win or lose, there are a few things to remember to maintain good mental health. We sat down (virtually) with staff clinical social worker Christina Kelly LeCluyse at the University Counseling Center for her advice on coping after the election.

All day drop-in election support group

The UCC will be offering a drop-in group on Wednesday, Nov. 4, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. for students who may be experiencing mental or emotional distress related to the election.  To access the group, please call the UCC’s main number at
801-581-6826.

And don't forget to #CheckOnYourUCrew this election season. In the interest of encouraging wellness and success, various departments across campus will be hosting events offering support, encouraging civility and providing tips for stress management and coping skills in the days and weeks following the Nov. 3, 2020, election. Read more here.

If you or someone you know at the University of Utah find themselves in crisis, and need to talk with someone immediately, a UCC staff member is available to assist at 801-581-6826. For more urgent situations and after hours, use the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) Crisis Line: 801-587-3000.

1. Be with your emotions in the moment

Our brains frequently create “worst-case scenarios” about the future that increase our stress and anxiety in the present. We can also experience a great deal of distress when reflecting on past upsetting events. In thinking about promoting good mental health during the election, I would suggest bringing your attention back to the present moment—which really is the only thing that is currently under our control. In order to do that, it can be helpful to take a break from screens, take several deep and slow breaths, and bring your attention to the present moment and the space you are in.

The practice of mindfulness can be a wonderful tool to help ground us in the present moment. The U has a Mindfulness Center that offers free daily drop-in Zoom sessions to help our campus community, no registration required.

In addition, we have some wonderful programming offered through the Mindfulness Center, including “Coping with COVID Chaos,” “COMPASSION + CONNECTION: A Two-Night Event for First Year Students, the “Feel Better Now” four-week workshop and “Mindful Work/Life Balance.” These workshops require registration ahead of time.

All Mindfulness Center offerings are free of charge and can be accessed here.

2. Recognize and acknowledge your feelings

Research shows that recognizing and naming our emotions is a crucial step to reducing mental and emotional distress. Whatever the emotion may be (excitement, frustration, anger, etc.), take a minute to reflect on what you are experiencing and then name it. Once you can name the emotion, you can then make some decisions on what you need to do to cope with it.

3. Monitor your social media intake

While being informed is important, it is equally important to take a break from the 24-hour news cycle. Consider breaking up your news intake over the course of the day— possibly dedicating a certain amount each day to getting caught up and then turning it off. Be mindful of what information you are consuming and how much of it you are taking in because it will affect your mental health. Make sure your news is coming from reputable and reliable sources.

4. Self-care is vital

Due to the high level of stress that many people are currently experiencing related to this election, it is vitally important to take care of yourself. Look to those activities and/or relationships that can help you regulate your emotions and provide you with support and comfort. Connect with your community, reach out to loved ones, go outside, do some mindfulness practice, do some exercise, spend time with a pet, listen to music, create art.

The UCC will be posting a variety of tips and suggestions for ways to promote good mental health on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter during the week of the election. In addition, our website lists a number of tools and resources to help students regulate mood and improve mental health.

There are some great podcasts that can provide valuable information on mental health, such as The Science of Happiness. There are also a number of helpful apps that teach helpful techniques and practices such as ACT Coach, iChill and Insight Timer.

If you need a breather from upsetting news, check out The Good News Network for inspiring stories that can help restore a sense of hope and belief in humanity again.

5. Tips for conversations with family, friends and loved ones

differing points of view
  • Acknowledge your differing political views up front and set ground rules.
  • Set a time for each speaker and both agree to be active listeners.
  • Agree that questions asked of one another are not accusations.
  • Use “I feel” statements to express your point of view rather than hyperbole or rhetoric.
  • Don’t let the conversation speed out of control. Differences of opinion are not going to be resolved over the course of one conversation so slow down and express yourself accurately.
  • We all have our areas of expertise. So, when facts and details are shared during a conversation that you are not aware of, it’s okay to ask for a time-out. Ask for the time to conduct your own research on the points the other person has brought up.
  • Request to take a break or stop the conversation. If it feels like the participants in the conversation are not able to maintain the ground rules, it is ok to agree to disagree and end the conversation.
  • Or simply agree to not discuss politics and focus on the upcoming holidays.
Connect and find support in those with similar points of view
  • In difficult times find support in someone who sees the world like you do.
  • Agree to both share the conversation equally.
  • Avoid casting blame on those with differing points of view. It’s not as helpful as you might think.
  • Keep the conversation positive by expressing your hopes for the future. It may be more difficult, but you’ll be more uplifted when you are done.

6. Limit substance use

Alcohol is ultimately a depressant and can have negative impacts on both mental and physical health.

7. Find compassion

If your candidate won, take the time to celebrate but also recognize that there are others who may feel like they have “lost.” We can choose to interact with others who may have differing points of view in a compassionate way, including being respectful of their reactions and feelings.

8. Resources

When you do find yourself in crisis utilize the following services.

  • Call the University Counseling Center at 801-581-6826.
  • SafeUT App: The SafeUT Crisis Chat and Tip Line is a statewide service that provides real-time crisis intervention to youth through live chat and a confidential tip program—right from your smartphone. Licensed clinicians in our 24/7 CrisisLine call center respond to all incoming chats and calls by providing supportive or crisis counseling, suicide prevention and referral services.
  • University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) Crisis Line: 801-587-3000.
    UNI Crisis Intervention, Hospital Diversion, and Warm Line Services provide specialty programs to prevent mental health crises and support people through them if they happen. These programs support individuals struggling with mental health challenges and connect individuals to additional resources that can help them. The team of professionals is trained in mental health crisis management, suicide prevention, and emotional wellness.
  • Woebot: Your self-care expert chatbot app
  • The Trevor Project: the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) App: Test out a new app for anxiety, depression, stress and general well-being.

Listen to a podcast with President Ruth V. Watkins about the services offered by the counseling center here.