For many, it’s doing a number on their mental health. Psychologists say the fatigue of this year is real, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing it.
“I didn’t watch any of the election news last night, I figured it would come when it came,” said one voter from Austin, Texas.
“Yesterday I was optimistic. Last night at midnight, I was in tears,” said another Texas resident.
The continual ebb and flow of emotions has never been so starkly felt by Americans than they are in 2020.
“Me and my friend—we went and got chips and queso because we’re like ‘Let’s go do something, because there’s a lot of anxiety in the world right now,’” said another Texan voter.
Almost the entire year has felt in flux—from the pandemic that broke out in the spring, the eruption of social unrest this summer and now a fall presidential election that could play out for days or even weeks.
“The chronicity of this is really taking a toll on people,” said Dr. Anne Morris, a clinical psychologist based in Dallas.
Morris said 2020 has been her busiest year in practice—with an influx of new patients experiencing a diverse range of emotional discomfort.
“One of the many issues, with a variety of different topics right now, is it just feels very out of control,” said Morris. “And by that, I really don’t mean chaotic, even though at times it certainly has felt chaotic. But really just out of your control.”
In a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, anxiety and depression are up in U.S. adults since the start of the pandemic. Four in 10 adults age 18 and older reported symptoms in July, research found.
Fifty-three percent of Americans ages 18 and older say that stress related to the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.
“Find something every day that you have a say so in,” said Morris. “Whether that is—redecorating your apartment or house… Cooking, baking, exercise, seeing friends, to the extent that you can.”
She suggested deciding for yourself how much worldly information you need to ingest every day, especially as the country holds its breath with final votes trickling in. Morris also recommended unplugging, if you need to, and implementing a breathing technique that works for you, such as the 4-7-8 method.
“And that is inhale for 4, hold for 7 and exhale for 8,” she said.
The point of any breathing exercise is to increase your body’s carbon dioxide levels. And above all, she said, be kind to yourself.
“Whether it’s COVID fatigue or election fatigue or D) all of the above, this is lasting a long time,” said Morris. “And for everybody to have some grace and permission with themselves to feel these emotions and feel overwhelmed.”
Dr. Morris said it might be time to seek out professional help if you believe mental and emotional issues are starting to interfere with your daily life. If you’re having a tough time completing tasks or maintaining important relationships, it might be time to reach out to a licensed expert in your area.