I’m already anxious about the outcome.
I speak of next week’s elections, and a modern malady the Mayo Clinic refers to as “Election Stress Disorder.”
“We notice it in our bodies, the tension in our shoulders,” says Dr. Robert Bright, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist. “Sometimes people get GI (gastrointestinal) upset or headaches. People have trouble sleeping.”
Bright says the scary negative political ads aren’t helping our stress levels.
“He is the candidate who voted in favor of puppy mills and sugar rationing and making chocolate chip cookies illegal!” such ads may as well say.
Every time there’s an election, we’re told that it’s the most important in our lifetime — that if candidate XYZ wins, the sky will collapse, Earth will become a giant sinkhole, the Sun will stop shining….
If we let the hyperbole get to us, it’s no wonder it induces such a powerful stress response.
The origin of stress goes back to the early days of humans, when many creatures didn’t view us as their superiors, but as their lunch.
When a human saw a lion coming his way, he was overcome by stress. The stress brought on an adrenaline rush, and the adrenaline sent one message, loudly and clearly: RUN!
“Fight or flight” stress was an essential natural response to threats and it kept many humans from becoming another creature’s dinner.
But long after a human’s stress mechanism was much less needed for his survival, we continued to suffer from it in ways it was never intended to do.
We suffer stress when we see the high cost of the gasoline we must put in our cars — so we can drive to the grocery store where we are stressed by the price of food that has risen faster than you can say reckless government spending.
And now that, like it or not, politics has seeped into every moment of our waking lives, elections have become way more stressful than they once were.
No matter what happens next week, half the country will have a temporary moment of joy, if their candidate wins, and the other half will suffer — you guessed it — more stress.
Half the country will be certain this midterm election will have been the most fair and transparent in history, and the other half will be certain fraud caused their candidate to lose.
Whether happy or mad, though, one thing is for certain: many won’t be able to resist the urge to go on social media and argue about politics with friends, family and neighbors, which will cause even more stress.
And rather than cool down over political matters that are largely out of our control, we’ll get angrier and more vindictive and that will be the energy we carry into our holiday gatherings, where harsh and bitter words will be said that may harm relationships forever.
So what can we do to nip election stress in the bud, Dr. Bright?
We can relax, he says, and realize that all that we can control is our own vote and that it is no better or worse or more important than anybody else’s.
“And that’s the wonderful thing about living in a democracy,” he says. “We each have an equal stake.”
Besides, there’s another very important reason not to stress over our elections: The real stress doesn’t generally kick in until we realize we elected a bunch of buffoons.
Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, which features pet advice he’s learning from his beloved Labrador, Thurber, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected]