Ask the Stress Rejection Doctor: How to Handle Election Drama

Dear Stress Rejection Doctor,

Over the past few months, I’ve been experiencing a great amount of stress over the upcoming election. The 2012 Presidential election is a large stress factor in the lives of many people in this country right about now.  Critical issues will be affected by the outcome of this election.  Over the past eight years, the bottom has fallen out of the stock market, unemployment rates have increased significantly, the bottom has fallen out of the housing market, and millions of people have lost their homes.

When I look closely at the upcoming election, I realize that the outcome can significantly affect my life as well as the lives of the people whom I love and care for the most.  Lucky for us all, Presidential election stress only happens once every four years.

First, I stress out over the Republican and Democratic primaries, deciding who will represent each party.  Once that decision is made, most of us settle into supporting one candidate or the other.  There’s also a large group of us who are undecided which is yet another aspect of presidential election stress.

Second, I stress out over the campaign advertisements, the mudslinging, questionable information from both sides, whether it’s fact or fiction, and who’s going to better represent my long term goals and objectives.  When it’s finally time to vote, I stress out over waiting in long lines to cast my ballots while thinking about what happens if my candidate doesn’t win.

Some possible stress rejecters are to go to early voting and avoid the inevitable long lines.  If I miss the early vote times, I plan to take reading materials that are not related to the election.  Also, I plan to work on some positive solutions for my own situation regardless of the election outcome.

I would love to have some professional feedback on how to best handle election stress over the next few weeks.


Election Stressed



Dear Election Stressed,

I commend you for articulating what the vast majority of Americans and others around the world are feeling regarding the American Election Drama in which we are all engulfed. The campaign for the presidency of the United States has everyone talking and worrying about the outcome. The polls show vacillating positions on who is leading in local and congressional elections and, more specifically, between President Obama and former governor Romney. It seems like a crawling marathon with media dramatically giving updates every 15 minutes on the status of the race. The pace at which the economy improves and increase of jobs  impact unemployment rates and whether people will be able to keep their homes or purchase homes, cars, etc.  Moreover, when there is economic strife, the economic problems affect the levels of tension and relationships between family members and among people. Conversations around the water cooler at work become more heated and personal opinions about co-workers and associates are affected as well. The stormy clouds of stress are well settled over America.


The issue of which candidate is truthful or will work best for the American people and not create another Bush administration has been further clouded by PACs that finance negative ads. Record sums of money have been received by the PACs for Republicans, Democrats and even Stephen Colbert. The negative ads preceding and following the presidential debate have been intense and were intended to sway those who do not think for themselves and critically analyze the whole picture.  Again, I commend you for not just settling under the cloud of negativity that exists but looking to come up with some solutions to the problems that you view as stress creators. Succinctly put, stress is created when we perceive there are obstacles in front of our goals with challenging, difficult, or no solutions seemingly available to solve the problem(s).  There is the short term position of burying one’s head in the sand and denying there is a problem. But that approach simply does not work. Here is a suggested process to relieve your stress relative to this political drama and other situations: 1) define the problem, 2) analyze the problems and ascertain the truth as you see it taking into consideration the facts that you have available, 3) sift through the possible solution(s) to the problems, 4) decide on the best possible option(s), 5) take action on your chosen option(s),  6) review your choice(s) periodically to see if you need to restructure your plan to handle the situation, and, needless to say, 7) commit to the practice relaxation techniques like Intra Muscular Tension Control (, Deep Breathing and positive/rational thinking. Use the Intra Muscular Tension Control to work on specific areas in your body where you seem to carry the tension.


                   Now, Election Stressed, let’s put this model into action.


1)     Define the problem -You have wonderfully cited stressors related to the economic and employment problems and how they have effected Americans.

2)     Analyze the problem – lots of questions may be asked as you work to create more personal tranquility. Here are just a few questions. How was the problem created? Who or what conditions created the problem? What conditions or people continue to contribute to the problem? Who are the people attempting to truly solve the problems? Are there obstructionists, if so who are they? Is either of the candidates an obstructionist or supporting obstructionists oriented policies? How likely is it that they are going to change their policies or bedfellows?  As you know, there is a difference between thinking and worrying/ “OMGing” about things. Moreover when you are truly thinking and analyzing the problem, you are less likely to be stressed and conjure up other negative emotions like anger. Your goal is to settle your mind. You can share your opinion but you can never guarantee that you are going to change someone else’s mind. You may be unable to change the mind of someone who is not willing to be rational or has other hidden agendas but you can help yourself to feel better. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree with someone who is so well defended in their opinion that they cannot take in the facts. Your serenity is at stake so that battle may not be worth fighting.

3)     Sift through possible solutions – gather as many facts as you can about the policies of the candidates and evaluate the facts. If there are no facts offered consider that candidate A or candidate B may well be hiding the truth…the devil is in the detail or small print. The fact that there is little or no clear information coming from a candidate may help you form a concrete opinion about who to support. Decide on the best possible option(s) —After you have looked at the facts, choose your action. Which candidate can you support in good faith? That could well be your best possible option. If there is some other way for you to support your candidate, choose to take that action. Be a doer not a worrier. Set aside some time to make a decision instead of going back and forth daily with the media and TV news casts.

4)     Minimize stressors  – I would suggest minimizing your daily intake of media drama about the candidates and who supposedly has crawled ahead by one inch on a particular day. After all, there are weeks to go in the campaign which ends with the election on November 6, 2012. Give yourself a deadline date to make a decision and stick to it unless something greatly revealing comes to light.

5)      Review – review your choice in a reasonable period of time, maybe weekly. You do not have to be caught up in the hysteria of this campaign season. Since there are weeks to go in the campaign, choose one specific day a week to review your decision and if you think you need to adjust your decision give yourself the power to do so.

6)     Practice relaxation techniques – regular practice of relaxation techniques is always prescribed because inadvertent stressors regularly present themselves and the stressors associated with the campaign are intentionally presented.  When you are walking down a road comprised of irregularly sized rocks, you will feel a lot different than when you are walking down a smoothly paved road. Relaxation techniques can help you adjust to the bumpy road. Additional relaxation techniques include things you can control like a Stress Rejecter’s 3 point attack: a) scheduling deep breathing exercises 3 times during the day for about 2-3 minutes, b) be in tune with where you tend to carry tension in your body and use the Intra Muscular Tension Control process specifically on that set of muscles 3 times a day or as needed, c) 3 times a day schedule the use of comedy (jokes, programs, etc.) and/or music to help relieve your tension and d) commit to yourself that you will create your serenity wherever you are and do so.

7)     Commitment to your personal serenity – commit to making your own positive and powerful thoughts as well as self empowering actions and you will enjoy more tranquility and smiles throughout the day.

Do not allow election drama to manufacture stress in you.

Dr. Thomas A. Parker, LPC, CPCS

The Stress Rejection Doctor

“Make it a great day and be a great friend to yourself.”

Please send your questions or comments to the Stress Rejection Doctor at

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