Do You Have Election Anxiety?

Almost half of Brits feel despair at the thought of politics, and 10% are losing sleep. If this sounds like you, here's how to cope with it...

Woman cant sleep

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

‘I lose sleep every night worrying about the state of our politics,’ says Florence Crush, a marketing strategist. Since the announcement of the general election, stress has ramped up all over the country. According to new research from Headspace, almost half of Brits feel despair at the mere thought of politics.

A third feel angry, and 10% have lost sleep thinking about the vote on July 4th. It’s impacting our social lives too, with nearly a quarter engaging in family arguments about politics and 17% falling out with friends. 44% of Brits say they feel unable to avoid political noise right now. This election year, it seems, the stakes feel higher than ever – and its taking a toll on our wellbeing.

‘I get very stressed and anxious thinking about it,’ says Hayley Knight, 36, a communications director. ‘I’m so nervous about the results. I’m scared that the Tories will be voted in again, but I don't think Labour is a good option either. I am genuinely worried for our country.’

Hayley feels that since losing EU membership, Britain is going backwards. ‘I'm getting angry a lot too, as both parties make pointless gestures and [suggest] ridiculous policies, like [the Tories’] national service policy. Neither of them seem to be addressing the real issues that are affecting our country. Right now, I am feeling fearful, helpless, and exhausted by it all.’

Election anxiety is a real thing, it seems. According to psychotherapist and anxiety specialist Eloise Skinner, signs you might be suffering from high stress due to the election include a racing heart, a feeling of high adrenaline or physical tension when talking about it.

You might find yourself thinking about the election unintentionally or when trying to fall asleep.

‘You might find yourself thinking about election-related topics (including political messaging, general fears around future leadership, or other social issues) at times where you weren't intentionally reflecting on them - for example, as you're trying to fall asleep, or during other times of relaxation or socialising,’ she explains. ‘You might feel stressed when you think of the date of the election, and an increasing sense of stress as it approaches. On the other hand, you might also feel a sense of avoidance around election-related content - a desire to shut down any discussions, or avoid any political marketing - this can also be a sign of stress or anxiety around the topic as a whole.’

Florence too lies awake at night flooded by thoughts of political crises everywhere. ‘I worry about the rise of fascism and how the mainstream media in the UK politicise hatred for political gain and push agendas as a distraction tactic,’ she says. ‘For the poor innocent children suffering in Gaza, in the Congo and in Sudan, and how hard-wired our politicians are to accept funds from lobby groups instead of prioritising civilians - all while ignoring the science of the effects of climate change so they can keep making money from war over oil and gas resources.’

Minreet Kaur, 43, is a carer for her mother and also feels hopeless at the current party offerings. ‘I feel like there's nothing there for carers like me – it's all for the rich, not the working-class people,’ she says. ‘I don't even want to vote for any of the parties! I just keep thinking how I don’t trust any of them. None talk about hidden carers who are stuck in getting on the property ladder – we can’t work full time and the carer’s allowance is hardly anything. The NHS is a shambles and taking my mum there who has myeloma, I feel uncomfortable as they make her wait hours in a high-risk environment. The Tories are led by a rich man who has no idea what life is like for working class people like me. The Labour Party aren’t talking to me. I just feel like nothing is going to change.’

What is it about this election in particular that’s spiking our heart rates at night?

‘It’s happening in the context of high global uncertainty and insecurity, as well as a cost-of-living crisis,’ explains Eloise. ‘Meaning that government policies around tax, housing and more have more of a direct impact on us. We have the pressures of multiple global election processes, and a general shift of public opinion towards more extreme views.

‘We're also coming out of a long period of uncertainty and anxiety after the pandemic years,’ she continues. ‘And a broader sense of mistrust or disappointment in leadership. In addition, the shift of political campaigns to the context of social media and digital spaces can make opinions feel more extreme and direct, and can make our decisions feel more stressful.’

For Abigail*, 29 from Liverpool, this is also the first election she’ll vote in that may well (if the polls are correct) go her way.

‘I’ve had a decade of feeling helpless now. Every election or referendum I’ve voted in has gone the opposite way to what I wanted and so even now with Labour leading in the polls I refuse to get my hopes up,’ she tells Grazia. ‘I’ve seen up close the way regular people are paying the price for Tory policies. I’m one of the people that can’t get on the housing ladder yet, my salary has never increased in line with inflation so my cost of living is spiralling and my opportunities in life feel so limited. It just feels more important than ever now that we have change, but I’ve been scarred by the way it seems like so many people vote for themselves, not with those worse off than them in mind.’

So how can you cope with these feelings? The first step is acknowledging that you have them. ‘Observe when you do feel elements of stress or anxiety and see if you can identify what the trigger was (an election campaign slogan, for example, or someone expressing an opposing view to your own opinions),’ Eloise advises. ‘Once you identify the trigger, you can look a little deeper into what might be causing the stress by talking to a friend or family member, speaking with a therapist or using another reflective tool like journalling.

‘You might find, for example, that beneath the general sense of stress is a particular fear about finances, or about things being out of your control - all of this is helpful information to understand yourself on a deeper level,’ she continues. ‘It's also important to acknowledge that [this is] a significant moment, and it's not unusual to attribute importance to it. Taking good care of yourself, your mind and body, but also making sure you have enough sleep and consume a wide variety of good quality information or news is an essential foundation from which to approach the election date.’

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