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U-M Psychologist Talks About Dealing With Election Fear And Frustration

David Dunning
University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

After a long campaign, multiple political claims, conflicts and controversies, and a couple of intense presidential debates, it is almost Election Day!


WEMU's Lisa Barry talks with University of Michigan psychologist Dr. David Dunning about so-called "election anxiety" and how to cope with that yourself and with friends and loved ones.

Are you feeling angst and frustrated about politics—just counting the days until Election Day?  You're certainly not alone. 

The contentious political environment has created "election anxiety" among many voters nationwide, leading to broken relationships among family and friends, sniping on social media, and anger.

With fewer than two weeks until ballots are actually counted, University of Michigan psychologist David Dunning says people should step away from these stressful moments to find ways to relax.

In his research, Dunning showed that people hold flattering opinions of their competence, character, and prospects that cannot be justified from objective evidence—a phenomenon that carries many implications for health, education, the workplace, and economic exchange.  

Dr. Dunning suggests one thing we must always do is be respectful of one another.  If we're dealing with people who disagree with us, don't shame or lecture them.  Instead, calmly discuss and explain your position.  I like to remind people to avoid those who are argumentative or who are set in their ways.  He says if you're going to interact with someone who disagrees with you, do not immediately dismiss their opinion.  Acknowledge it, and be respectful.  You often can identify reasons why a person would think in a certain way and then gently mention that you see it differently.  We're all struggling to reach the right answer—and what the right answer is we may not know it yet. 

Dr. Dunning suggests another idea is not to follow politics for 10 hours a day, even though it's important.  Take breaks or participate in fun activities that make you feel proud.  Reading something not involving politics is also helpful.  In the end, challenges come up, and you can't predict when they're going to happen.  You can't predict when they're going to end, but in the long term, they all end.  Today is real, but it's only today.  Sooner or later, tomorrow is going to be more normal.  That's just the history that generations have seen for a long, long time. 

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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