Staying Safe: Elections and Emotional Wellbeing
The uncertainty associated with the general elections can be overwhelming. Election seasons in Kenya have been associated with increased incidences of insecurity and election-related violence. The historical background of uncertainty of the electioneering process further increases the emotional turmoil during this period. Campaign messages are also presented in ways that target our emotions. This, coupled with high stakes we attach to electoral outcomes results in heightened anxiety and hypervigilance leading to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, distress and apathy. Besides working to secure our physical safety, it is important to protect our psychosocial wellbeing.
Outlined below are signals to watch out for and what to do once you recognize the need to safeguard your emotional wellbeing.
Anger outbursts, unexplained fear, chronic anxiety, obsession with safety, forgetfulness, lack of sleep, general malaise/fatigue, increased substance use
What to do:
Increase your self-awareness: identify your political, emotional and social boundaries. Know what stresses and drains you and what triggers your anxiety and apathy. Know what to do when emotions are triggered.
Be realistic: accept what you can change and cannot change. Use your vote to influence what you can change. Determine to use your vote well. Celebrate your ability to vote and influence change. Be ready for any outcome. Accept and embrace what you may not influence/control.
Unplug: Minimize overuse and exposure of social media platforms. They can drive you into overload and panic. Don’t type and post what you otherwise wouldn’t like to read after elections. overload of information and news on all. Take a break from some of the social networks you don’t find useful.
Connect: Seek alternative sources of enjoyable activities. Use the election-break to enhance connection with friends and family. Socialize in meaningful ways. Make time for the kids. You will be surprised how quality connections fuel hope and optimism.
Refuel: Set time for spiritually, physically and emotional connections. Work at creating and engaging in quality time for self. Sleep well, rest when necessary. Be in the moment, learn a new skill. Enjoy and recharge, there is so much to look forward to after elections.
Plan: The days before and immediately after the vote can be long and lonely. Plan way ahead on what to do and what to have. Restock if necessary. This keeps away the panic and anxiety of running out of basic commodities during the electioneering period.
Communicate: Sometimes, reassurance comes from knowing that our loved ones are doing fine. Catch up with them. Provide frequent updates. Create time to update and reassure the kids. Don’t assume they are immune to stress. Your engagement alleviates most fear.
This article is written by Peter, a Counselling Pyschologist at the Strathmore University Medical Centre.
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