The Waiting Game: Dealing With Election Anxiety

264 – 214. Refresh. 264 – 214. Refresh. 264 – 214. Refresh.

Get the picture? Because this has been the entirety of America, possibly even the world, for the last 48 hours. Yes, this includes me. As our country looms on an impending Civil War 2.0, none of my schoolwork seems particularly important. All I can think about is Arizona switching to red, Georgia switching to blue, and whoever the heck took a nap during their shift in counting Nevada votes. And the worst part is that no one knows when new information will be released, or when we will know who the next man to sit in the oval office will be.

election hero image Original illustration by Victoria Giardina

If you have experienced any of this discomfort in not knowing, this article is for you. I want to take a moment to discuss an idea that is entirely familiar to me, but may be foreign to many citizens, and that is the concept of anticipatory anxiety.

Anticipatory anxiety involves intense worry and stress over an impending event that may or may not occur. As a lifelong theatre kid, I know this feeling all too well. After you audition for a show, you wait to receive a callback list, which is basically the list of people who the directors want to see back for a second audition. Finding out whether you receive a callback can take anywhere from days to minutes. After callbacks comes the infamous and infinite wait for the cast list. In my experience, this can be released either the next day or 2 weeks later. And wow, if you have never been through the agonizing refreshing of your inbox to learn whether you’re in or out, I envy you.

empty stadium seats Marvin Ronsdorf/Unsplash

When you experience anticipatory anxiety, everything else in life seems less important. How can I take my chemistry test when I could get an email any moment that tells me if a director thinks I’m talented enough to work with? It’s agonizing, and it makes me sick to my stomach to even think about. If I had a nickel for every breakdown I’ve had waiting for a cast list, I might as well buy my own Broadway show to star in.

So, what does any of this have to do with waiting to find out who our next president will be?

Woman sitting on a bench Photo by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Working through anticipatory anxiety never gets easier. If anything, once you experience disappointment, it only gets worse, because you remember what it feels like to be let down. So unfortunately, despite all my experience in waiting, it never gets easier.

But what I know for sure is that if you are experiencing anticipatory anxiety, it means you truly care.

Photo by Josh Johnson on Unsplash

Anytime I’m waiting for a result and don’t feel constantly anxious, I know that the result won’t really matter in the end, and I’ll be fine no matter what. The fact that so many of us are so scared for the results of this election means that we have learned what it means to care about who sits in that office, and what policies they will enact. Even if you live a life of comfort, your anxiety may stem from a place of empathy, and isn’t that what the human experience is truly about? 

No, there isn’t a quick solution to working through anticipatory anxiety. But I encourage everyone reading this to get sleep, drink water, eat every meal, and to check up on the people in your life. Everyone handles anxiety differently, and some are better at hiding it than others.

New Girl Nick Miller Emotional GIF Giphy / Fox

Be kind to yourself and be kind to your neighbors. Nothing that you do at this point is going to sway the outcome of this election, so if you’ve voted, have comfort in the fact that you’ve done what you can, and that you care.