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Setting Boundaries May Be Your Key To Staying Sane This Election Season

With election season approaching, family dinner conversations and class greetings are turning from “hellos” into grunts and side-of-the-mouth comments about the upcoming election. This is my third election as a consciously aware human, and I can’t say that I’ve ever felt an energy of joy and light during this time. The weight of impending doom that we all feel is hard to ignore, namely because it has the potential to shift the trajectory of our nation

These heightened emotions are healthy in isolation. But, when we end up in a heated debate with our uncle about a certain political candidate, our emotions can become weapons of war. Controversial political affairs aren’t going anywhere, so it’s best that we turn those weapons into shields and protect our peace. That’s why boundary-setting is the key to staying sane this election season.

Boundaries have become a hot-button topic in recent years; but, in simple terms, boundary-setting is a way to clearly communicate what you need and how you would like to be treated. In the pressure cooker that is election season, they can be a necessary tool for preventing a conflict from erupting.

But how do you set boundaries this election season? I spoke to behavior analyst John Borgen and psychologist Jenna Brownfield about why setting boundaries during election season is so important.

Be clear about what boundaries you’re actually setting.

The first step is to state exactly what you need in a concise, direct way. “For example, you might say, ‘I find that political discussions can get heated. I value our relationship and would prefer to focus on other topics,’” says Fromowitz. “This approach not only sets the boundary but also emphasizes the importance of the relationship beyond political alignment.” 

Unfortunately, not everyone will be responsive to your new boundary. Behavior analyst, John Borgen, recommends a strategy for dealing with people who continue to poke at your emotions.  “The behavioral process to implement is extinction,” says Borgen. “A short explanation — like ’I’m refraining from talking politics, I want to focus on my work,’ — and then having a phrase that reiterates the explanation  — ‘I’m staying away from those discussions,’ — lets folks quickly and succinctly see the boundary. Repeating the same phrase is required.”

Sticking to your phrase can be difficult, especially when every fiber of your being wants to fight back and prove your point. But, if you go off-script, they might take that as a sign to double down.

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to your boundaries.

If you’re dealing with someone who clearly has no regard for your boundaries, it is not your responsibility to stick around until they do. Psychologist Jenna Brownfield, says it’s important to remember that you can’t control other people. “Setting boundaries is about making a commitment to yourself,” Brownfield tells Her Campus. “Ask yourself how you can be true to taking the action you need to take when a boundary is pushed.” At the end of the day, a boundary is established to ensure your safety and comfortability; so, create a game plan that is not contingent on how someone else reacts. 

Election season is by far the stormiest season of them all, but boundaries are like an insulated winter parka. Sure, it’s not a Sex And The City fashion moment, but it’s your most practical purchase of all. Whether you’re fending off a political debate with your colleague, family member, or friend, remember to zip up your jacket and hold true to what you need.

Tess is a wellness editorial intern for Her Campus with a passion for covering stories about mental health, culture, relationships, and overall wellness. Tess is currently in her final semester at Chapman University studying broadcast journalism and documentary film. Outside of class, you can find her in a yoga class, on a hike, or watching absurd reality TV.