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The pressure of voting in the election may be taking a toll on your mental health. This is the advice of a professional and the CDC.

For many voters dealing with mental health issues during the pandemic, voting in person won’t be the easiest thing to do, especially if you have anxiety. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) reports that almost half of all Americans experience some form of anxiety related to COVID-19. Yet, people are still managing ways to remain civically involved. 

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During the primary elections, a record amount of people cast their votes. Those who did it in person did so in spite of the risks of contracting COVID-19. As the presidential election approaches and political tensions grow, especially surrounding the reliability of mail-in voting with a weakened US mail service, many are faced with the fear of having to go to the polls in person during a pandemic. 

The APA reports that 48% of all Americans feel anxious about getting coronavirus. Far more people, 62%, are worried about the possibility of family and loved ones contracting COVID-19. Furthermore, 36%, say coronavirus is having a serious impact on their mental health, and 59% feel coronavirus is having a severe impact on their day-to-day lives.

Those who are eager to vote in person should rest assured that there is a way to manage the anxiety that comes with being around people while waiting in long lines. 

“I recommend that people who struggle with anxiety practice some mindfulness and mediation while in line, even before, in order to prepare themselves mentally,” said Tatiana Cabral Smith, a licensed counselor with mental health services organization Georgia Outreach, in an interview with The Americano. “They can practice some deep breathing techniques. I also recommend adding a drop of some relaxing oil on the inside of masks. This is something I’ve practiced when going to the supermarket. It helps to ground me.”

Smith says it’s helpful if a person with anxiety plans to do something relaxing after voting, such as meeting a friend for socially distanced tea or watching your favorite movie.

“It helps to visualize the ‘after’ when you are in a stressful situation, and give you something to look forward to,” she says, also suggesting taking a self-care kit to the polls. 

Finally, Smith adds that if a person deals with extreme anxiety (ex: long and intense panic attacks regularly), they should plan ahead and participate in early voting or use a drop-off absentee ballot.

“If you feel your anxiety may prevent you from leaving your house and going to the polls in person, please take advantage of early voting,” Smith says. “This is an important election, and I encourage you not to let anxiety hinder you from participating.” 

Related: Latinos Use Social Media for COVID-19 Resources More Than Average Americans

Advice from the CDC

The Centers for Disease Control have put out a guide for heading to the polls in a safe and mentally-healthy way.

What to do before voting: 

  1. Wash your hands before entering and after leaving the polling location or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  2. Check your voting location and requirements in advance because they may have changed due to COVID-19.
  3. Make sure you have all the necessary documents to avoid delays at the polling location.
  4. Where possible, review or complete a sample ballot at home to speed up casting your vote at the polling location.
  5. Bring your own black ink pen.
  6. Bring a stylus or similar object for use with touchscreen voting machines. Check with poll workers before using them.

Items for your self-care voting kit: 

  1. Mask
  2. Hand sanitizer 
  3. Headphones for listening to a guided meditation
  4. Relaxing oils
  5. Snacks