By: Sophia Bates, Associate Editor
The Towson University Counseling Center has been preparing students, faculty and staff for the upcoming election in many ways, including helping manage correlating mental health and stress.
Coordinator of Digital Mental Health Services and Staff Psychologist Dr. Oluwatofunmi Oni along with Diversity Coordinator and Staff Psychologist Dr. G Wei Ng has been working on a series, “Managing Election Stress,” posted every Tuesday leading up to the election.
“When we started talking about what the counseling center was going to do in regard to the election, the united voices felt that stuff came up in regard to the general anxiety and stress that people are experiencing surrounding the election,” Dr. Oni said. “When we started to think about how students can benefit from this, we talked about creating a series that talks about how we can all manage anxiety around this election.”
Senior Hanna Ulevich, a first time voter, is experiencing stress from the upcoming election.
“I feel like this election is way more stressful and involved than most other elections,” Ulevich said. “I’m not sure if it’s because this is the first time I can vote so now I actually care or if it’s always like this.”
The series is primarily about educating people on their stress levels and management.
“We also really wanted the series to be educational for people because I think when a lot of us think about elections, we kind of take in everything that comes with it as it comes and goes but we don’t really know what’s happening in our bodies, we don’t really know why we’re having certain reactions we’re having,” Dr. Oni said.
According to Dr. Ng, part of the goal of the series is to normalize election stress for people, crafted using credible psychology databases.
“It impacts all of us,” Dr. Ng said. “We also pull from what we know with our psychological knowledge and research data. We pull sources from the American Psychological Association about what we know about stress and anxiety in general. Also looking at recent surveys on how folks are dealing with the election and how it’s affecting all of us. Looking at those concrete numbers actually normalizes this for us knowing we aren’t alone in this.”
Dr. Oni said that the election impacts everyone on a national level, so it’s important for people to understand how to manage.
“I think that whether or not you are engaged in politics, this is impacting you and impacting people close to you,” Dr. Oni said. “This is impacting people you engage and relate with on a regular basis, so this is something that cannot be ignored.”
According to Ulevich, she’s found her stress levels can be harder to manage while she lives at home with people supporting a different candidate.
“It’s stressful living in a home with people who support the opposite candidate because I feel like there is very little real discussions to be had,” Ulevich said. “People on both sides are very passionate and it’s hard to have a productive conversation without it devolving into a heated argument.”
Dr. Ng added that the election, in addition to other stress-inducing events like the COVID-19 pandemic, is a weight added to people’s mental health.
“Looking at the larger picture, 2020 is nothing but normal,” Dr. Ng said. “There has been a lot of tension and uncertainties in the air. People are dealing with a lot of things and on top of that there’s this very heated and divisive election. That certainly adds to what feels like a lot in our daily lives.”
The last video in the series will be posted on election day Tuesday, Nov. 3.