Anxiety and the Election

Conversation Guide

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Therapist and author Steven Stosny, in an article for Psychology Today coined the phrase “election stress disorder” or ESD – a kind of takeover of the adult, rational brain by the more emotional toddler brain which is highly susceptible to emotional influences. Have you read the headline news about the election and found your blood pressure rise and your mood change? Do you find your inner peace shaken by the stress of America’s election season?

How do we set boundaries for our own mental and emotional health, as well as have meaningful conversations with others when so much weight and importance is placed on a political event? How do we create the kind of atmosphere that will help ourselves, our communities and our country?

Let's Get Started!

Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-7 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share and learn. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate. Some hosts may offer a Q & A after Closing.

Introductions:
Why We're Here (~10 min)

Each participant has 1 minute to introduce themselves.

Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.

Conversation Agreements:
How We'll Engage (~5 min)

These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)

  • Be curious and listen to understand.
  • Show respect and suspend judgment. 
  • Note any common ground as well as any differences. 
  • Be authentic and welcome that from others. 
  • Be purposeful and to the point. 
  • Own and guide the conversation. 

Question Rounds:
What We’ll Talk About

Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.

Round 1:
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)

Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:

  • What are your hopes and concerns for your family, community and/or the country?
  • What would your best friend say about who you are?
  • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?

Round 2:

Anxiety and the Election (~40 min)

One participant can volunteer to read the paragraph at the top of the web page.

Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk. After everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring additional questions as time allows.

  • What have you noticed about your feelings and behavior in relation to the upcoming election? What are you noticing in those around you? What has surprised you?
  • What role, if any, do social media and the news play in the anxiety you have over the political process and the coming election? How do you navigate that?
  • Describe what methods and approaches are helpful to you in dealing with anxiety in your personal life? How are they serving you in the context of the upcoming election?
  • How do you impact others’ anxieties around the election? Is this the impact you want to have?

Round 3:
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)

Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:

  • What was most meaningful / valuable to you in this Living Room Conversation?
  • What learning, new understanding or common ground was found on the topic?
  • How has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group?
  • Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation?

Closing (~5 min)

  • Give us feedback! Find our feedback form here.
  • Donate! Make more of these possible; give here.
  • Join or host more conversations! With a) this group by exchanging your emails; b) others in person and/or by video call online. Get more involved or learn how to host here.

Thank You!