USC students get techniques for coping with political stress – Annenberg Media


Overwhelmed. Unsettled. Doomed.

Though they may seem like words fit to describe upcoming Halloween festivities, they are instead among those used by students describing their emotions for a different, but perhaps equally scary, looming event: Election Day.

USC’s Center for Political Future invited students to share these concerns at a “How to Reduce Election Anxiety” workshop, hosted at the organization’s office on Thursday. The event was conducted by Cat Moore, USC’s first-ever director of belonging, and Kiel Shaub, the academic curator for USC’s Experiential Learning Lab.

“Following the news and elections feels like a tornado,” Moore said. “These systems are organized to go as fast as possible, not to produce calm. That’s why you have to find calm and groundedness within them.”

Moore shared mindfulness practices on Thursday with the five attendees, including deep belly breathing techniques and a humming exercise. The small group allowed for more personal discussions, as Shaub encouraged each of the students to turn inward and dissect their emotions.

“Students are facing increased mental health issues across campus. So our intention in hosting this event was to approach it from a mental health and stress management angle, and apply it to how we are feeling around politics and elections,” said Schaub. “Does anxiety have a political party? Is it Democratic or Republican? Is it Capitalist or Communist?”

Emotions are running high as campaigns start to kick into full gear, about one year from the next presidential election. According to a poll by the American Psychological Association, more than 68% of U.S. adults said the 2020 U.S. presidential election was a significant source of stress in their lives.

In the room Thursday, the discussion focused more on technique for coping with anxiety — and organizers even included coloring exercises.

On campus, students are indeed awaiting the next election.

“I don’t think it will come down to the polarized battle it was in 2020,” Kate Peterson, a sophomore political science major, told Annenberg Media. “I’m more anxious about the new candidates, and how they will fix everything Trump and Biden both left behind.”

But with Biden running for a second term and Trump leading as the favorite in Republican primary polls, the possibility of 2020 repeating itself has become a concern to voters who feel trapped by what could be yet another Trump-Biden showdown.

The Center for Political Future event addressed that divide.

“You can’t change people’s opinions and you can’t change the system,” said Moore. “But you can go ‘I’m going to hum and no one can stop me.’”

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