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Coping with Election Stress: Navigating the 2024 Illinois Primary Election (and the Elections to Come)

By Kellie Ramdeen


Tuesday, March 19th marks the Illinois Primary Election, in which people vote on local referendums and choose their preferred candidates, including their choice for the 2024 presidential election. According to NBC Chicago, this year marked a record-low turnout in Chicago, with just under 17% of the population casting their votes at the polls. This low turnout could result from several things, including accessibility issues, voting fatigue, and election stress. 

In Illinois, voters are legally allowed to leave work for up to 2 hours to cast their votes, as long as they receive consent from their employers. While 2 hours might seem like a decent chunk of time, lines, commutes, and other factors could mean that voters need more time. Additionally, voters with disabilities face a number of accessibility issues, and while voting by mail might be a feasible option, voters must plan to make arrangements ahead of election day. 

In addition to accessibility issues, voters might be experiencing some fatigue or even burnout. Campaigning for elections is starting earlier and earlier, and voters are constantly bombarded with various conflicting messages. This bombardment can lead to voters choosing to withdraw from staying up to date on the news about elections or even to consider refraining from voting. Many voters might feel frustrated, as though their voices don’t matter. As candidates urge people to cast their votes, voters might feel a sense of overwhelm, leading to further withdrawal. 

Finally, even if voters are not experiencing fatigue or burnout, many might be experiencing election stress. A recent New York Times article goes so far as to say Americans have experienced denial, bargaining, and grief as they process their options for the 2024 election. Many Americans are frustrated by their options (or lack thereof), while also feeling anxiety about the potential election outcomes. 

How Can You Cope with Election Stress?

According to Sykes is a liberation-based therapy practice that promotes healing while also working towards decolonizing the counseling space. The therapists who are part of this practice understand the frustrations and fatigue that may come with voting in or even observing elections. We also understand that the political system in this country has historically and systematically disenfranchised certain voter populations, creating inequity and lack of accessibility within the voting space. While many voting-related issues are systemic and pervasive, there are some ways we can cope with the resulting stress and burnout.

  1. Find community. Whether it’s with friends, family, neighbors, or online spaces, connecting with people who share similar values, experiences, and beliefs can help us remember that we are not alone in navigating systemic issues. 

  2. Connect with a therapist. Therapists ought to have the capacity to hold space for clients to voice feelings and concerns related to politics. We understand that policies and referendums have the potential to affect our everyday lives, and discussing this matter in a supportive therapeutic space could feel cathartic and offer a small sense of relief. 

  3. Get involved. Whether it’s finding ways to get involved in community centers, engaging in advocacy efforts, or creating a plan for voting in the next election, figuring out safe and productive ways to reclaim our agency can help us feel like we have a voice and what we say and do matters.

  4. Find ways to take care of yourself. The term “self-care” is overused and often does not take into consideration things like finances, time, and mental capacity. However, even if it’s taking five minutes to journal, breathe, or go for a walk, taking that time to clear the mind and care for the body and soul can be incredibly beneficial. 

  5. Allow yourself the space to acknowledge your feelings. Even if you don’t feel inclined to try any of these suggestions, please allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. You might be feeling stress, frustration, burnout, ambivalence, or other poignant emotions. Whatever that feeling is, listen to yourself and try not to invalidate it. 

In short, the 2024 Illinois Primary Election had the potential to stir up a number of thoughts and emotions. However you choose to engage with the voting process, please try to find ways to care for yourself, and know that According to Sykes is here for you as a resource, and the therapists who are part of this practice are thinking of you and care. 



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