There was a time when midterm elections were considered “off-years,” and candidates had a hard time even getting people to the polls. Not this year. The 2018 midterms feel much like a presidential election. And in a way they are: The races are widely seen as a referendum on Donald Trump and everything he represents.
They also feel personal, as if our very identities and belief systems are being tested.
“One of the things that elections produce in us is some tension and anxiety, because we have an interest in particular outcomes,” said Cleveland Clinic psychiatrist Scott Bae, “and we perceive that we don’t have a whole lot of control over them, and that’s a great formula for tension in any atmosphere.”
Politics shouldn’t be so personal, and it doesn’t always have to be. Often, there are fairly bland policy debates behind all the rhetoric and emotion, a competition of ideas about how to guide your country, your state, or your city forward. Focus on that part, and you can ignore the noise.
These days, much of that noise comes from media, especially social media, Bae says. Because we’re in a culture where the media is so present in our lives, it can be hard to ignore the political banter. But whenever possible, he recommends staying in tune with just enough to know what you need to know, but don’t allow the noise to become so overwhelming or confusing that you decide not to vote.
It’s also wise to remember that politics is a relatively slow-moving thing. The outcome of the midterm races won’t result in quick and drastic policy changes. The races are mostly about the country’s views on two years with Donald Trump, and whether Congress should put a check on his power.
Try to take it easy as the results come in tonight. Limit your Twitter and Facebook time, and maybe even take heart in the fact this election seems so much more high-stakes than usual. It is, after all, democracy working in real time.