Kulture à la Kaavya: Say hello to unhealthy coping mechanisms!


Emily Zhu

This election was days of drawn-out counting and states turning blue for the first time in over 20 years, all to determine whether or not the US would survive the repeated bashing of its ideals. It definitely had an effect on people, forcing them to cope in sometimes unhealthy ways.

The day before the election, I was singing a classic choir song, “Amazing Grace,” during rehearsal and found myself practically in tears, yet simultaneously almost laughing. Singing a song about the American spirit when I didn’t believe there was an American spirit felt tragically ironic.

To be fair, I was terrified out of my mind. I still am. It’s a turning point for the country, and I don’t know what comes next.

But we’re not talking about the election itself today. We’ve talked enough about that. We know Biden’s policies and we know Trump’s; we know their personalities and quirks. I’m talking about what happens to people during the election. When we have no idea what the next four years will bring, it is an inevitably tense time for the nation.

So many people I know felt powerless. The votes were cast and the ballots were just being counted. It was excruciating to watch it drag on. The uncertainty is real, we don’t know if these results are final with the excruciating lawsuits to come.

So how the hell do we cope? There are a couple of strategies, and let’s talk about the unhealthy ones (many of which I am complicit in).

There is the obsessive person, a person who, for example, watches coverage constantly, refreshes the map every two minutes, has The New York Times on speed dial and is ready for every single influx in voting. While it’s great to stay informed, it easily becomes unhealthy. Through most of Wednesday and Thursday, there were very few updates, but many of us stayed glued to the laptop, watching votes come in one by one. That’s simply foolish. Sometimes the fact is we do not know. And I, being an obsessive like many others out there, have to just deal with that.

The other unhealthy facet of that is the effect on other parts of life. Being that obsessive can mean that people neglect other parts of their life. For example, I didn’t eat nearly as much as I usually do on Tuesday, staring at the TV for eight hours straight. When people obsess that much over one single event, other parts of their life will suffer.

Another coping mechanism is radical procrastination, which also happens to be a symptom of depression. People often make excuses for themselves in times of crisis, procrastinating in writing essays or doing math homework, but also the bare minimum like showering or brushing their hair. I know it can feel difficult because yeah, nothing feels real, but keeping our eyes on the future might be the only way to keep going. The first step might be hard but the next will be easier and the next and the next and the next. While it may seem difficult to do the little things, small actions can have an impact on how you feel and the way you conduct your day. That being said, emotions are overwhelming and difficult to deal with, so lean on those around you and talk to your friends. Using other people is a great way to anchor yourself to reality.

Then there are the lovely nihilists, people who have already started wallowing. As soon as things indicate a sign of negativity, they call it a day and say it’s all over. The country is screwed and we all have to deal with it. This is clearly a problem because when we make assumptions off of the smallest bit of evidence, that assumption is probably not true. As Troy Bolton would tell you, “Keep your head in the game.” It’s not over until it’s over.

Of course we can predict the classic boiling anger. It’s undoubtedly true that people will get angry when things get tense or take a long time. We can see that in thousands of frustrated TikToks, Instagram posts, memes and tweets about the Nevada counting process or how the election is taking forever. But lashing out at those around you is never okay. While I’m complicit in this sometimes, and I admit I have a worse temper than I like to admit, we have to keep ourselves in check. Yes, TikToks about Nevada taking forever to count their ballots are funny but it’s not fair when we can’t assume to understand the state’s counting system. And yes, joking about Floridian voters going red can be funny too, but blaming one person for the actions of millions is just wrong. People try their best and blaming them for these things just isn’t fair. We have to have a little empathy.

This won’t be the last stressful election. It certainly isn’t the first. While it may seem like the end of the world, the reality of the situation is that this will happen again. And again and again and again. We have to be ready for our own response and understand both ourselves and the people around us. So good luck, see you in four years, hopefully we’ll figure it out by then.