I was not a very political person three years ago. I had only ever voted twice, once being a primary, and in fact I had been determined to keep politics more or less out of my life as much as possible, mostly due to the stress and anxiety it brought me. I don’t think it needs to be said that things have changed a lot since 2015, and now, ignoring such a large and influential part of the world around me is not only impossible, but feels irresponsible. If not for me, than for others, I feel that paying attention is the least I can do, since I at least have the privilege of the choice.
The lead up to this week has been historic in many ways, and the effect of the political state of this country has had a noticeable effect on the mental wellness of young people across the country, on all sides of the political spectrum. One study found a noticeable increase in stress and depression among young people (Source) in the aftermath of 2016; and as the dust settles and we adjust to a post-midterm world, it’s important to recognize that our own mental health is important, even while focusing on such large and momentous occasions. Here are a couple of strategies I’ll be using to take care of myself this week.
TAKE A BREAK
The most important step is to take breaks from the nonstop political news. In a 24 hour news cycle, there’s always some new controversy, fight, scandal, or election to draw our attention, and while it can be healthy to keep up to date and in the know, it’s also important to recognize your own individual needs. Some people are more overwhelmed by politics than others; my friends often shut down much quicker than I do when it comes to the constant “Did you hear what this politician did today” streams. Realizing that these articles and stories will not be disappearing or slowing down is a key element of relieving stress – it’s okay to take a break, to move away from the TV or phone or computer or newspaper for a second and just breathe. If you focus your attention every time the news draws you in, you won’t be making any time for yourself or your own well being.
As I mentioned above, my friends don’t always appreciate the grand political debates our country is facing as much as I do, and I’ve often found myself in an awkward position of realizing that what has been a fascinating and engrossing conversation for me has been stressful for the other participant; with politics being so partisan and intense in recent years, this type of content can be incredibly demoralizing and exhausting for people. I’ve also found that in many cases, while I think I’m doing fine, the news is actually weighing on me more than I’m aware of, and my increased stress can partially be attributed to my constant attachment to my devices. It’s like eating a delicious cake – sometimes you can overeat before you’ve even realized you’re full.
In the doom and gloom of today’s political debate, whether warranted or not, it can often feel like the world is falling apart. Indeed, our country is facing some major decisions right now that will have long term effects, but this has been true throughout our history as well. As long as there are people fighting for righteous causes, there will be others fighting to prevent progress from occurring. Standing strong, keeping aware, and being politically active are all noble pursuits, but if you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of other people, let alone the world.
That’s the main point, all in all: remember that to be there for other people, we must be there for ourselves. Take a breather, spend time with your family and friends, and know that even in a country as divided as the one we live in now, there will always be people ready to help each other. This week has been vitally important, for sure, but life goes on, and the world keeps turning. It’s okay to put the phone down for a while, read a book, watch your favorite show, spend time with those you care about, and just breathe.