If you find yourself stressed out more than usual by politics, you are not alone. Many Americans are finding it difficult to cope with the current direction the country is moving. The American Psychological Association recently did a survey where they found that 66% of the population feels the effects of the political climate. How do we feel better when we constantly fear for America’s future? Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, or unaffiliated, everyone is experiencing significant stress from the current election.
Politics have always been stressful, but the political divide in our country has greatly escalated in the past couple of years. Symptoms vary from person to person, but common ones include anxiety, irritability, anger, and fatigue. Throw in a 24-hour news cycle and a social media-saturated world, and it is easy to see that we are constantly being barraged with stories about elections, violence, and harassment.
But even when things seems bleak, there are ways to cope with the stress caused by politics. Here are steps to manage your stress in times of political change.
The American Psychological Association offers the following tips:
- Stay informed, but know when to step back. Acknowledge how much news you consume daily and how that information is affecting you. If you are preoccupied with national events to the point where they interfere with your daily life, then it time to step back and set some boundaries for yourself. Identify with your personal source of stress and limit your news intake and social media discussions. Try to schedule a time of day to read up on the news without waiting for every new update during the day. Take a break from media and focus on something enjoyable, or spend time with family and friends.
- Find common ground with others. Every day we come in contact with people who have vastly different views from our own. Be careful of the frequency with which you discuss politics with friends, family members, and coworkers. When you do talk about politics, you may get in heated political discussions; try to identify some commonalities within your different views. If you are not open to hearing the other person’s story, you can still try to discuss issues with them in a calm and constructive matter. If no common ground can be found, it may be best to disengage from the conversation.
- Get involved. Identify the issues that are important to you and research organizations that work on those issues. Contact them to see how you can join their efforts. Find people who have similar views and work together toward productive, positive change. You can also get involved with local politics, where it is much easier to affect immediate changes that impact your town and community. Attend a city council meetings or town hall meeting, listen and share your ideas with your local elected officials. Participating in activism can help you feel a sense of accomplishment and lessen your feelings of stress and helplessness.
- Seek solace. There are faith-based organizations and other organizations that can help you in tough times by providing emotional and spiritual support. You can also participate in activities that help you practice mindfulness, helping you connect to the present moment to find some inner peace. People engage with yoga and meditation to relax and alleviate symptoms like anxiety and trouble sleeping.
Find what works for you, and remember to prioritize taking care of yourself! Find activities that help you recharge. While it’s good to be passionate about what you believe to be right, you must find a good balance, and you must learn to disconnect when you need to. It is important to prioritize getting enough sleep, eating healthily, and engaging with close family and friends on matters outside of the political realm. Try to avoid destructive coping habits like alcohol and substance use.
If you are unable to manage the stress on your own, look into other options like seeing a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional! Be engaged, be passionate, but most of all, be well.