5 tips to help manage political stress
When it comes to politics, the last several years have been like a roller coaster that never ends. With political discourse at every turn, there are times when you just want it to stop. That may be easier said than done. Whether you’re watching the news on TV or engaging with others on social media, it’s hard to escape the political landscape we live in.
A 2019 study revealed that nearly 40% of Americans identified politics as a significant source of stress in their lives. For some, that stress led to anxiety, insomnia, and even thoughts of suicide. The situation may not be as bad in your life, but you may be noticing increased levels of fatigue. Or maybe you’ve lost a friend or two over a heated political disagreement.
Psychologists are witnessing this firsthand as more patients admit that politics and the drama associated with it is a chronic source of stress in their lives. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you avoid the incivility and keep the stress at bay.
- Minimize your news intake. This is an obvious place to start, but it’s not easy to isolate yourself from the constant barrage of news headlines and political hate. News headlines are everywhere, and they’re often on repeat for hours and days at a time. At best, be sure to avoid any doom scrolling, which is what happens when you spend too much time reading negative news online. If you choose not to entirely remove yourself from the various news platforms, be sure to establish a specific time and place to get your daily news. Choose a reliable news source, limit the time you spend–and then stick to the plan.
- Be in control. What’s happening in the news often feels out of control, and that’s what leads to high levels of stress. Remember to focus on what you can control in your life. In addition to minimizing your news intake, look for ways to manage your health and well-being, from eating well and exercising to spending time with friends and loved ones. This is where you will derive your greatest level of happiness.
- Take action. Sometimes the best way to feel like you have control is to take action. If you’re so inclined, consider donating to a political cause, running for office, or volunteering for a favorite candidate. Engage in safe activities that you’re passionate about. Doing so could have a significant positive impact–both for you and your cause–even if it’s not immediately noticeable.
- Educate yourself. It’s one thing to sit back and passionately watch as the news headlines flood your television or computer screen. But it’s likely that you’ll see the same headlines over and over again. Instead, take the time to read and inform yourself. This not only allows you to take a deeper dive into the facts, but it shields you from disturbing images and drama. Studies show that exposure to television news coverage can lead to PTSD symptoms and other health issues for some individuals.
- Practice mindfulness. When life feels like it’s spinning out of control, there’s a tendency to focus on the worst possible scenario. Mindfulness can help to rein in your thoughts so you can see things for what they really are. From regular meditation to yoga to simply taking some deep breaths, there are several ways to help your mind and body return to the present.
There’s little to indicate that our polarized political climate will be changing anytime soon. In fact, many experts predict that it will continue for the foreseeable future. We live in a world where one political season rolls right into another–with no gap in between. If you feel particularly vulnerable to this new normal, it may be time to implement some of these tips. And if that’s not enough, schedule an appointment with a mental health professional.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.