Updated: Oct 25, 2020
No matter where you side on any social policies or political issue, we can agree that the recent heated political climate and the coming elections have been a source of stress and contention for most.
According to new data from the American Psychological Association (APA), 68% of survey respondents say that 2020 is a significant source of stress in their lives, which is a substantial increase from 2016 when 52 % of survey respondents identified the election as stressful. A study by the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, also indicates that between 10% and 30% of Americans reporting that politics had damaged their friendships, made their home lives more unpleasant, and caused them to lose sleep or feel depressed.
While engaged citizens may be necessary for a democracy, it’s essential to keep the state's affairs from interfering with your well-being.
Consider these ideas
for consuming and discussing politics with less stress.
Tips for Following the News
Unplug. Make sure there are moments of the day when you have time to wind down and create news and social media free space to connect with friends and loved ones. It’s is also okay to turn off alerts, sign out or delete an app or two from your phone if you find yourself feeling easily overwhelmed or distracted by the "breaking news" or by political banters, negative ads, and hurtful language on your social media and news feeds.
Monitor dinner talk. Food tastes more delicious when a pleasant conversation accompanies it. Discuss daily activities, happy memories, remodeling projects, and holiday plans.
Change the channel. Some news sources are grouchier than others. Pick a site with a calmer presentation. Watch programs that focus on facts rather than political positions and scandals.
Know your risks. You may be more vulnerable to political stress if you’re younger, unemployed, opposed to the party in power, and more politically active.
Tips for Political Discussions
Be civil. Listen to other points of view and respect someone’s opinions even when they differ from your own. Stick to the facts instead of taking issues personally.
Assume positive intentions. It’s easy to stereotype someone on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Please give them the benefit of the doubt and look for common ground. You may have similar goals, even if you support different policies.
Clarify your purpose. Ask yourself why you’re having a particular conversation. If someone has strong beliefs, you’re unlikely to change their mind with anything you have to say.
Back off. You can decide to avoid debates that you find unproductive or disturbing. Tactfully change the subject or walk away.
Other Stress Reduction Tips:
Practice self-care. You’ll have more resilience to deal with any form of tension if you adopt habits that keep you strong and healthy. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
Build support. Nurturing relationships are another effective tool for maintaining your peace of mind. Spend time with family and friends. Ask for help when you need it.
Take Action. Voting is one way to take control in these uncertain times. Make a plan to vote safely. If you are voting in person, follow CDC's Elections & Voting. Interim guidance to prevent coronavirus spread, research the candidates and issues on the ballot, and check to see if you have all the documentation needed to vote in your jurisdiction before heading to the polling station. If you are voting by mail, click here for a state-by-state guide for absentee ballot applications and deadlines.
Act locally. You may feel more optimistic and empowered if you try to help your community. Find ways to become involved in organizations or foundations that advocate for the ideals and values that matter to you.
Have a post-election day plan. Identify a friend or family member you would connect virtually or safely with for emotional support if results don't turn out the way you expect or would like. Be mindful about who you can talk with safely, discuss the results, and debrief helpfully without getting you worked up further. You may also need to step back from social media or the news if you find those outlets start making your feelings worse rather than better.
Try counseling. If political stress is interfering with your well-being and relationships, you may want to talk with a therapist. They can help you gain insights into your situation and suggest coping strategies to provide relief.
Again staying involved and up to date in political discussions is crucial to influence social and public policy, as long as you keep your civic life in balance.
Netsanet Tegegn, LCSW, Is the owner of Restorative Psychotherapy & Wellness and a Licensed Psychotherapist in Virginia Beach that provides individualized counseling services for those who wish to create long-lasting and positive changes in their lives...