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4 ways to cope when politics are stressing you out

by Allison Smith

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Political climate making you feel stressed? You’re not alone. Politics have always been stressful, but that stress has amped up in the past couple of years.

According to a recent American Psychological Association (APA) study on stress in America, 57 percent of Americans say the current political climate is a significant source of stress in their lives. Three-quarters of Americans felt at least one symptom of stress in the past month, with around one-third of adults experiencing anxiety, irritability or anger, or fatigue.

Social media and the 24-hour news cycle cause so much stress that one therapist coined a new term: “headline stress disorder.”

Right now, the future of our nation causes Americans more stress than any other topic. Not even money or work are as volatile.

No matter how dark the clouds, we can learn how to part them for a glimpse of blue skies. Here are a few ways to manage stress caused by politics—and even channel that stress into positive action.

Know thyself

“Being able to control responses to stressful events and manage the experience of stress when it does occur are learned behaviors,” said Lynn Bufka, Ph.D., the Associate Executive Director of Practice, Research and Policy at APA.

No matter how stressed we may feel, we can learn how to cope. Consider what makes you feel tense and how you respond to that feeling. Do you feel anxious when watching the news? Does arguing politics on Twitter make you irritable? And are you more likely to cope by going for a run or reaching for a glass of wine?

“Identifying your personal sources of stress and recognizing how you typically respond to stressful situations will give you some ideas for how to handle future situations and times of stress,” says Bufka.

Take a digital detox

Sometimes a little bit of ignorance is bliss. If scrolling through your newsfeeds makes your blood pressure rise, it may be wise to take a step back. Those who check social media frequently are more likely to report that political discussions on social media cause them stress, and more than half of Americans (56 percent) say that while they want to stay informed about the news, doing so causes them stress.

It has become so common for social media and the 24-hour news cycle to cause stress that it led one therapist to coin a new term: “headline stress disorder.”

“Taking a ‘digital detox’ or limiting social media discussions related to politics is one way to minimize stress levels if you find yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed by what is being portrayed in the media,” says Bufka. “It’s important to know your limits when it comes to taking in new information. Setting boundaries such as turning off the news after a certain hour or when eating dinner may also give you a healthy break.”

Practice mindfulness

More and more people are turning to activities like yoga and meditation to unwind and recharge. According to the APA, 12 percent of people use yoga or meditation to manage their stress, a rise of three percent since 2016.

Research shows meditation can help to manage stress and alleviate its symptoms, such as anxiety and trouble sleeping. Mindfulness courses can also help bridge the partisan divide; one mindfulness initiative has been cultivating a sense of connection and openness among UK politicians.

Get involved

Feeling helpless to effect change can be stressful and discouraging. That’s why getting involved can be so powerful: it helps you take back control.

Right now, the future of our nation causes Americans more stress than any other topic.

Joining a political party, volunteering with a community group, or participating in activism can help you feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose. These activities also connect communities of like-minded people, which helps to alleviate stress. No wonder more than half of Americans (51 percent) say the state of the nation has motivated them to volunteer or otherwise support causes important to them.

“For some, taking action on an issue they care about may help them to feel that they have a voice or an opportunity to exert some control over a situation,” says Bufka.

A year after the 2016 presidential election, it is possible to find calm amid the storms. Whether it’s limiting our time on social media, starting a meditation practice, or volunteering, find activities that leave you recharged and refreshed, rather than rundown. A blue sky awaits.

The author of this post is an editorial contributor to Headspace. These are their views, experiences and results and theirs alone. This contributor was paid for their writing.


Tags:Stress

Allison Smith

Allison Jane Smith is a freelance writer who has written about politics and culture for the Washington Post and Salon, among others. Follow her on Twitter @asmithb.

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