Political uncertainty can be challenging, regardless of your beliefs or where you might fall on the political spectrum. For many Americans, the transition of power and the rapid speed of change may cause stress and anxiety about the political environment and the future of our nation.
APA’s 2016 Stress in America™ survey revealed that two in three Americans (66 percent) say the future of our nation is a significant source of stress, and 57 percent say that they are stressed by the current political climate. Symptoms of stress can vary from person to person but often include a combination of emotional (worry, tension, irritability) and physical (headaches, insomnia, stomach problems) reactions.
People deal with stress in many different ways, some healthy and some unhealthy. Low to moderate levels of stress can positively motivate us to complete a project or achieve a goal. A lot of stress, however, can negatively affect our emotional and physical health. High levels of stress have been associated with anxiety, depression, fatigue, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to manage your stress in times of political change.
APA offers the following tips:
- Stay informed, but know your limits. Consider how much news you take in and how that information is affecting you. If you are preoccupied by national events and it is interfering with your daily life, this may be a sign to cut back on your news intake and limit social media discussions. For example, some people may find it helpful to schedule a short block of time in the morning and one in the evening to catch up on news without checking for every new update during the day. During “digital breaks,” take time to focus on something enjoyable, such as a hobby, exercising or spending time with family and friends.
- Find commonalities with others. We come into contact with people every day whose beliefs differ from our own. If the topic of political differences arises, avoid heated discussions and try to identify commonalities within your different views. Sometimes different views can come from a similar underlying principle. Be open to hearing the other person’s story, and maybe even validate how they are feeling. When we frame our thinking this way, it can be easier to tolerate or understand people with different views and even, perhaps, work together toward a common goal. If you find it difficult to discuss political issues in a calm and constructive manner, it may be best to disengage from the conversation.
- Find meaningful ways to get involved in your community. Identify issues that are important to you, and research organizations that work on those issues. Contact them and see how you can join their efforts. You could also consider getting involved in local politics, where it can be possible to see the direct impact of your efforts. Attend a city council meeting or a town hall meeting to listen to and share your ideas with elected officials. Taking active steps to address your concerns can lessen feelings of stress.
- Seek solace. Faith-based organizations and other community organizations can provide vital emotional and spiritual support during stressful times. Engaging in soothing activities, such as meditation, progressive relaxation or mindfulness, can also help you connect to the present moment and find some peace.
- Take care of yourself. Because stress can have a physical and emotional impact on your overall health, find activities you enjoy to help you recharge and reduce your stress, such as exercising, listening to your favorite music or spending time with close family and friends. It’s important to prioritize getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and avoiding ineffective coping mechanisms such as alcohol and substances use.
If stress starts interfering with daily routine for an extended period of time, or if you are unable to manage stress on your own, it might be time to see a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional. Psychologists are trained to understand the connection between the mind and body, and can help you to identify problem areas and develop an action plan for changing them.