eing politically informed is important to so many of us. Especially now, during this unprecedented time you might find yourself keeping up with the news more often than you usually would. Who could blame you though? Politics have been dominating the headlines for several months now! But what happened at our nation’s capital on January 6th wasn’t just another attention-grabbing headline, it was a significant event that will surely be discussed in the foreseeable future and remembered throughout history. Tensions are understandably high right now. You might be feeling stressed, anxious, angry, sad or fluctuating between all of those emotions depending on the political information you’ve consumed that day. Political information and opinions are readily available through social media, the news app on your phone, websites, podcasts and more. This is a due to great technological advances in our society that allow us to share a constant stream of information at lightning speed, but the consumption of all that information can impact your mental health in the short-term and in the long-term. So, what can you do to maintain your sanity during the current political climate? Try these out:
It can be hard enough to get people off their phone as it is, let alone during a time of political unrest when news is coming out around the clock! But to preserve your mental health you must find time to unplug from electronics and all news sources. Our current political news will most likely affect your emotions, so it’s understandable if you feel angry or anxious. These emotions release cortisol and adrenaline into the body that tighten your muscles, increase heartrate and shut down important functions like digestion. When these hormones circulate throughout your body often or for long periods of time it can cause headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia and digestive issues. It also increases the risk of depression and heart attack or stroke. For your mental and physical health, put away political news and electronics at least an hour before bed and focus on getting a good amount of rest each night.
Do you ever have frustrating exchanges with your friends or family about politics either in-person or online? Are you arguing with people you don’t know in the comments sections online? This can be incredibly upsetting and therefore not good for mental health! Preserve your own mental health by forming and enforcing boundaries regarding politics with yourself and others. This is a form of self-care that protects your mental wellbeing. This means determining when and what you are willing to discuss politically with others. Take time some time to think about the political topics that tend to bring out strong emotions for you and write them down. When you are self-aware of your feelings, you will be able to regulate your emotions better when these upsetting political topics come up. If you feel unpleasant emotions bubbling up, resist the urge to argue and distract yourself with a different task. If someone is engaging you in a conversation that you’re uncomfortable with, you can practice enforcing your boundaries and calmly letting them know you won’t be discussing the topic at that time.
I know, it sounds a little cheesy to suggest laughter as a form of mental preservation in such a tense political time but it actually works as a short term stress reliever! Studies have shown that laughing releases endorphins into the body that actually relieve the symptoms of stress pretty quickly. These endorphins send signals to the body to calm the stress response and relax muscles, which almost instantly lift your mood. If you need some inspiration, put on your favorite funny movie, watch a stand-up comedy special or reach out to a friend that puts a smile on your face.
It can be difficult to get into a positive mindset right now, especially when the political climate is tense and current events are stressful. Practicing gratitude is a really easy strategy to change your outlook and boost your overall mood. It’s about identifying the things in your life that bring you joy, give you meaning, sustain your life, connect you a higher-self and then showing appreciation for those things. Gratitude is not about putting on rose colored glasses or ignoring hardships, but rather finding something to be grateful for. You’re not expected to think “everything is fine” while practicing gratitude, but in the midst of all this negative news it will do you good to think about the things in your life that you are grateful for.
Try implementing at least one of these strategies into your daily life and you will be preserving your mental health. But if you try all four strategies, you will most likely preserve and improve your mental health dramatically over time!