You’ve probably noticed that modern politics tend to be divisive. TV commentators and family members argue about impeachment, health care, climate change and now, COVID-19.
However, you may not realize how much impact the stress of this discourse can have on your personal health and relationships.
Almost 40% of adults agreed that politics is causing them stress, according to a recent study by the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Between 10% and 30% said 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 important to keep the affairs of state from interfering with your personal well-being. Consider these ideas for consuming and discussing politics with less stress.
Following the News with Less Stress:
1. Take time off. From your TV, your phone’s newsfeed, to the ads that pop up in social media, you’re exposed to news even when you’re not searching for it. Put a time limit on your own consumption and put your headphones on if you need a distraction.
2. Set a curfew. Soothing bedtime rituals will enhance your sleep. Turn off your computer and TV so you can read a novel or work on your hobby.
3. Monitor dinner talk. Food tastes more delicious when it’s accompanied by pleasant conversation. Discuss daily activities, happy memories, and vacation plans. Yes, COVID-19 is going to be over – plan for a happier day.
4. 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.
5. Know your risks. You may be more vulnerable to political stress if you’re younger, unemployed, and more politically active. Research is still underway about what happens to voters when their party is out of office.
Discussing Politics with Less Stress:
1. 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.
2. Assume positive intentions. It’s easy to stereotype someone on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Give them the benefit of the doubt and look for common ground. You may have similar goals even if you support different policies.
3. 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.
4. 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:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Act locally. You may feel more optimistic and empowered if you try to help your community. Volunteer on your own or with your family for a cause you believe in. There are things you can do to be helpful even while quarantined.
4. 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. Fortunately, there are many apps that now offer virtual sessions with therapists.
Staying up to date with current events may help you to understand and influence public policy, as long as you keep your civic life in balance. Be selective and courteous about consuming news and discussing politics.