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How to manage your mental health in a tense political climate

Mar 3, 2022 By Devin Collins

Clinical Editors: Drew Bertagnolli, PhD, Megan Dodson, PA

U.S. politics has grown increasingly divisive in recent years, and between the 24 hour news cycle and social media, it’s almost impossible to avoid the tension. With a near constant stream of breaking news headlines, many are left navigating feelings of fear and distress.

According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, 69 percent of Americans say the future of our nation is a significant source of stress, and 62 percent say they are stressed by the current political climate. Likewise, a study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, found that one in five Americans are sleepless or have had friendships damaged over politics.

How can stress impact my health?

Stress can manifest itself in the body in many ways. While mild doses can be a source of motivation, higher doses can negatively impact our emotional and physical wellbeing. For some, stress can cause physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue, insomnia, muscle tension, an upset stomach, or chest pains. It can also have an impact on your mental health, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, agitation, loneliness, or low self-esteem.

Many people are not aware of the toll stress can have on the body, so it’s important to check in with yourself regularly. If you’re having trouble sleeping, feel fatigued, or are just not interested in things you normally like, you may want to take a step back and examine your mental health. Talk to a friend, family member, or your primary care provider and they can help you during times of stress.

What should I do if I’m stressed about the political climate?

While it often feels like there is no end to political madness, not all hope is lost: Your stress can be managed with a few mindful steps.

1. Practice self-care

Take care of both your physical and mental health by maintaining a healthy diet, getting a good night’s sleep, and exercising regularly. A regular sleep cycle can regulate mood and concentration level, as well as decrease the risk of depression. Meanwhile, eating well-balanced, nutritious meals and exercising regularly can reduce stress hormones and increase endorphin production, boosting your overall mood and energy level. Make time for the things you enjoy such as your favorite tv show, a good book, a yoga class, or picking up the guitar. Engaging in activities you enjoy can actually help you recharge and destress, as well as boost your mood. Practicing mindfulness can also reduce stress and help you feel more rooted in the present. For some people, that means breathing exercises like this body scan, meditating, journaling, or taking a relaxing bubble bath.

2. Unplug

While it’s important to stay informed, it’s equally important to know your limits. Having a steady stream of tweets and news alerts can be exhausting, so it’s important to put down your phone from time to time to unwind. If scrolling through your newsfeed leaves you feeling anxious and overwhelmed, it may be time to take a break and unplug. Set aside a certain part of the day specifically for news consumption and give yourself a time limit. Some social media platforms even allow you to create those boundaries within their apps.

3. Excuse yourself

Political debates with family members, coworkers, and friends can often get heated and strain relationships. If you know a political conversation may get tense, use the opportunity to excuse yourself, change the topic, or redirect the conversation. If the conversation is unavoidable, you can also try letting the other person run out of steam without being confrontational.

4. Take action

Feeling powerless can increase feelings of depression and low self-esteem. It’s important during times of uncertainty to remember that you have a voice. Joining a political organization, campaigning for a cause, or volunteering with a community group can alleviate stress and help you feel hopeful about the future.

5. Be open

Understanding the other side can also reduce fear and stress about the unknown. When talking to people who share opinions different from yours, try to listen objectively and show compassion for their points of view.

Looking for more mental health resources? Find more articles on the One Medical blog and learn more about the many ways One Medical addresses and prioritizes mental health.

Originally published January 8th, 2020.

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Devin Collins

The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, a national, modern primary care practice pairing 24/7 virtual care services with inviting and convenient in-person care at over 100 locations across the U.S. One Medical is on a mission to transform health care for all through a human-centered, technology-powered approach to caring for people at every stage of life.

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