Managing Stress in the Current Political Climate: What You Should Know
Feeling stressed out? So is the rest of the country. In 2017 over half of Americans reported that the current political climate was a source of stress. Therapists developed a term for the phenomena: post election stress disorder. Meditation app Headspace even created a “politics pack” full of resources focused on stress-management techniques for those worried about the election.
Stress management is more important than ever. Though many people don’t think about it, stress is a serious risk factor for both our physical and mental health. High levels of stress are associated with a variety of physical and mental illnesses, such as:
Depression: stress causes lower mood, which can increase the risk of developing depression
Panic Attacks: stress leads to higher levels of the neurotransmitter epinephrine, which can trigger the fight-or-flight response responsible for panic attacks
Insomnia: stress can manifest as physical tension and racing thoughts, which in turn can make sleeping difficult
Heart Attacks: stress increases the amount of cortisol in the body, which can drive up the risk for heart attacks
Diabetes: stress causes a release of hormones which can mess with your blood sugar levels
So How Do I Manage My Stress?
1. Take a break from the neverending news cycle.
It is not your job to stay on top of the news. If constantly going through the news is causing you anxiety, take some time away from it. Apps like Self-Control allow you to block websites for a set period of time, so you don’t find yourself refreshing a page over and over waiting for updates.
Do you get your news from your phone? Turn off your push notifications. Push notifications give our brains a rush of dopamine, which makes us more likely to click them. Adding that extra step of having to click into the app will decrease the amount of time you spend mindlessly scrolling.
Feeling stressed? Text a trained Crisis Counselor at 741741 or press the text button on mobile.
2. Find ways to volunteer locally.
Even if you’re not interested in local politics, look for ways to volunteer in your community. Not sure where to start? Websites like DoSomething.Org can help you find volunteer projects based on causes you’re passionate about. Know exactly what you're looking for? Throw a fundraiser for a local organization that shares your values. This creates feelings of self-efficacy, the sense that you’re in control and able to do something about your current situation. It also allows you to connect with others in your community who share the same goals as you.
Looking to help others who may be struggling? Apply to be a Crisis Counselor, and support people in crisis all from the comfort of your home.
3. Choose when you’re ready to have difficult conversations.
One of the biggest sources of stress for people is dealing with friends or family members who may have different political views. The idea of losing these valued relationships is enough to make anyone feel anxious.
It is not your job to educate people on political issues. However, if you decide to have a conversation with someone close to you, be strategic in when you have it. Choose a time when you’re both well-rested and are not under high pressure. If you need to take a break and continue at a later time, make that need known. It will give you both time to calm down and make future conversations easier.
4. Make stress relief a your full-time job.
Stressors can appear at any time in our lives. Thus, we have to constantly be working to manage our levels of stress. Make time to see friends, and put a no-politics rule on your conversation. Watch a silly movie that has no other message than being fun. Find stress management techniques that are completely independent of politics. If stress is starting to impact your day-to-day functioning, seek out a general practitioner or other medical professional. They can recommend stress reduction techniques that work best for you.
Prefer to talk out your feelings? You can always text a Crisis Counselor at 741741. Our volunteers are available 24/7, free of charge. We also make a list of free resources available on our referrals page.
5. Remember this is all temporary.
It’s very easy to feel like we have to do everything right away, because it’s the only chance we’ll have. But in reality, the political system is quite slow. It takes a long time for laws to pass, and a long time for decisions to be made. There is time for things to change, and there are ways for you to get involved.
If the midterms didn’t go the way you wanted them to, take a second. Breathe. Things may be hard right now, but we have the power to make them better. Make your voice heard, whether it be in local elections or on the national stage. Just make sure that it’s not at the expense of your own health.
Looking to make a difference? Apply to be a Crisis Counselor and help change people’s lives.
Hannah Kwawu is the Engagement Coordinator at Crisis Text Line. She enjoys conversations about film and music, and is privileged to have attended one of One Direction’s first US concerts. Coffee is her self-care.