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Elections: Politics, Media and Stress

An article from Guidance Resources, powered by ComPsych

In recent 2020 polling, about two-thirds of Americans (66 percent) said they felt worn out by the amount of news during this election cycle. Another recent poll showed that more than half of U.S. adults felt the elections were “somewhat” or “very significant” sources of stress.

As the November elections approach, this might be a good time to assess your stress levels and take some precautions to protect your mental and physical health. There are many options for limiting media consumption, lowering stress levels and avoiding conflict during what is expected to be an unusually hard-fought election.  In this article, you will find ways to stay engaged and stress free and find tips for setting digital limits.

Staying Engaged and Stress Free

Not all of us can cut media and politics out of our lives altogether, especially when it seems to be a part of just about every conversation and displayed on every corner in the form of banners, billboards and yard signs. But there are ways to still engage in politics while keeping your stress levels in check.

Avoid Addictive Behavior

For many people, the first thing they do in the morning and the last thing they do before bed is to watch the news or scroll social media. The question is, how does this make you feel? For most people, the answer is anxious, irritated and even irate. Now consider how this affects your mental and emotional health. If political content is raising your blood pressure and heart rate while provoking an irritable mood, you can be sure it’s having an effect on your well-being.

Instead of just turning on the TV or opening Facebook throughout the day, schedule time during your day to catch up on the day’s events and then log off. Limit your viewing to fact-based media and avoid commentary, which can be more about emotions than useful information. Combined, these tactics should help keep your emotions, and your blood pressure, in check.

Steer Clear of Public Commentary

Given the emotionally charged nature of this election, it might be best to avoid political discussions when out in public or with people you don’t know well. Even seemingly innocuous comments can sometimes provoke others whose political positions differ from yours. The last thing you need to deal with is an angry outburst in a public setting. Even among friends with whom you share a political affiliation, keep the politics to a minimum. After all, they may be trying to limit their political exposure.

Be Open to Opposing Views

Some political conversations, such as with extended family during meals or on Facebook, are impossible to avoid. If you find yourself in such a situation, use the opportunity to learn about opposite points of view. If you aren’t clear on a point someone is making, ask specific questions to clarify. Then give the person a chance to answer without interruption. You may learn something.

Keep in mind, however, that if the conversation becomes heated or uncomfortable in any other way, you are under no obligation to continue taking part in it. Try to change the subject, or excuse yourself from the table. Take the time away to calm yourself. Once you return, you may have better luck changing the topic.

Stay on Top of Your Stress

You don’t have to divorce yourself completely from politics and media during the election. Just be mindful that if you are going to engage in the process, it’s likely that your stress is going to rise. So take proactive steps to manage your stress:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night
  • Exercise a least 30 minutes a day
  • Meditate or practice deep breathing techniques
  • Stay socially connected with friends and family
  • Get outdoors when you can

Setting Digital Limits

More than a quarter of all Americans report being on social media on their smartphones nearly constantly during the day. In the current political climate, that can be especially unhealthy. If you’re looking to cut back on your social media and smartphone use, keep these tips in mind.

  • Be aware. Pay attention to your surroundings and how you feel when you’re on your smartphone. Did you sneak away from a date or are you hiding in the bathroom stall at work to scan your Facebook or Twitter account? You may need to cut back.
  • Moderation. Create a routine by spending only a fixed amount of time online for personal use during your day. Avoid logging on first thing in the morning and especially at night, when media usage can disrupt healthy sleep patterns.
  • Set rules. Forcing yourself into a complete digital detox may be an impossibility, but try to set clear rules about when you won’t have your smartphone in your hands or near you, such as when the kids come home for school, during mealtimes or when you go to sleep.
  • Get help. Decreasing your attachment to smartphones can be a challenge, so tell family and friends what you’re trying to accomplish and ask for their support. If your smartphone addiction is negatively impacting your physical, mental or social health, you might consider seeking help from a therapist or support group.
  • Grab a book. Many people seem to have forgotten that they can still obtain information without using the Internet. Put your smartphone away and spend a few hours at the library or bookstore and see how it feels to flip through the pages of a book or magazine.
  • Pause before you post. Before you hit send, stop and reflect on what you’re going to share on social media. Avoid unverified news, private information and confrontational or inappropriate remarks. Concentrate on thoughtful and encouraging posts and on engaging in meaningful conversations with like-minded people.
  • There’s an app for that. If you’re struggling to turn off your smartphone, there are apps that can shut them down for you at pre-determined times.

©2020 ComPsych® Corporation. All rights reserved. This information is for educational purposes only. It is always important to consult with the appropriate professional on financial, medical, legal, behavioral or other issues. As you read this information, it is your responsibility to make sure that the facts and ideas apply to your situation.

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