11 Signs You’re Too Stressed Out By Politics, & The Strategies You Can Use To Help
Do politics stress you out? If so, you’re not alone. According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America Survey, two-thirds of Americans are stressed about the future of our nation, including the majority of both Democrats and Republicans. The survey found that the current political climate is a significant source of stress for 57 percent of Americans. Some researchers have described this phenomenon as Post Election Stress Disorder (PESD), and there are clear red flags that indicate if you’re too stressed out by politics.
"The stress we're seeing around political issues is deeply concerning, because it's hard for Americans to get away from it," Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, APA's executive director for professional practice, said in a press release. "We're surrounded by conversations, news and social media that constantly remind us of the issues that are stressing us the most."
While the sources of stress for Democrats and Republicans vary, it’s clear that politics is taking its toll on folks. Democrats (72 percent) are more likely than Republicans (26 percent) to point to the 2016 presidential election as a source of stress, but 59 percent of Republicans are stressed about the future of the United States, compared to 76 percent of Democrats. And of course, it's not just politics in the abstract that's stressing people out — the policies of the current administration have a direct, tangible, negative effect on many people, especially marginalized folks, that can't easily be addressed through tuning out the news. Unfortunately, this is a kind of systemic stress that doesn't have an easy solution — save for organizing to undo the policies creating the stress in the first place.
Even if you feel overstressed, it's important not to disengage from politics entirely. Instead, examine the passive habits towards politics that you have, and exchange them for active ways of relating to politics that can help change whatever is stressing you out. Ahead, see the signs that you’re way too stressed out about the state of the union, and what you can do about it.
1. You Binge-Watch Political Shows
Political shows can be a good way to catch up on the news, but watching them for hours on end can be super stressful — not to mention, unproductive. With the 24-hour news cycle, many shows talk about the same event over and over, so at a certain point, you’re not getting anymore value from binge-watching these shows. To combat the added stress from watching too much politics-related TV, try giving yourself a time limit for these types of shows. Whether it’s one or two hours, after your time's up, commit to changing the channel or turning off the TV completely.
2. You Reply To Trump's Tweets
Donald Trump knows how to get attention by tweeting, and hundreds of thousands of people reply to him each day. No matter how you feel about Donald Trump, replying to his tweets can feel either like shouting into the void, or it'll lead to an argument with an Internet stranger. Either way, it’s essentially pointless. The fix to this is simple — don’t do it. Unfollow, mute, or block the Donald if you must. Call your representatives instead.
3. You Get Nervous Every Time You Get A Push Alert
Do you have push notifications from news outlets on your phone? Does every notification make your heart skip a beat? This is a sure sign you’re too stressed out about politics. Remove the push notifications from your phone. The news will still be there when you set aside time to look at it.
4. All You Talk About Is Politics
More and more people are joining in on political conversations post-election, which is fundamentally a good thing, but if all you talk about is politics (and you don't have to for your job, ahem), you’re probably stressing about it. Set up some conversational boundaries and hang out with friends who aren’t as stressed about politics as you. They’ll likely want to talk about other things that won’t raise your political stress level.
5. You're Arguing With Facebook Friends
Everyone has an opinion, and social media makes it easier than ever to voice those opinions. If you find yourself constantly battling your Facebook friends about the election, the Russia investigation, or legislation, you’re working yourself up for no reason. Science says it's highly doubtful that you’re going to change anyone’s mind via Facebook. If you’re always arguing with a handful of social media connections, perhaps it’s time to unfriend or unfollow them. Instead, connect with people IRL. Even if you don't see eye to eye, you'll have a better chance of creating lasting change with a face to face conversation.
6. You Read Articles When You're Supposed To Be Working
Got a big presentation coming up, but can’t stop reading the latest on the Special Counsel while at work? Don’t let the current political environment negatively impact your productivity. Make a plan to only read political articles during your lunch break or when you're off the clock, or block those websites from your work computer completely.
7. You’re Literally Counting Down To The Next Election
Many political groups are working hard to make sure the next election’s outcomes are favorable to them, but if you’re literally counting down the days, you’re not living in the now. It's important to be informed about the issues that we'll be voting on in November, as well as remain politically engaged throughout the year, but as they say, a watched pot never boils. The next election will come whether you obsess over it or not. Consider practicing mindfulness techniques to stay grounded.
8. You Dream About Politics
What you think about during your waking hours often show up in your dreams as you sleep. Dreaming about politics can make it feel like you can’t escape, but there are ways to have some influence your dreams. Before going to bed write or think about something positive you’d like to dream about. You’re more likely to dream about what’s on your mind right before you go to bed.
9. The News Is Taking A Toll On Your Mental Health
Political stress can have real mental health consequences, like anxiety and depression. Deborah Cooper, a California-based therapist, told the New York Daily News that she’s seen more patients in the last year due to political stress. "I have people I have not seen in literally 30 years that have called me to come back in because of trauma," she said. "I am more than full. I am overworking." Of course, it's not just seeking out the news that's making people stressed — the policy decisions of this administration have real life implications on people all over the country that simply turning off push notifications won't fix. No matter your situation, if you feel like your mental health is suffering because of the current political situation, seek professional medical help.
10. You're Giving Into Your Flight Response
If each breaking news event makes you want to leave the country, you're definitely stressing out excessively. However, as many countries helpfully pointed out after the election, each country has their own political problems that we don't quite see the depth of over here in the U.S.A. Additionally, in our interconnected, global world, the political problems we have in the U.S. don't exactly end at the border. Consider instead the DREAMers, whose families actually did leave their home countries in search of a better life in the U.S., and whose lives here are directly threatened by the current administration — and think about staying to help fight the policies that directly affect them.
11. You Feel Hopeless About The Future
Feeling hopeless about your country’s future is a huge burden for an individual to take on. Remember that you have the power to influence your representatives by calling or writing them about issues that are important to you. You can also get involved in local politics by volunteering in a local campaign you believe in. Actively working to better the political situation in this country is much more productive than passively consuming news — and much less unnecessarily stressful.
This current political environment is stressful, but there are ways to reduce that stress so that it doesn’t take over your life, while also working to better the conditions that are causing people stress to begin with. You’ve got this.