Donald Trump has been president for just over a month. But for those many of us who oppose his policies, it feels like it's been years. And for some, your last night of restful sleep was way back on Nov. 7. If you've been feeling more exhausted from stress than usual lately, you're not alone. A new survey from the American Psychological Association (APA) called Stress in America has found that all Americans are feeling more stressed in 2017 compared to 2016, especially people living on low incomes, people living in urban areas, and people of color.
The APA has been conducting its annual Stress in America survey for ten years. But as stated in the survey's introduction, this is the first time the APA has looked into Americans' specifically election-related stress. And the organization was inspired to do so by their own psychologists who had noted their patients struggling with the presidential race back in spring of 2016.
What the APA found was people's stress around the election results, the future of the country, and the current political climate have all increased. And outside of the election, people are experiencing increased stress surrounding issues of personal safety, police violence toward minorities, and terrorism. Those results don't bode well for public health, especially as people living on low incomes seem to be bearing most of the stress burden.
According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can indeed cause fatigue and sleep problems and can lead to more serious health problems like headaches and chest and muscle pain. And unless U.S. politics gets less stressful soon (doubtful) more and more of these problems will start affecting more and more people. The APA found that the number of Americans experiencing stress-related symptoms, including anxiety and depression, increased from 71 to 80 percent between August 2016 and January 2017.
And while no one can expect to live a completely stress-free life, prolonged stress is a serious health problem. The press release for the study quotes Dr. Katherine C. Nordal, the APA's Executive Director for Professional Practice, as saying, "While these common health symptoms might seem minor, they can lead to negative effects on daily life and overall physical health when they continue over a long period."
Physically, chronic stress can wreak havoc on everything from your respiratory system to your nervous system to your reproductive system and beyond. Indeed, we'll probably be feeling the health effects of this latest election and presidency for many years to come.
If you're politically stressed and exhausted, knowing much of the rest of the country is too is only so comforting. Rather, the most important thing to take away from this study is the importance of self-care in these times. Be sure to take time away from the news to look into new ways to manage your stress. And since you know you're not alone in this, enlist the help of a fellow stressed-out friend. In times like these, kindness to others and yourself can be a major game changer.