Politics! For some people, the mere mention of the word makes them shudder. But with presidential debates that sound like shouting matches and a primary season that feels like it’s been going on forever, it’s no wonder most of us are growing weary. It’s also no surprise that many of us are experiencing higher than normal levels of anxiety as a result of the current, super-charged political climate in which we live.
Regardless of your political party affiliation, it may be tough—if not impossible—to escape the rhetoric, negative television ads, social media rants, overconfident talk show hosts and a seemingly endless supply of political bloggers. Perhaps never before have we been so inundated with facts, stats and political polling leading up to the election for our nation’s highest office, which, by the way, is still almost eight months away.
As it turns out, some of us are better than others at managing the stress or turning it off when we’ve had enough. For others, not so much. So, if Uncle Frank is bombarding your inbox with a never-ending supply of news about his candidate of choice, a co-worker won’t shut up about the virtues of her political party, or you’ve simply had enough, it may be time to turn off the madness—before you lose your mind or lose a friend.
It’s going to be a long spring, summer and fall, so take note of these tips for weathering the political firestorm ahead:
- Turn off the TV. It may be tempting to watch the endless newscasts and constant analysis, but you should consider turning it off–especially if it’s starting to affect you in a negative way. In fact, you may want to completely disconnect your cable service, limiting your exposure to the daily news and whatever you choose to stream online.
- Take a break from social media. Let’s face it. Some of your best friends may be disappointing you or upsetting you—just because you don’t agree with their political views. Maybe it’s time to get away from it all and spend your time elsewhere. Political views shouldn’t ruin a good friendship or break the bond between family members. You liked these people before you knew about their political persuasion. Why not keep it that way?
- Divert your attention. If you sense that things are getting out of control and you’re thinking about politics in your sleep, you should probably find a more compelling and fulfilling way to occupy your time. Adopt a new hobby. Take a vacation. Read a captivating novel. There are endless ways to enjoy life, and most of them are much better for your mental health than arguing or fuming over politics.
- Realize that things may not be as bad as they seem. During any election, it’s not uncommon to hear about all the things that are wrong with our country. But it’s helpful to stop and think about all the good that takes place around our nation. Ease your mind by focusing on the positive. At the end of the day, we live in a great country, and we enjoy incredible freedoms. That’s something we can all agree on and be thankful for.
- Move. Your body, that is. Exercise is a great way to shed some of the rage you may be experiencing. During those times when you feel like no one understands you or people on the other side of the aisle just don’t get it, head for the gym or take a power walk. In other words, take the healthy approach to blowing off some steam.
- Choose some different topics. No doubt you’ll be in countless social situations between now and November. To help maintain your sanity, equip yourself with some conversation starters that don’t involve politics. This doesn’t mean you have to dummy down your discussions; just keep them politics-free. The trick is to build an arsenal of topics so you can be ready to initiate a conversation whenever you feel like the discussion is moving toward donkeys and elephants.
Don’t let the worry, anxiety and stress of the election season get you down. Take control of it before it takes control of you. Remember, there are plenty of things to do and people to enjoy in the weeks and months ahead. Don’t let political stress and negativity rob you of that pleasure and enjoyment.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street Columbus, OH 43206 or by phone at 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.