The one thing we can probably agree on when it comes to politics is that we are all stressed out. The stress we are experiencing is about more than personal politics or the Presidency. A few years ago tensions about that coveted White House seat were the issue at hand, but nowadays the vitriol reaches farther and wider.
Some folks insist this acrimony is new, while others maintain that we have experienced phenomena like this in years past. It is clear, no matter what beliefs you subscribe to or the truths you hold dear, that the stress that surrounds us has got to be tamed. Our health, wellbeing, and hopes of a progressive future depend on it.
The Blame Game
Politics has always been a blood sport, but many wonder how things got to where they are. Disagreements have given way to family feuds, and the the terms we hurl at one another seem uglier and more vengeful. Those who voted for the current administration are called one set of terms, while those who had hoped the outcome would be different are known by a different nomenclature.
Beyond Slurs and Name Calling
The issues that matter to us as a country of united states are important, no doubt. People are passionate and passion is a very good thing. But that passion has given way to anger, anxiety, and stress that is sometimes referred to as “Post Election Stress Disorder.” In fact, this condition has garnered support as a real disorder by the American Psychological Association. And while evidence suggests that Americans of all ages and political bends are feeling the tension, the youngest eligible voters amongst us, the 18 to 20 year olds referred to as Gen Z, report feeling the most distress, depression, and physical manifestations of their worries than any other eligible voters.
Stressed Out and Plugged In
One of the great ironies of the digital age is our ability to be plugged in and disconnected at the same time. With our heads in our hands, we are in many ways both highly educated and oblivious. The news that pours into us seems shocking at times, troublesome to say the least at others. But we have become habituated to bad news and information that makes us feel uncomfortable or scared.
We are simply not as shocked by politics as we once were, because it seems like things get more chaotic even when, especially when, we do not think that is even possible.
When we become stressed, we tend to lash out. When we do lash out, we do so angrily and at times, thoughtlessly. In the last few years, families have banned political discussions at holiday dinners, friends have split over political disagreements, and people on all sides of the political spectrum feel limited in what they can say or share, for fear that someone will insult, shame, or degrade them. While there does not seem to be change on the horizon related to our civil discourse, what we must address now are the effects of this stress on our mental and physical health. Constant exposure to anger, whether ours’ or others’, is killing us.
How Political Stress Affects the Body
Political stress is ubiquitous and unrepentant. Ads on public transportation, commercials on television, and even comedy shows focus on all things political. We are bombarded by political messages on social media, by friends and government representatives alike. This consistent exposure to animosity and discord seeps into our psyches and has the power to destroy our sanity and well being.
Signs and Symptoms of Stress
Stress leaves lasting marks on the body and soul, whether we are aware of it or not. Some of the disturbances caused by stress include muscle pain, changes in sleep patterns, digestive issues, decreased motivation, alcoholism, and mood instability, just to name a few. In fact, stress can be so problematic as to create a public health crisis that affects the nation’s overall welfare.
Stress can also affect impulse control and unearth pre-existing biases. When pushed beyond an adaptive level, stress can change people in dramatic, sometimes dangerous ways. As stressful people find it difficult to interact with others, they become more isolated and withdrawn. And for some, their behavior leaves them to the company of their personal convictions, alone.
How to Destress From Politics
With deep seated opinions that strike at the core of our beliefs, destressing in meaningful ways is critical. We may not be able to change others’ opinions, but what we must change is how we deal with stress, how much of it we consume, and with whom we share it.
Considering how much politics appears in our digital lives, decreasing your screen time can serve you well. You need to decide how much you can handle, but understand that it seems we can handle less than we think.
If the state of the union makes you feel helpless or just plain miserable, it may be time to explore those feelings with a therapist. There is no shame in seeking treatment, especially since it can provide you with the safety net you need.
Whether yoga, deep breathing, or meditational chants center you, engage in whatever allows you to take stock of who you are, what you stand for, and the healthiest ways to conduct yourself.
Endorphins and exercise can make a world of difference to even the most stressed, political minds. This is why physical activity is a key, recommended element in the pursuit of health
If you are ready to destress and unplug, contact Dr. Shahen Kurestian, DC of Body Systems Wellness in Glendale, California today.