U.S politics has never been as divisive and labile as it has within recent years. All signs currently suggest that this will continue as impeachment hearings are suggested, stocks plummet, and hate crimes and shootings continue.
The instability is felt by most Americans. Emergency room physicians report that national politics has started to impact emotional and physical health. Nearly two out of every five Americans cite politics as their main source of stress, and one in five are sleepless or have had relationship conflict due to political stress. With suicide rates rising and more focus on creating mental wellness in our families, homes, and communities, it's important to reflect on how we can prevent the adverse effects of politics we're bringing into our relationships, families, and our communities.
What health care professionals are seeing in their patients mirrors a survey titled "Stress in America" done in 2017 by the American Psychological Association. Among the survey's other findings were these:
- Nearly one-third of participants said they'd been driven crazy by media outlets that promote views contrary to their personal beliefs.
- A quarter of people said that politics has led them to hate some people and to think seriously about moving away from their community.
- Three in 10 Americans said they'd lost their temper over politics.
- About 22 percent said they care too much about who wins and who loses.
- About 15 percent said they wish they would have restrained themselves more in political conversations or have posted things online that they later regretted.
At a time when most Americans are feeling worried about their finances, their future, their children's future, and the environment, fear becomes the default. When people become fearful, they act impulsively and aggressively, no longer trusting each other. They become judgmental of their neighbor, less forgiving, and less charitable. Stress is felt by parents which eventually trickles down to their children.
So how can we prevent this vicious cycle of stress, fear, and frustration with what's happening in the White House? It's important to remind ourselves that we cannot control world events, but we can control who we vote for and what we stand for. This begins by taking care of your emotional and physical health and the health of your family. Below are some suggestions:
- Practice taking care of what you CAN control. Prepare healthy foods and reinvest in a healthy lifestyle.
- Invest in community and family projects. Offer to help at your child's or grandchild's school. This offers you a new perspective because children smile and enjoy life more than adults.
- Since political stress is the most damaging to veterans, it's important that veterans network and socialize with other veterans and military families for moral support.
- Be aware of what triggers your stress. Maybe it's social media posts, newspapers, or watching TV. Become an informed consumer of the information you take in.
- Practice breathing in slowly, exhaling even more slowly, and counting to ten before you respond to the news. The majority of those affected by political stress in their relationships regretted arguments they had with their spouse over politics.
Allowing stress to keep us up at night or make us sick is something only we can control. Your constant worry doesn't change the results of what happens, but it may affect what happens to you. Actions you take to keep yourself healthy, informed, and grateful will influence you, your children, and those who love you. Be informed about what is happening and use the information to educate yourself, but don't let it sabotage your emotional or physical health.