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Are Politics Stressing You Out?

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Are Politics Stressing You Out?

What causes you stress? Is it work? Money? Maybe even a lack of time spent with family and friends? It turns out, a vast majority of Americans say politics is one of the top reasons they feel overwhelmed. 

A 2017 study on stress by the American Psychological Association (APA) found 57 percent of Americans say the current political climate is a significant source of stress in their lives. That statistic is something Cooper Clinic Preventive Medicine Physician and Chief Medical Officer Michele Kettles, MD, MSPH, hears about frequently.

“I would say a majority of my patients say politics causes them stress,” says Kettles. In fact, several of Kettles’ patients say the current political climate causes them to stress eat, have heart palpitations and feel angry, confused and sad.

Kettles offers a few ways you can stay informed about what’s going on in the political sphere without stressing yourself out.

Turn off the tube

If you watch the news or any political talk shows, Kettles recommends not doing so before you head to bed.

“When people tell me politics are stressing them out, the first thing I ask them is, ‘are you watching the news before bed?’” says Kettles.

Kettles discourages watching TV (or any “screens”) 30 minutes before bed (the light can stimulate wakefulness), but especially discourages watching programs that can cause anxiety or stress. 

“It doesn’t matter what side of the political fence you’re on, some of the political talk shows can expose you to sometimes aggressive and combative banter, which can be stressful,” says Kettles. 

If you want to stay informed, Kettles recommends reading print articles in newspapers or political magazines. If you have a tendency to become riled up by such articles, try reading them during the day and not right before you fall asleep.

Talk. Or don’t. 

For some, talking about what’s going on in politics can be therapeutic. For others, it’s the complete opposite.

“Some of my patients say they refuse to talk about politics with anyone because it’s too divisive,” says Kettles. 

On the other hand, Kettles says some of her patients say talking about politics with others actually provides relief. No matter if you talk with those who agree or disagree with your beliefs, Kettles says it’s important to have these discussions in a respectful manner.

“There is a way to keep a conversation intellectual and really listen to the person you’re talking to without increasing anxiety and becoming angry,” says Kettles.

Get involved 

Want to make your voice heard? Getting involved in political organizations at a local level might help reduce your stress. The same 2017 stress study by the APA found 51 percent of Americans feel more compelled to volunteer or support causes as a result of the current political climate. 

“There are so many organizations, no matter your political party, that revolve around issues you’re passionate about,” says Kettles. “Getting involved is a great way to channel your stress in a positive way.”

Not sure where to start? Try the following:

  • Contact your local leaders
  • Attend town hall meetings
  • Contribute financially to organizations you support
  • Attend peaceful rallies and protests
  • Run for office yourself 

Practice self-care

At the end of the day, the best way to fight stress is to put yourself first.

“I can’t promote the value of self-care enough,” says Kettles. “When we get stressed we tend to not eat as well or get adequate sleep. Maybe we skip exercise. Most people know what makes them feel better, it’s just about fitting it into the day.” 

Don’t let your healthy habits slip. Follow these tips to help reduce stress:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Exercise (aim for 150 minutes per week)
  • Meditate 
  • Get enough sleep (7-8 hours per night for adults)
  • Laugh often  

For more self-care tips, visit the Stress Less section of our website. For more information about Cooper Clinic, click here or call 972.560.2667.