Author: Vanessa Ingrid Farrell | Date: 29 December 2020
The ongoing divisiveness of today’s political environment can wreak havoc on your stress level, not to mention your overall health and well-being. More and more, I find myself having spirited conversations, or more like full-on arguments, with family members and friends on the most recent election outcome, health care, unjust presidential pardons, climate change – and the list goes on.
However, despite the satisfaction gained from the momentary banter, what we may not realize is the impact this stress can have on our personal health and relationships.
Almost 40% of adults agree that politics is causing them stress, according to a recent study by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Between 10% and 30% say that politics has damaged their friendships, made their home lives more unpleasant, and caused them to lose sleep or feel depressed.
While engaged citizens may be necessary for a democracy, it’s important to keep the affairs of state from interfering with your personal well-being. Consider these ideas for discussing politics with less stress:
Be civil. Listen to other points of view, and respect someone else’s opinions even when they differ from your own. Stick to the facts instead of taking issues personally.
Assume positive intentions. It’s easy to stereotype someone on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Give them the benefit of the doubt, and look for common ground. You may have similar goals even if you support different policies.
Clarify your purpose. Ask yourself why you’re having a particular conversation. If someone has strong beliefs, you’re unlikely to change their mind with anything you have to say.
Back off. You can decide to avoid debates that you find unproductive or disturbing. Tactfully change the subject or walk away.
Practice self-care. You’ll have more resilience to deal with any form of tension if you adopt habits that keep you strong and healthy. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
Build support. Nurturing relationships are another effective tool for maintaining your peace of mind. Spend time with family and friends. Ask for help when you need it.
Act locally. You may feel more optimistic and empowered if you try to help your community. Campaign for a local candidate or run for office yourself. Volunteer on your own or with your family for a cause you believe in.
Try counseling. If political stress is interfering with your well-being and relationships, you may want to talk with a therapist. A therapist can help you gain insights into your situation and suggest coping strategies to provide relief.
Staying up to date with current events may help you to understand and influence public policy – as long as you keep your civic life in balance. Be selective and courteous about consuming news and discussing politics; these are good strategies for controlling your stress level and keeping your health and well-being in check.
About the author
Vanessa Ingrid Farrell, MPH, MCHES, is a speaker, best-selling author, and CEO and founder of Vanessa Ingrid (VI) Health & Wellness Coaching, LLC. Vanessa is also a Certified Health Coach. Her coaching practice helps busy women, especially those in leadership roles, unapologetically prioritize and preserve their heart health without sacrificing career and the joys of everyday life experiences. Born on the beautiful island of Montserrat, she currently resides on the island of St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands. Follow Vanessa on FB at https://www.facebook.com/VIHealthcoaching