The election season is in full swing. As candidates ramp up their campaigning and news outlets report more and more about the political climate, it can start to feel overwhelming, stressful, and nerve-wracking. Even after the election season ends, those feelings might not fade. If that describes how you’re feeling, don’t worry—you’re not alone.
Protecting your mental health is crucial during a time like this. When you feel drained from all of the political talk, it’s important to manage your exhaustion. It’s also important to address political stress, as this can take a negative toll not only on your mental health, but your physical health too. We’ve come up with several tips for staying educated while also protecting your mental health:
1. Find Reputable News Sources That You Trust
One of the biggest ways you can maintain a stress-free political environment is by only turning to reputable news sources for your information. All too often do small, biased, un-factual outlets push their clickbait stories out to the public to try to confuse and deter them from the facts.
No matter what party you support, there are sources that you can trust to report the most accurate information. If you’re concerned about whether or not the source you’re getting information from is unbiased and reporting true information, do a quick search to see how popular or well-known they are. You can easily find a chart that shows news sources on a linear scale, which are meant to help the public determine if the source they get their information is accurate and whether or not it might be biased.
Once you have your reputable news sources lined up, you can use these sources as your sole information pool. This will help you to cut back on stress that might stem from your reviewing conflicting or inaccurate information about the election.
Emily Simonian, MA, LMFT, a therapist at Thriveworks Counseling in Washington, DC—specializing in stress, anxiety, and relationships—says that it’s not as important to limit exposure to the news as it is to define what information you’re specifically looking for. “ In election season, most of us are probably looking for updates in numbers, statistics, or public office candidate happenings and quotes. The reality is that you’re probably gathering the information you were looking for in the news in 30 minutes or less. The rest is repetition, sensationalism, or clickbait. So in short, yes, limit your exposure to the news if you feel it is a stressor, but do so intentionally by outsmarting the media’s viewership retention tactics.”
2. Take a Much-Needed Break from Social Media
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are social media giants. Chances are, you have one (if not all three) of these social media accounts. You’re also probably all too familiar with the hate, anger, drama, and rumors that flood your feeds every time you log on. It can be stressful reading through hundreds of arguments or conflicting conversations. Not to mention, your mental health can greatly suffer if you don’t pull back and give yourself a break. If you’re seeing too much online that upsets you, try closing out all of your apps for a few days or weeks until you feel mentally ready to hop back on.
If deleting the social media apps off of your phone or electronic device isn’t the way you want to go, there are options within the platform to mute people for extended periods of time. If your crazy uncle posts outlandish, conflicting arguments every day on Facebook, just mute his profile and remove his posts from your feed.
3. Limit Political Conversations
This might be the hardest tip to follow. With how divided political views are today, it can be difficult to speak openly about your feelings without someone else attacking you for what you believe. While talking to people with opposing views and opinions can give you information that you might not have thought about otherwise, it can be difficult to engage in these conversations frequently. If you are finding yourself in a conversation with someone that is starting to get heated, or even if you’re simply not in the mood, politely change the topic or let the other person know you’d like to stop the conversation.
Headaches, upset stomach, fatigue, feeling overwhelmed, and racing thoughts are some of the common symptoms of stress. By listening to your body and mind and recognizing when you’re feeling stressed, you can redirect hard conversations to something easier to ease tensions. If you feel like your stress is getting too out of control, consider working with a mental health provider to get professional tips and tricks for how to manage and prevent future flare-ups.
4. Research the Candidates
Another great way you can stay informed while also keeping stress levels down is by researching candidates on your own. Instead of getting your information from outside sources or your dad who calls you every morning, opt for watching debates and researching candidate views. The election season can also be hard if you’re not sure of who to vote for. Hear what the candidate has to say, look into their campaigns, and form your opinion based on the information you collect. It doesn’t matter who your neighbor wants to vote for or the barista at your local coffee shop. What matters is picking someone who aligns with your views and values.
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and stressed out. It’s normal for such a sensitive topic. Taking breaks and stepping away is essential and everyone should do it periodically. While politics is an important part of life, it doesn’t have to rule your life. Even after the election season ends, it’s important to stay on top of what’s going on in terms of politics. Regardless of who wins the election, staying informed can help you relieve stress and worry after it’s all said and done.