As we enter the holiday season of 2020, it’s clear that this has been a tumultuous year. Every American has struggled with the COVID-19 virus, whether you’ve gotten sick, known someone who got sick or experienced financial problems because of it. On top of the worldwide pandemic, the U.S. has seen plenty of political unrest in an election year. Not only is this election one with fairly high stakes considering the issues the president will have to deal with for the next four years, but we’ve also witnessed an extremely close election, with several states going into recounts.
No matter who you voted for and what the election will mean for the country, it’s no doubt that this is a stressful time for many people. As we become increasingly politically minded as a nation, it’s important to develop coping strategies to deal with big sources of stress like national and world politics. While it’s perfectly understandable to be affected by the extremely important issues in the country, it’s important for you to maintain your mental health.
Organizations like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) offer several recommendations when it comes to coping with stress. The following tips are based on those recommendations, but if you feel like you’re struggling with a mental health disorder, the best thing may be to speak to a medical or clinical professional.
A Little Stress May be Good
Stress is a natural function that’s intended to spur you to action. Moderate amounts of stress may make you alert and give you a sense of urgency when it comes to completing tasks. If politics has got you feeling stressed, it may encourage you to learn more about the issues you’re concerned about and take action to affect change. However, if stress causes or worsens anxiety or depression, it becomes a problem that’s hindering your life instead of helping you.
Why Managing Stress Is Important
While elections aren’t everyday occurrences, stress is common. It’s not just people with diagnosed mental health disorders that need to worry about stress. Everyone should develop ways to cope with stressful situations that arise in your relationships, work, school, and other areas of life. Stress is linked to several mental and physical health problems, including heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Take Care of Yourself
Managing stress can be challenging if you try to directly address the thoughts and feelings while ignoring your physical needs. Your bodily health and your mental health are often connected. Just like depression can sometimes cause physical pain symptoms, physical factors can worsen mental health. If you find yourself struggling with anxiety and depression symptoms that may be election-related, check in with your body. Consider factors like:
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet. Getting the right amount of calories and nutrients is essential to physical and mental health. Certain vitamin deficiencies can cause mental health symptoms like depression or malaise. Eating a diet that’s too low in calories can lead to several issues, including cognitive impairment and fatigue. Diets that are rich in sugary and fatty foods may leave you feeling sluggish and can lead to obesity. It may be a cliche, but it’s one worth testing.
- Exercise consistently. Physical exercise is essential for mental health. Even if you’re in quarantine, there are enough bodyweight exercises you can look up to develop a solid daily workout. When you’re struggling with mental health problems, exercise may seem like the last thing you want to do, but it goes a long way in improving your overall health. Physical activity releases endorphins, which can help you feel relaxed and even euphoric. Exercise also strengthens muscles and cardiovascular health, which can lead to a general feeling of health and well-being over time.
- Get enough sleep. Around one-third of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of sleep for their needs. Sleep is essential to your mental health, and a lack of sleep can lead to many mental and physical problems, including anxiety and obesity. A healthy sleep routine can take up to three days to establish. If you set out to get healthy sleep and struggle the first night, don’t be discouraged. Allow your body time to adjust to a new routine.
Take a Break
Long-term stress can lead to mental health issues, so it’s often helpful to take a break from stressful activities. If work is causing stress, a day off can help. Removing yourself from a cause of stress and engaging in an activity you enjoy can help ease your mental burden, especially if that activity is physical. It may seem like a difficult task to escape stress caused by something as big as an election, but there are ways to take a break from those sources of stress.
The news and social media may be a constant source of election-related stress. Taking a break from those media sources may help you destress. If you don’t want to totally disconnect, you may limit yourself to a single news source for a week and see what it does for your stress levels.
Connect with Other People
Politics has a tendency to divide people, but if you’re divided from everyone, you might find yourself in isolation. Coupled with self-quarantining to maintain your health during the pandemic, social isolation can be damaging to your mental health. Connecting with other people can help ease stress. Sharing your anxious thoughts with a trusted friend can also help put your issues into perspective. Venting may make large problems seem more manageable.
It’s also important to recognize when you need to speak to a professional. If anxiety or depression is starting to negatively affect your life, it may be time to speak with a doctor or a clinician about your symptoms. If mental health symptoms prevent you from performing at work, enjoying hobbies, or connecting with others, you may need more formal help. Mental health is very much like physical health in that it sometimes requires professional treatment. Watching for the signs that you need help is important in preventing serious mental health problems.
Events like elections can draw your attention to big things that may seem overwhelming. While it’s important for individuals to pay attention to big events and policies in their country, you can affect the most change at a local level. Speaking to the people around you, endeavoring to learn more about the issues at hand, and making connections with other people may be more effective than the stress of feeling responsible for huge issues. Change may radiate outward.
Address your physical and mental health, create positive changes in your life, help the people around you, and then address the issues in your community. Still, if the election or any other huge issue is causing stress, anxiety, and depression, addressing your own mental health may be the important first step in addressing bigger things in the world around you.