A recent study published by the journal PLOS ONE found that the current political climate is taking a toll on our physical and emotional health. “Americans believe their physical health has been harmed by their exposure to politics and even more report that politics has resulted in emotional costs and lost friendships,” says the author Kevin Smith, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Smith’s team surveyed 800 people nationwide and asked a range of questions about how politics is affecting their lives. Just about 40 percent of those responding said that politics was a cause of stress in their lives, 20 percent reported losing sleep, feeling fatigued, or suffering depression. Emotions reported included anger, frustration, hate, and guilt. Some expressed regret over something they posted online. Another 20 percent reported that politics had hurt their friendships, and some said it made home life difficult. (I imagine Kellyanne and George Conway to be in that group.)
Like most people, I didn’t need a survey to tell me that politics is stressing me out. These days I am spending more time in a doctor’s office than I am in the gym. I have broken off conversations with relatives and friends as soon as we veer into anything that touches on politics. And now as we head into what is sure to be an ugly battle over impeachment, things will only get worse.
So what are we do to?
There are many articles online giving advice for dealing with stress. These are working for me, so I thought I would share. Have your own ideas? Go to the Facebook page for Woman Around Town and post them after this story. We’re all in this together.
Monitor your media diet.
As much as I want to stay informed, I also know when it’s time to unplug. Rather than watching news shows, I turn to Netflix, BritBox, or Amazon Prime for a drama or comedy. My suggestions: on Amazon Prime – Bosch, The Amazing Mrs. Maisel, past episodes of The Closer (love Kyra Sedgwick), and Fleabag; on Netflix – Dave Chappelle (very raunchy, but very funny), Grace and Frankie (Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin at their best), Mindhunter (getting inside the mind of a serial killer), Country Music, Ken Burns’ fabulous documentary; BritBox – Morse and Kavanaugh QC (John Thaw in two iconic roles), Shetland (you’ll want to go to Scotland after watching), Father Brown (priest in a British country village solves crimes with a quirky supporting cast).
Restrict your time on Facebook and Twitter.
Along with less time on these two social media sites, vow not to post or respond to anything political. Those who agree with you will, of course, like your post. Those who don’t will come at you and raise your blood pressure. It’s not worth it. Thinking you can change someone’s mind with a comment is wishful thinking.
Focus on a hobby. For me, it’s knitting. There’s something about the repetitive action of slipping stitches from one needle to the other that produces an almost zen like state. Sometimes I challenge myself with a very difficult project. Other times I select a pattern that I could knit with my eyes closed. During the past two and a half years, knitting has been my refuge.
Read a book. No, not a political one.
The nonfiction bestsellers list is filled with books by those espousing their political opinions. You may find solace if you agree with the author, so some of these books may be worth your time. I lose myself in mysteries, anything by Michael Connelly, Lisa Scottoline, Daniel Silva, Louise Penny, or David Baldacci.
Find a quiet sanctuary.
That might be a church, a walk in the forest, or sitting in a museum staring at a Van Gogh. Focus on your breathing and don’t allow your mind to stray to politics.
Play some music.
Right now I find myself drawn to music from the 60s and 70s. Why? Because our political climate then was just as toxic as it is now, with our population divided over the war in Vietnam. Words matter and the words in songs sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary, The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Pete Seeger and others remind us that we survived through those terrible times and, hopefully, we can survive again.
Top photo: Bigstock