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Self-Care in Stressful Times


Political discourse has been particularly divisive over the past few years, but it appears the rancor has reached even new levels recently. A constant barrage of news alerts and developments in the past month have fueled the discourse. Since rapid changes and uncertainty can be stressful for anyone regardless of political persuasion, it’s important to remain aware of our stress levels and proactively manage them. Over time, too much stress can become a threat to our physical and emotional well-being.

The American Psychological Association recently conducted a survey to ask Americans about their stress levels and found that political issues are a very or somewhat significant source of stress for many of the respondents. The organization states that the reported increase of stress from August 2016 to January 2017 represents the most significant increase since it began the stress study 10 years ago.

The Washington Post reports that concerns about politics are affecting productivity at work. Twenty-nine percent of employees reported that they are less productive at work because they spend more time reading political news and social media. Forty-nine percent of workers said they have witnessed political arguments erupt in the workplace.

While it’s important to remain aware of what’s happening around you, your health is paramount. Being an involved citizen is an important part of democracy, but make sure that it’s not at the expense of your mental and physical well-being.

Engage with Purpose

Being involved and informed of political events is important for many people. If that is the case for you, remember to do so in a balanced way that meets your needs, but is not excessively stressful.

  • Organize your time. Set boundaries, establish priorities, and develop a plan. If you’re overwhelmed by many issues at once, practice focusing on one at a time.
  • Practice mindfulness when you engage with political content or in discussions. UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center defines mindfulness as “the moment-by-moment process of actively and openly observing one's physical, mental and emotional experiences.” A great deal of research has documented physical health benefits of mindfulness, such as better sleep, reduced stress and anxiety, improved concentration and focus, and less emotional reactivity.
  • Adjust your environment. If you find that your stress has become a more serious mental health issue or exacerbated existing mental health problems, talk to your doctor and consider potential workplace accommodations.

Ensuring Self-Care

Sometimes it’s necessary to remove yourself from a stressful situation entirely or as much as possible. Taking a break from staying up to date, even if you’ve been doing so mindfully, is a very important part of self-care.

  • Set aside time to relax. Relaxation is a skill, with techniques that can be learned and practiced. One technique is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), which is a great way to reduce overall body tension.
  • Get enough sleep. We know sleep is important, and yet most of us do not get enough. Sleep is connected to mental health in several ways. Sleep problems can both be caused by and contribute to mental health problems.
  • Limit social media use. Sleep problems and increased risk of depression have been associated with both more frequent checking of social media and with more time spent on social media.

Stress is a normal part of life. In small doses, stress can be a good thing, giving us the push we need to do our best and stay focused and alert. Try finding ways to manage your stress and mild anxiety. If distressed feelings and anxiety persist and cause problems functioning, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor about your symptoms.


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