Dr. Patricia Farrell on Medika Life

Paying a High Cost in Personal Health for Politics

Lives depend on political decisions, and we are all emotionally involved in politics, whether directly or via the media. What is the cost to us?

Politics permeates every aspect of society. And the situation is firmed up in our childhood. We constantly receive a lot of information and news about politics, whether or not we like it. While some thrive on the seemingly never-ending political drama, it may be a significant source of tension and worry for the rest of us. We are now in an era of media overload in terms of politics and we are paying a price for it.

Think tanks such as the Pew Research Center have shown that social media now provides political and cultural news to one-half of Americans. The topics, whether seemingly benign or graphically serious in nature, stick with us, and that’s where the damage may begin. This is especially true when it comes to highly serious issues related to the Covid pandemic.

Political media news also affects children, and teen icons are rising up to address these issues. For example, Greta Thunberg, a teen environmental activist, and David Hogg, a gun ownership activist and survivor of a school attack, and Malala Yousafzai, another school shooting survivor.

The presence of upsetting politics in our lives can damage our mental and physical health. Anxiety, sadness, sleep disturbances, and even heart disease have all been linked to political stress.

Unpredictability and resulting chronic stress are the most difficult aspects of political life. Our emotional well-being can take a hit when we have no control over these circumstances. Will there be another shutdown of the federal government? Do you think there will be another major shooting? How likely is a nuclear assault from a foreign country? Will a recession cost me my job, and we’ll lose our home?

The emotional toll of being subjected to constant bad news is significant. When we hear about violence, lies, and corruption all the time, it’s easy to feel powerless and even suspicious.

There’s also the persistent prodding to pick a side. It appears impossible to be impartial in today’s political climate. You are for or against someone, for or against gun control, and for or against issues like abortion, healthcare, taxes, school lunches, or other social programs, and even Medicare and Social Security. We know that stress affects our decision-making, so we must help ourselves.

What can we do to help ourselves remain on an even keel and protect our mental and physical health? Researchers are looking for answers and some are now coming forth. This isn’t rocket science, but it makes good sense.

One solution is to limit our exposure to upsetting or completely biased news. Stop yourself from “doomscrolling,” the constant seeking out of media detailing the pandemic or other disturbing news. One expert named this “headline stress disorder” and even “election stress disorder.” He believes this erodes our resilience to maintain stress under our control.

The intent here is not to leave yourself devoid of information and to become a pawn in any way. You need to keep abreast of government affairs and how they affect you and your community. But excessively zeroing in solely on political discussions and news does not provide only pertinent material; it provides material.

Dead air on TV is verboten, just as newspapers, magazines, and internet blogs or publications need to fill their designated spaces with copy. Is it always something that provides you with needed information? How could it possibly do that?

second means of handling this stress is to take action and not give in to feelings of helplessness. We’ve seen many ads encouraging people to vote, write letters to the editor, or make phone calls about issues that affect them socially, financially, or emotionally. Action is a good way to stay healthy.

Third, focus on what you can do and devote yourself to a pleasurable activity, such as a hobby or a group (social service, church, environmentalists, etc.). Volunteer in your area. In fact, research on charitable works for others has shown that it benefits the volunteer just as much as the person or group receiving the help.

What other ways can you help yourself in stressful, politically uncertain times? Take a journal and start writing things down and how you might counter the stress they cause. Track how successfully you’ve met your daily goals. And remember, accentuate the positive.

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Pat Farrell PhDhttps://medium.com/@drpatfarrell
I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

DR PATRICIA FARRELL

Medika Editor: Mental Health

I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

Patricia also acts in an editorial capacity for Medika's mental health articles, providing invaluable input on a wide range of mental health issues.

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