The last couple of years have been rollercoasters when it comes to politics, the media and every distressing thing we can imagine. Instead of being able to tune in once over the day we are subjected to the information all day every day on our devices, the television and in print.
I don’t have to tell you the anger that has saturated the airwaves, with facebooks attacks, commentary that crushes and insults and that have divided families like never before over politics.
But what about the deeper, more disturbing effects like those on your mental health? With election day here emotions are cranking high and the results will reveal a victor that will anger one side or the other. Not just anger, but send people reeling into a dark chasm of depression and anxiety, obsessing over the loss of their candidate and perseverating on the state of affairs in our country.
In a previous post I discussed the effects on your health stemming from chronic anger and how anger is the most unhealthy of emotions as far as your body is concerned. The feelings of helplessness and even despair that you can experience when you are constantly focused on things you can’t control also have detrimental effects on you. Anxiety for one, as the constant worry takes over, driving you to constantly tune in to news that may or may not be true but that is definitely upsetting. Either way, other than voting and becoming involved there is nothing you can do. Those endeavors should recharge and energize you, not suck the life out of you.
Focusing continuously on things you can’t control and feeling helpless also brings about depression. Being bombarded with angry messages keeps your adrenaline and stress chemicals pumping, leading to eventual burnout of your essential “fight or flight” bodily reactions.
When presented with some horrific event in the news such as a shooting, a terrible accident or tragic weather related event, we can’t help but feel emotional pain for the victims and their families, that is a given, and unfortunately those things will remain in play. So some of our emotional response availability will always be given over to empathizing with others.
But we can be a bit more choosy about how we allow politics to affect us.
Tune out for periods of time and restore yourself. Think of pleasant things and tap into the creative side of yourself. Whatever thing has happened or been said will still be out there later if you really want to see it.
Don’t immediately have the response that the media wants you to have. You can choose how to react. Using logic to evaluate the event, determine if any emotional energy is needed or if spending it changes anything for you or the world. If it doesn’t, don’t waste it. You are not being a bad citizen, you are just not participating in the media’s need to drive excitement and drama. After all that is part of their job. Your job is to keep yourself healthy.
There is an equation we use in mental health to explain the connection between your thoughts and emotions. It is:
T=PR or Thought=Physiological Response
If your immediate thought is one of raging anger, your body follows suit. If you temper your thoughts with logic and objectivity they lose a lot of power. For every thought that you have, your body has a physiological response. Think about what you have heard and are being told before allowing your brain to run off with the rest of you. If it is a topic of real interest to you then research it further from all sides. Don’t fall victim to someone else’s agenda.
Look inside yourself for inner difficulties that are just finding an outlet in politics. Is something eating away at you, some unhappiness or anger that you aren’t comfortable venting about? Misdirection of feelings is common and often acts as an emotional defense system for things you find difficult to process. I find that my clients with dysfunctional backgrounds of any kind often suffer from an inability to express themselves and get their real emotional needs met. Instead they engage in road rage or constant anger regarding the state of affairs in the world.
Don’t seek out extra news. See what you need to remain an informed citizen and let the rest go. Constant obsessing over negative events is harmful to your health.
Investigate your thought patterns and make sure you are using logic in your thinking . It is very easy to fall into the trap of using one of what I call Dysfunctional Thinking Patterns in evaluating matters. The problem with that is they lead you to false or faulty results and often behaviors.
Use deep breathing techniques and distraction to calm yourself if you do find that you are getting too upset over something.
If you feel you may suffer from dysfunctional thought patterns that are keeping you depressed, anxious, angry or unable to break free from problematic behaviors, please visit us at Psychskills and get the free resources How to Stop Wasting Your Life Being Depressed, Anxious and Unhappy: The Top 10 Strategies of Emotionally Successful People and/or How to Break Free from 12 Dysfunctional Thought Patterns.