We’ve all had that one conversation with a family member or friend about politics that leaves us feeling fired up and angry. Some of us may have these types of feelings every time we go home for a holiday or whenever we open our social media feeds and see an old friend’s 27th political rant of the week.
No matter when or where we’ve run into it, all of us have at some point in our lives had a time where we simply cannot stand the anger and stress that political discussions bring on. These heated discussions are extremely common today, especially as we are experiencing so much turmoil.
But how can we cope with those difficult feelings without nearly throwing down the gauntlet every Thanksgiving each time Uncle Bob or Aunt Sally bring up their disapproval of LGBTQ+ relationships or lack of support for fundamental rights? Today, we hope to give you some tips that you can use to try and take the edge off of the anger that arises.
Why Do Politics Make Us So Angry?
Alright, before we can dive right into some tips for coping with political stress, let’s first establish why it is that politics seem to make us so angry.
You may have noticed that conversations tend to get a bit more heated when politics are involved — whether they are in person, over the phone, or even in a Facebook thread.
The truth is that many of us feel that our political beliefs are a large part of our personal identities. While our beliefs may be the same (or different) as our parents or grandparents, politics have become such an incredibly invasive part of our daily lives in today’s society that our political identities have come to become part of us. No longer do we simply vote for one party or another, many people feel that those beliefs are a core part of their being and are deeply rooted in other aspects of themselves — such as sexual orientation, geographic location, gender, race, or even places of employment.
When we view these political views as such an integral part of ourselves, we can feel personally attacked anytime those views are challenged. This is exactly what happens for many of us today.
When we feel attacked, our brains divert energy from our rational and empathetic portion of the brain and direct that energy towards our fight or flight response. This is why we get into so many heated arguments about politics and this is why it can be so challenging to relax and speak rationally with people who are not sharing our views.
How to Cope with Political Stress
Now that we have addressed why we get so stressed out by political discussions, it is time to figure out how we can calm that stress. So, without further ado, here are some tips for helping you cope with the stress and anger that politics may bring up for you.
Take Time for Self-Care
The more stress you can take out of your daily life, the better. Let’s be honest, we are all way too stressed out today. Whether it is about the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the continued exposure to the COVID-19 virus, the continuous mass shootings, or anything else going on in the world, we all could use some more time to care for ourselves.
Make time to practice self-care in whatever way makes you feel the best. Maybe this is taking a bath, getting a massage, going for a walk, baking a tasty treat, or simply cozying up on the sofa with a cup of tea and a nice book. Whatever self-care is for you, make time for it.
Consume Less Media
Don’t get us wrong, it is important to know what is going on in the world around you, but there is such a thing as being too informed. The more we hear about the frankly terrible things going on around us, the more and more helpless and spiteful we can end up feeling.
So, know when enough news is enough. Maybe set a time limit or unsubscribe from certain creators or news outlets so that you are only getting the “highlights” of each day.
Rather than allowing your phone, computer, or any other device to continually notify you about news throughout the day, try designating specific times that you will check the news. This can help limit the amount of time you are spending allowing yourself to think about what is going on and rather allow you to focus on the other parts of your day that matter as well.
Identify Your Triggers
We all have particular topics or concepts that put us just a bit more on edge than others. Oftentimes these concepts are the ones that are the closest to us — the ones that we feel are a core part of our personalities. And when these topics get brought up in a conversation, we can often feel ourselves getting that fight or flight trigger.
Know what these triggers are for you. You may also have external triggers, such as specific locations or people that make you feel this same way. Identify these triggers and make strategies to avoid them when you can.
Remember, You Cannot Solve All of the Problems Alone
A lot of times we get it in our heads that we can solve any problem if we do enough. The problem is that in reality, this is simply not true and it can be an incredibly harmful way to think. A single individual is not to blame for society’s problems and just so, a single individual cannot fix them all by themselves.
We need to stop putting all of the pressure on ourselves and find ways to work towards solutions with others — which brings us to our next two points
Start Engaging Actively
Use that drive that you feel to make change to engage actively with people who have similar goals. Maybe you are a strong advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and representation and you want to see a fairer representation of queer folk in media and you can find a local group that feels the same way.
Maybe you have to do some searching, but in the long run, you’ll be able to more effectively channel your drive (and maybe some of that stress and anger you feel when having political discussions) into something that will be more productive than simply trying to change everything on your own.
Become an Ally
Another similar thing that you can do is to become an ally to a cause. Allies are essential for all types of movements because they show the people in those movements that they are not asking for too much — being an ally shows them that you stand with them and you support them.
So, maybe you are a strong advocate for the BLM or #MeToo movements but you yourself are not a part of either of those groups. You can still show your support and participation in the movements themselves by being an ally to the communities who are creating these movements.
Look for Shared Values
We are all human. We all have our own unique interests, hobbies, and even our own opinions on life, but rather than focusing on these differences, it can be helpful to make an effort to look for our shared values.
This can apply to your family life, work life, or anywhere else. Simply try to be open and listen to others and find where we are similar rather than where we differ.
The unfortunate truth is that coping with political stress is an uphill battle — especially for those of us who have grown up (or are growing up with) constantly available information about the world around us. Many of us put ourselves in boxes and label ourselves by our political views and this is simply how society has been functioning for a long time.
It is going to be hard to overcome this way of thinking and it will take many of us working together to make any real change. Even so, we hope that these tips can help you to overcome some of the stress or rage you may feel about politics and help you to more effectively channel those emotions into something more productive. If you are looking for any additional or more personal guidance on how you can redirect your energies into something positive, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow.