Coping with the Stress of a Political Divide

Managing political stress is not easy for anyone. Today’s political landscape is divided, and many people are unwilling to change their thinking or even listen to the reasoning of the “other side.” Maybe you have strong political beliefs that your friends or family do not share. Maybe you live in an area primarily filled with viewpoints directly conflicting with your life experiences and values.

So, whether you are experiencing stress about an upcoming election, legislation change, or even discussing socio-political issues with family members or friends, know that you are not alone. 

A lot of times, there are factors outside of our control that can worsen our already stressful political environment. In these cases, it can be easy to simply not want to talk to anyone about anything. But this is not a sustainable way to go about the rest of your life. And while there is no treatment or cure for political stress — for many of us, it will be a part of our lives forever — there are ways that you can cope with and better manage this stress. These methods of political stress management are exactly what we will explore today.

How to Manage Political Stress and Political Divides

While there is no simple fix that can unite the sharp polarization of politics today, there are ways that you can better navigate being around people with differing or opposing views to your own. 

So, if you have been dreading the next family (or friend group) get-together-turned-screaming-match, we hope these tips help you take a step back and manage your stress levels in and around these tense situations.

Set Boundaries

Political conversations can get very heated very quickly. Most of the time, this is because someone will say something (intentionally or not) that is hurtful, offensive, or otherwise crossing a line that the other person does not want to be crossed. When these lines are not clearly stated, what once was a civil conversation can quickly become a screaming match. This is where setting clear boundaries comes into the picture. These boundaries exist to identify these areas where you draw the line so that you can stop or exit a conversation before it gets out of hand.

Keep in mind that not everyone will respect these boundaries, and some may try to actively push them. But staying true to these boundaries is the best way to ensure you avoid ending up in a conversation that has gone too far for your comfort. If your boundaries are violated, be prepared to leave the conversation respectfully. Leaving a conversation that does not respect the boundaries you have clearly established does not mean you are “giving up” or “losing.” It simply means that the conversation is not productive, and you recognize that. 

The boundaries we create are not to never talk about anything that we are passionate about. They are to help ensure that our conversations about those topics are productive, not simply to argue or rile up our emotions. So, if someone is not respecting your boundaries and not listening to what you have to say, there is no reason for you to stay in that conversation.

Try to Focus on Conversing, Not Arguing

We all have viewpoints and beliefs that we value. Things we think are an important part of our lives and make us who we are. When these views are challenged, many of us feel attacked and retaliate by challenging someone else’s view. But, when we do this, all we get is an argument. We lose the ability to have a productive conversation where one (or all) of the parties involved in the conversation can learn something new.

When you can instead keep the focus on clarification and shedding light on a topic that may have been misrepresented or misunderstood, people can learn. This is how we grow as a society.

Though, keep in mind that if whoever you are talking to refuses to listen or understand your perspective after a few attempts of you trying to engage in conversation and trying to understand their perspective, it is best to acknowledge the boundaries you’ve made for yourself and excuse yourself from the discussion. If they do not want to give what you are saying a fair listen while still expecting you to listen to them, then that is an unhealthy conversation, and you will not gain anything by being a part of it. Remember, conversations go two ways. Both (or all) parties must be willing to receive new information for it to be a productive conversation.

Become Active in Causes You Believe In

Activism can be incredibly empowering. When you can see changes in the world around you because of what you and others who share your values are doing, it can be incredibly validating. 

Additionally, joining an activist group for causes you care about can be a great way to express your beliefs and discuss politics with others who share similar beliefs. This can help ease feelings of isolation and loneliness when you are the “only one” with a specific political view.

Take Care of Yourself

Participating in constant political discussions can be extremely taxing on our minds and bodies. As a result, we can become physically and mentally fatigued, and you may want to simply avoid these (and other) interactions altogether. This is why it is crucial to prioritize self-care and make space in your schedule for yourself.

This could be:

  • Going for a short walk each day
  • Taking just 10 minutes to write your experiences or feelings from the day in your journal
  • Talking with loved ones about a conversation you had during the day
  • Practicing spirituality or meditation
  • Reading a book
  • Taking a warm bath with your favorite bath salts
  • Making your favorite meal for dinner

No matter what you choose, ensure that you intentionally make the space for yourself. Without this, the exhaustion will simply continue building and building.

Seek Help from a Professional

Therapists and counselors can be great resources for you to manage this stress and learn ways to evolve and grow as a person. For you, this may mean learning to set clear boundaries (and actually follow through with them) about what you can and cannot talk about with certain people. Maybe it means finding ways to enrich your life and give your mind and body the care it needs through self-care habits.

If political stress or stress caused by a political divide is affecting your ability to live your daily life, please do not hesitate to reach out to us today at Love Heal Grow to get in touch with one of our therapists

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