Studies by the Pew Research Center have indicated that the number of Americans following politics has spiked dramatically. Not only that but the anger and vitriol seems to have reached a fever pitch. It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of it all.
When politicians demonstrate use of negative or aggressive language and behaviors, we tend to follow. The concept of observational learning means we learn by observing the actions of others. These others are often those in leadership positions, but can also be friends, family, and neighbors. What happens when we observe others engaging in behaviors that contradict our moral systems? How do we stay grounded in the face of such a rapidly changing social and political environment? Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Limit exposure to media. This applies to major news outlets but also any form of social media. Not only are we experiencing a significant social and political upheaval, but we are doing so during the age of the internet. At no other point in history have we had unfettered access to the voices and opinions of others, many of whom seem to want to tell us what to think and believe. Unplug. Take a break from media. If disconnecting completely isn’t feasible, try designating a set amount of time each day to catch up on only the stories that feel are most important to you. The constant barrage of information is exhausting.
- Remember your personal values. We all have core values that define who we are and how we relate to others. Consider taking some time to reflect on what your personal values are. Ask yourself how your actions are (or are not) reinforcing these values. Sometimes our own values can become muddled with those of the people we listen to.
- Don’t forget self care. Spend time enjoying hobbies. Take walks in nature. Play with the dog. Watch a movie with your kids. Read a book just for fun. Rest. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be able to take care of anyone else. Self care shouldn’t be seen as optional, but as a necessity. Humans simply aren’t designed to push through life without rest or relief from stress. Taking a break and doing something fun may not solve any national or global crises, but it will significantly improve your quality of life.
- Get involved. This one may not be for everyone, but it is for those who feel overwhelmed. As a therapist, I hear this from people from all across the political spectrum: “The problems are so big, I feel helpless.” We can’t do it all, but perhaps you can pick one specific way to get involved. Maybe this means volunteering for your favorite candidate. It might mean choosing a social issue to focus on, like picking up trash in your neighborhood, or volunteering with a local animal shelter. Finding a way to be involved helps us feel like we’re making a difference (because we are) and helps us connect with like-minded people.
Another way to keep your cool in times of political fatigue is to seek professional guidance. A good therapist will work with you to clarify your values, decide ways to get involved, and brainstorm self care ideas. To get started, contact the CBT Center at 828-350-1177.