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Let’s Talk About the Elephant (and Donkey) in the Room: Americans Losing Teeth and Sleep Over Politics

Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC

A recent study proves that politics are “exacting a toll on the social, psychological, emotional and even physical health” for tens of millions of Americans. That’s right, people are losing teeth, damaging their interpersonal relationships, losing sleep, getting higher doses of anxiety and depression medications, and experiencing physical problems due to the stress that politics brings about. In fact, politics serves as a “source of stress for 38% of Americans.”

Findings of the Study

If you are interested and engaged in politics, you might want to pay close attention here. A nationally representative poll was carried out that included eight hundred people and thirty-two questions. Among these people “11.5% say politics has adversely affected their physical health” while “18.3% are losing sleep because of politics.” Additionally, the effects proved to be “more pronounced for those who are younger.” Whether you are getting backlash from your own personal political views, or having difficulty picking a side, politics is causing individuals to be “stressed out about the nation’s future.” In 2017, 63% of Americans reported stress about the nation’s future and there was a significant increase in 2018 with that percentage creeping up to 69%. For patients that have pre-existing conditions, such as Post-Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) for example, the “newer stress is worsening old symptoms that were previously under better control.” Mankind is letting us down – people are hating others, damaging friendships, becoming depressed, and struggling with their physical health.

Productive Ways to Turn Things Around

Perhaps it may do us some good to focus on positive ways that we can deal with emotional and physical issues that are provoked by politics. Research shows that it has been effective to set boundaries, meditate and work on finding ways to have an effect on change, such as becoming involved in a campaign. When it comes to familial relationships and politics, perhaps it would be a good idea to avoid politics as a topic of discussion with people you know have different views from you. Additionally, downloading meditation applications and listening to them before going to sleep has helped people sleep more soundly.

We live in a curated world. Be this, do that, vote for him, look like her, get those shoes, dress like him. Be strong and powerful, not weak, I’m right, you’re wrong. Instead of focusing in on the black and white polarized thinking, maybe focusing more on gray matter would give our country some relief. In thinking about our own political views and strong opinions, perhaps focusing in on how politics affects everyone in different ways could be a way to soften rigid beliefs. For example, those that are affected most severely with personal concerns related to politics are “immigrants separated from their families due to immigration policies or who fear deportation.” In thinking about others, instead of constantly focusing in on ourselves and our own personal beliefs, we may be able to think out of the box or think about what life may bring about if we spent a day in the shoes of another person.

Ugly and Divergent Donkeys and Elephants

There has been an “ugliness that has been exposed from all of the lying and corruption” but we must not let this define our lives, and more importantly, our country at large. Citizens can counteract this corruption by contributing to the community in positive ways that provokes the opposite of corruption and ugliness – honesty and beauty. Every single day, the world drags us by the hand, yelling, “This is important, and this is important – you need to worry about this, and don’t forget that!” Each and every day it’s up to you to yank that hand back and put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what is important.” Tuning into the important aspects of life that bring love, joy, and laughter may be a good way to avoid stress from the negative aspects of politics.

Reference: Reddy, S. (2019). Today’s Politics May Be Bad for your Mental Health, The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from: https://www.wsj.com/articles/todays-political-climate-is-bad-for-some-americans-health-11570455824

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