There is no denying that 2017 has been a difficult year in politics. As well as the unmitigated disaster that is the Trump-led presidency, other countries have been dealing with their own unfortunate political events. The UK underwent a snap election that resulted in the Tory government having an even more tenuous hold of the House of Commons than it had held before. Australia spent the latter half of the year going through a series of messy, expensive, discouraging, and unnecessarily complicated processes to make gay marriage legal. This is to say nothing of the worrying situations unfolding in Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Russia, to name a few.
With so much going on, it is easy to become overwhelmed. The more that is discovered about the deceit, the corruption, the prejudice, and the injustice that keeps on happening in present-day politics, the more inevitable feelings of anxiety become. As important as it is to remain vigilant and keep track of what is happening, it is equally important to take care of ourselves and manage any anxiety that arises from these awful political times as best we can. Here are seven useful methods for managing your anxiety in these turbulent times.
Run and/or Hide
As silly and childish as this might sound, there is merit in this method. Sometimes, when we hear distressing news (including distressing political news), we need time to absorb it and think about what it means. Despite what we are frequently told in books and films that celebrate ‘facing one’s fears’ and paint running and hiding as actions of cowardice, in real life it is better to admit to ourselves that we sometimes do not have the capacity to handle bad news right after hearing it, and need to get ourselves to places of relative safety until we are better equipped to handle it. This can be done in a number of ways. You can cover yourself with a duvet and refuse to leave your makeshift fortress. You can visualise yourself ‘running away’ from the bad news for a while by going for an actual run, if you are the running type. Or you can distract yourself with some absorbing activity that is completely unrelated to the bad political news.
Get off the Internet
Speaking personally for a moment, I have a terrible habit of reading thought pieces on issues that make me anxious. I cannot tell you the number of times a loved one has told me to stop doing it, or that I don’t have to read everything I happen across. But when I am on Facebook regularly, I can’t seem to help myself. The best solution to this problem of mine is simple, if drastic: get off the internet. The internet has made us all so much more in-tune with the world around us, and with that comes frequent, repetitive reminders of what is happening in the current political climate. These reminders are not helpful (if the news is bad enough, we will remember it without needing to be reminded) and only serve to add to our distress. Spending some time off the internet during bad anxiety spells will ensure that you do not expose yourself to more upsetting material. It is an extreme measure, but it does work.
Manage How You Receive Your News
As hard as it might be to believe if you are constantly glued to the news on your smartphone, there are some people who never look at the news, and there is a fair chance that such people are far less anxious right now as a result. As tempting as it might be to also cut yourself from looking at the news at all, it probably is not practical for many of us. However, we can manage the news we receive, both in terms of the sources from which we get the news, and the amount of news we get. Instead of tuning into the news every hour and reading the same story from four or five different sources, you could set aside a time every day for news watching, and be sure to only read about each story from one or two reliable sources.
Practice Worry Management
This is a commonly used practice in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and it can be used for all sorts of worries. Anxiety is caused by excessive worrying, and so it stands to reason that managing worry will help to reduce anxiety. One way to manage worry is to have a set time of day dedicated to worrying, and to stick rigidly to that time. As a worry comes to you during the day, write the worry down (so you will not forget it), then continue with your day until the time comes to do your worry.
Another management method involves noticing a worry when it appears and, rather than frantically trying to push the worry away, acknowledge and accept that the worry is there, and carry on with whatever you are doing. Doing this trains your brain to not give the worry your attention, which will, in turn, make it less distressing. Both of these techniques require practice, but they can work well.
Find Solidarity in Like-Minded People
When politics brings to the forefront issues that upset us deeply, we might believe that we are alone in our concerns. That is definitely not the case. Chances are , if there is a political policy or change that will either affect you or people you care about, there will be others among your family and friends who will be just as affected, and are therefore, probably, equally concerned. With a lot of the things that make us anxious, there is comfort to be had from finding others that get anxious over the same issues, and discussing why you are both feeling anxious about them. You may not figure out any solutions, but the simple act of sharing your anxiety can be immensely helpful in easing it.
Support Politicians Who Think Like You
If you are reading this article, you are probably a progressive-minded believer in social justice and equality, who wishes for true democracy free from corruption. While that is fantastic, it is not a political stance that has much recognition among politicians in the US and many similar countries. As such, it can feel as though nobody in power will take your concerns seriously, which is bound to be anxiety-inducing.
Fortunately, there are politicians out there who care about progressive values, who have vowed never to accept funding from big corporations, and who will listen to you; and they need your support just as much as you need theirs. Take the time to find and contact these politicians. Give them your support and tell them about the issues that are giving you anxiety. Your support will help them to gain more political clout, which will in turn increase the chances of those voices – the voices that represent you and your values – being heard.
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Support Organisations Dedicated to Helping Where the Government Will Not
Although it can seem, in these political times, as though nobody cares about certain important issues (health care, maternity/paternity leave, unemployment, etc.), there are organisations that care very deeply about these issues. These are the organisations that do what they can to help, with or without governmental support. If you feel like you want to do something to help the people who have been screwed over by recent politics, supporting these organisations is one significant way to do that. Aside from being helpful, it may also ease your anxiety to know that there are people out there who want to help, regardless of the political climate, and by supporting them you are doing something that will make a real difference.
These political times are difficult for many of us, and it can be easy for us to lose our heads and let our anxiety about the world we are living in overwhelm us. However, it is important that we do what we can to manage our anxiety and control it as best we can. We owe it to our well-being as individuals, as well as to the society that we want to achieve.
[Featured Image: A person with long brown hair. In between their fingers is a red fidget spinner. Source: pexels]