2 years ago · Leah Fogt · Comments Off on Ugh! Another Political Post on Social Media?!
Ugh! Another Political Post on Social Media?!
8 Tips to Stay Healthy in Today’s Political Climate
Regardless of one’s political perspectives, there is no denying that the political climate in the United States has a lot of us feeling stressed out. It’s not all pictures of puppies and video clips of laughing babies these days! The constant barrage of news alerts and 24/7 access to online debate is causing many to experience an overload of intense feelings. Practically all of the hot topics in today’s political discussion are deeply personal for many us and poke at some of our most central beliefs, fears, and even emotional wounds.
Social media enables unending access to debate, discussion, and even conflict paired with the emotional separation of the screen. Many of us are much bolder in our expression through social media than we might be face-to-face. We use words or make statements that propriety, civility, and courage often stop us from speaking in face-to-face interactions – sometimes even to complete strangers. Impulsive, hurtful, emotionally-driven responses are leading to damaged friendships, conflict in families, sleepless nights, and a whole lot of hurt. Information being labeled fake news, alternative facts, and propaganda have many of us doubting who we can even trust to keep us accurately informed.
Whether participating in online discussion or simply scrolling through our Facebook newsfeed, if you’re online, you’re seeing a lot of negativity. Here are some ideas to help you stay healthy while navigating social media:
- Manage exposure. Stay informed while limiting the time you spend reading, watching, listening to, and debating politics. Know what you need to know to be an up-to-date and informed citizen, without overwhelming yourself with too much political drama. Consider giving yourself a limit of political posts or comments you will make in a day. Limit screen time all together by taking digital breaks to do other things. Impose a “news curfew” – a time at which you disengage from the news each night.
- Avoid or end unproductive or aggressive discussion. Some people possess the skill to debate intelligently, while others cannot avoid turning things to the personal. If engaging in a discussion, ask yourself if the interaction is fruitful. If it’s not, consider dropping it respectfully. Better to end a conversation than to end a friendship.
- Find ways to get involved in the causes you support. Peacefully and productively participate in the process. Write your leaders. Volunteer. Pray. Educate. Join a group. Just be sure that your actions are useful, lawful, and, most importantly, in line with your core values.
- Review your US Government notes. A lot of us have forgotten what we learned in 8th grade civics or our high school US Government classes, leading many of us jump to conclusions, make assumptions, catastrophize, or even panic. Unintended ignorance of the political system can lead us to attempt activism that turns out ineffective. Know who your leaders are and their roles. Review the three branches of government (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial), as well as functions of Federal, State, and Local governments. Knowing the basics can help us understand and interact with government systems more effectively – and with less stress.
- Feel what you feel. There is nothing wrong with experiencing emotions of any kind – anger, fear, sadness, joy, pride, hope, relief. Feel what you feel, but mind what you do or say. It is our actions that can discredit us or harm others. When feeling a strong emotion, consider taking twice as much time to make a decision as you normally would, buying you time to weigh your options carefully and avoid impulsive actions you might later regret. When considering making a counter-post or commenting on something with which you disagree, try waiting until the next morning to respond.
- Take care of yourself – body, mind, and spirit. Hold on to your healthy routines. Eat healthy. Be physically active. Try to keep a healthy sleep schedule. Make time for leisure, recreation, and creativity. (We’re less likely to get bogged down if we’re having fun!) Stick with your usual spiritual practices. Holding on to the constants in life will help keep the feelings of chaos at bay.
- Try to find the positives. Unpleasantness and negativity aren’t hard to find. We have to be deliberate to find the positive. Practice gratitude. Identify helpers. Find the humor in things without minimizing important matters. In daily life, tend to the things within your control, rather than ruminating on things you can’t control. If online, try to post something pleasantly non-political from time to time.
- Use your manners. Honest self-expression, authenticity, and even activism do not preclude civility. You can take a stand, inform others, call for change, or even agree with someone while still maintaining civility. Stay away from name calling and mudslinging. Avoid generalizations (especially words like “always” or “never”). Especially online – if you wouldn’t say it to the person’s face, you might not want to post it online. It is possible to disagree while still being kind.
Ultimately we’re all in the same boat – liberals, conservatives, and everyone in between – trying to navigate the rough waters of our current political climate. Let’s use social media in healthy helpful ways, together.
When in doubt, post videos of cute cats – or just turn the screens off for a while.
For further reading:
American Psychological Association’s press 2016 press release about the 2016 Election, election stress, and helpful strategies to manage stress. www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2016/presidential-election-stress.aspx.
Ann Douglas, author, speaker, and parenting expert offers advice on taking care of yourself and talking to children about current events. www.anndouglas.net/blog/2017/1/30/how-to-avoid-being-psychologically-destroyed-by-your-newsfeed
Read about Kaspersky Lab’s recent study about the emotional and psychological pitfalls of social media. www.studyfinds.org/study-finds-social-media-jealousy-facebook