While the 2016 election offers some outrageous theater for hard-core political junkies, for others the constant barrage of politics in the news, on social media, and in conversations is a potent source of stress and anxiety. Some of the political rhetoric has even gone out of the way to incite a sense of panic and fear in people in order to generate votes.
Workplaces everywhere are feeling the added stress as workers fret about the high stakes of this election. And that stress can diminish the productivity of even the smoothest-running office. Workers may end up in conflict as they discuss politics and learn they are on the opposite side of the spectrum from longtime office mates.
This month, we’ll look at ways to manage workplace stress related to the election. Next month, we’ll explore ways to manage the etiquette of politics in the office. You’ll find some tips to take the sting out of the election run-up below.
One of the best things you can do for yourself this campaign season is to unplug. Yes, it’s important to make fact-based decisions about who you’ll cast your vote for, but the media provides way more “facts” than you really need to absorb to be well-informed.
To reduce the intensity of your media exposure, try subbing newspapers for televised news. It’s much easier to limit your exposure to newspapers—once you’ve finished reading the articles you’re interested in, you’re done. With TV and radio, you can pretty much find political news 24 hours a day, and it’s all too easy to fall into a wormhole of continuous watching or listening.
Social media can be especially toxic right now because of how it pits friends and family members with differing political views against each other. Take a break from Facebook and Twitter. If you can’t go a whole season without your social media, try setting aside a day or two per week for social media–free entertainment.
Reducing media and social media can be very hard. You might feel something like withdrawal symptoms.
Brian Bouldrey, a writer and college professor who recently decided to take a break from social media, says, “The stress during the never-ending election season has led to my second extended absence from Facebook. It was a lot easier this second time than it was the first time, when I shut it down for nearly a year.
“It’s such a habit—an addiction, even. You get used to that first hit of friends’ postings with your morning coffee, and as the day goes on, you refresh and refresh your feed as if it might change magically. When you turn it off and realize you won’t be starting your day with it, you wonder whether you’ve made a terrible mistake. But there are things to help wean you off—like cracking open a book. I promise you, you will be so much happier reading novels instead of a feed. You’ll get your mind back.”
Christine Binus, an RN and certified health coach, notes that to protect yourself from unwanted political discussions, you may have to set boundaries with your friends and loved ones. She says that you need to be firm about telling them that they can’t draw you into their rants, especially if they’re deep into politics and hearing the latest political gossip makes you anxious.
Take Care of Your Body
When we’re stressed, healthy habits are often the first things to go out the window. But stressful times are when we need to practice self-care the most. When you work on healing your body, oftentimes your mind will follow. Eat lots of fruits and veggies, exercise (preferably outdoors, which has even more stress management benefits than working out inside), and get enough sleep (hint: make sure to turn off the TV at least an hour before retiring to give yourself time to go through a relaxing bedtime routine).
Anxiety and stress often come from a sense of powerlessness, the impression that things are happening to you that you have no control over. Take back control by getting active. Volunteer for your party or favorite candidate or issue. You’ll meet like-minded people, and even if the election is lost from your point of view, there’s a good possibility that friends will be gained.
Keep a Sense of Perspective
One technique for reducing stress in general is to look around and notice how much there is to be grateful for in your life. Counting your blessings can pull you out of a negative spiral. Your candidate’s doing poorly in the polls? Well, how does that compare with your amazing spouse and healthy kids? Make sure to take a daily inventory of things you’re grateful for—everything from friends and family to the beautiful flowers in bloom outside your window to that mouthwatering pear you just ate.
And finally, it pays to remember the saying “All politics is local.” We make a big deal every four years about who will lead our country, but for the most part, our lives are far more affected by who is leading our city, our school board, and our neighborhood committees. And it’s a lot easier to have an impact on those races than it is on the presidential election.
Miriam Wolf is the editor of The FruitGuys Magazine newsletter.