Here's How Politics are Currently Impacting Our Mental Health
Have you felt a bit stressed out in recent years due to, well, everything? You might feel relieved to learn you're not alone.
From a global pandemic to financial uncertainty to 24/7 nonstop media coverage, politics are affecting our mental health in numerous ways.
Let’s take a broader look at this issue.
Understanding Shifts in the Political Climate
Before examining the relationship between mental health and politics, we need to first understand the changes that have occurred in the political landscape in the past few years. These changes are important for understanding how certain barriers affect us more now than they did in the past.
A Rise in Negative Campaigning
While it may seem like negative campaigning is new to politics, it really isn’t. In fact, the first negative radio advertisement can be traced to 1936. President Lyndon Johnson’s infamous “Daisy” television ad from 1964 remains a textbook example of the practice.
That said, negative campaigning has greatly increased in scope. In fact, research has shown that negative campaign ads have exploded in popularity over the past few days. These ads are effective in motivating voter behavior. But they rely on harnessing negative emotions like anger, fear, and guilt.
Divisive Political Identities
Politics have long been a part of people’s identity. But in the past few years, political stress has pulled people into feeling compelled to align with a certain identity. We no longer seem to live in a civil society where people can embrace and learn from opposing political views.
This has created a significant increase in political attitudes and beliefs. Today, people are far more likely to maintain the positions supported by their preferred political party. There's less room for moderation and balance.
Instead, we're in a divided society with more and more political polarization.
Social Media Coverage
How do you get your political news? If you're like many people, you turn to your preferred social media platform. This is intentional, as social media algorithms are designed to keep people on a specific site. And when it comes to political disagreements, social media coverage seems to work a little too well.
That's because algorithms are effective at showing people content they engage with. In other words, expect to see articles and posts that match your current political engagement.
While you might not think this groupthink has any negative impact, it does. Critical thinking entails being mindful of various public attitudes. If you're only hearing from one side, you may be missing crucial parts of the story. This problem creates a bubble-like effect where people only seek confirmation bias. In a toxic political climate, this problem allows misinformation to thrive.
A Movement Of Politics Over People
These shifts in the political landscape have created a situation where politics have a much larger impact on people’s worldviews. It's one thing to banter with loved ones at the dinner table. It's another to cut off people based on who they support in an election.
However, the polarization of the modern political context is creating a situation where many people view those of other political parties as fundamentally different than them. For example, research from the Pew Research Center found that people from both parties have drastically altered their views of supporters of the other party over the past six years. Regardless of where you stand politically, you're more likely to accuse the other side of being close-minded, dishonest, immoral, and unintelligent.
As a result, modern politics is having major negative repercussions on relationships between family members and friends. These strained relationships are a significant source of chronic stress and serve as a catalyst for poor mental health.
What's the Relationship Between Mental Health and Politics?
How has your mental health been over the past few years? Are you struggling more with depression or anxiety? Do you feel like watching the news has a direct impact on your mental well-being? Do you experience a sense of dread around upcoming elections?
Mental health professionals are seeing a rise in people seeking mental health services for political disagreements. They're also seeing more clients needing support for mental health problems related to political unrest.
Here's how it all may be affecting you:
Breakdown of Relationships
Having positive, supportive relationships is a central component of positive mental health. As social creatures, loneliness and isolation can create many negative impacts on people. However, political polarization can decrease the number and extent of relationships while also exacerbating chronic stress.
News reports and online forums are filled with stories about how politics have torn apart close relationships. In fact, 19% of registered voters have reported that political disagreements have negatively impacted their relationships with either a friend or family member.
Excessive Political Drama
It is normal for there to be some political drama in the world. In particular, any mental health legislation can be especially sensitive. These issues- whether they apply to federal or local government- impact everyone in society.
But let's face it. Political unrest has felt chronic, and it seems more exacerbated than ever before.
This has created an environment where people are consistently saturated with negative messages. There is seemingly a new scandal or important, life-changing topic nearly every week. As a result, politics are an ever-present part of our lives.
This emphasis on political science undoubtedly affects your mental wellbeing. Surveys show that 40% of American adults feel significant stress due to politics, 25% have considered moving because of them, and 5% have had suicidal ideations.
A Tendency for Extremism
Extremism has always existed within the framework of a political climate.
But we're more inundated with a blurred line between extreme thinking and legitimate mental disorders right now. This can be best explained by disturbing, baseless conspiracy theories.
Extremism often breeds hate and erodes social welfare. It also jeopardizes public health and social justice for marginalized groups. This propels more anger and traumatic events. It also creates effects of social exclusion, which can have a serious mental health impact.
What to Do If Politics Are Perpetuating Your Mental Health Issues
If you are feeling increased stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues due to the current political environment, there are steps you can take to feel better.
Here are some mental health care guidelines:
Limit Your Media Intake
Using technology has its benefits, but excessive social media coverage or doomscrolling will impact your mental health. It may also weaken your physical health, particularly because your well-being directly corresponds with energy, appetite, and mood.
If the political climate keeps making you feel worse, it's okay to take a step back. Refocus on something else and take a break. In addition, consider limiting your consumption of certain news or media.
Many people find that it's helpful to avoid such engagement right before bed or first thing in the morning.
Practice More Self-Care
You need a life that extends beyond the current political news.
Consider your current stress levels and mental health needs. What have you been neglecting? What needs more nurturing and love? If a friend were feeling the same way as you right now, what would you tell them to do?
Remember that your daily routine is essential for managing your emotions. Prioritize activities like getting enough exercise, engaging in meaningful hobbies, and spending time with positive, uplifting friends.
See a Mental Health Professional
If your mental health is affecting your daily functioning, it may be time to seek more structured support. Therapy can help you reframe your thoughts and develop healthier coping responses for dealing with political stress.
At Resurface Group, we offer customized mental health services for clients experiencing a variety of issues, fears, and struggles. Regardless of your mental health needs, we are here to guide you! Contact us today to learn more!