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How to deal with stress during times of political uncertainty

Hint: it starts with giving yourself a break

A white ceramic mug and open book sit on a tan couch with a blanket draped across the back Taking a break from social media and relaxing with activities like reading can limit stress. // Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash.

By The Western Front Editorial Board

Let’s face it: the current political climate is exhausting.

When social media is flooded with unsupported fraudulent election claims, calls for recounts and reports of riots on the Capitol, the mental health of our society begins to falter. As important as it is to keep the conversation going, it can be physically and mentally draining to argue all the time.

A study published in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry showed that up to 41% of people living in riot-affected areas show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, ANZJP reported that major depression statistics rose 7% following protests, despite varying levels of involvement. 

Studies like this one show just how much the bodies and minds of those living in a time of political unrest can be affected. 

Taking care of yourself during unprecedented times is just as crucial as pioneering for change. While it may seem tough to step back for a few minutes and take a breath, it is absolutely imperative to do so. 

After all, change can’t happen if communities are entirely exhausted.

Take a Break from Social Media 

The same Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry study noted social media usage as a risk factor for depression, especially during a time of protests and political unrest. 

Today, we see how easy it is to be constantly surrounded by news and updates. Platforms like Twitter and Instagram now allow pressing new stories and calls to action to be more accessible than ever.

In a world where the good, the bad and the positively evil are right at our very fingertips, separating yourself is no easy endeavor. Feelings such as guilt and fear of missing something important may arise after pressing the “logoff” button. 

Taneasha White, a queer Black journalist with Them writes, “Don’t feel guilty about taking intentional time away from your phone or turning away a deluge of information.” 

Taking a 15 minute break from refreshing an app can mean all the difference for your mental health.

Go For a Walk

For decades, exercise has been looked to as a possible solution when it comes to depression and stress. 

According to the American Psychological Association, the “exercise effect” — as it’s commonly called — proves that moderate exercise results in a mood boost.

Going for a walk may not alleviate all the stress caused by going through a major political event, but it can certainly help. In fact, stepping outside is also the perfect time to put down the phone and reconnect with yourself. 

Bad weather? Indoor yoga and stretching works just as well.

Talk it Out

Avoid bottling up your fear as much as possible. 

Keeping everything locked up is a surefire way to cause more stress down the line. If you can, reach out to a therapist about how you’re feeling during these historic times. A study published by the American Psychological Association outlines just how effective psychotherapy can be in alleviating stress. 

If therapy isn’t your cup of tea, talking with a trusted friend or family member is often a good alternative. 

After all, the most important part of talking it out is allowing yourself to feel the very valid feelings that have arisen during these times. 

Cry, shout, laugh, get whatever is on your chest off of it. Feel better?

Get Enough Sleep

Hitting the restart button on your brain may be just what the doctor ordered.

A lack of sleep can lead to stress, anxiety, and irritability. Mayo Clinic stresses the importance of getting enough hours of shut-eye; aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

Falling asleep when your mind is jumbled with current events can be a challenge. Combining a handful of these tips — such as unplugging from social media and getting some fresh air — can do wonders to clear your mind.

Above all, take care of yourself during times of uncertainty. A well-rested and refreshed mind is best when it comes to making systemic change.

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