May 2, 2022

Politics are always a hot-button topic in today’s polarized American society. And while most people can tune issues out, some of us — whether for personal or professional reasons — are more connected on a daily basis. This can lead to severe and chronic stress.

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Political Stress Got You Out of Sorts?

The 2020 election was an election unlike anything this country had ever seen. It was long, toxic, polarizing, and ugly on both sides. The media couldn’t get enough. Everywhere you turned — TV, social media, Google, magazines, billboards, and even podcasts and radio spots — the election was in your face.

According to data gathered by the American Psychological Association back in October 2020, 68 percent of Americans surveyed said the approaching election was a significant source of stress in their lives. (By comparison, just 52 percent said the same during the 2016 cycle.)

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Interestingly, it was paranoid Democrats who were most stressed (76 percent) compared to Republicans (67 percent) and Independents (64 percent). And while you might think the stress of politics has evaporated over the past couple of years and will take a hiatus until the next election cycle, that’s not necessarily the case.

A new study shows that 40 percent of Americans report politics being a significant stressor in their lives regardless of whether it’s an election season or not. That’s an incredibly interesting data point (and one that shows the true danger of our constantly-connected, hyper-politicized environment).

The negative side effects of political stress include psychological/mental issues like anxiety, loss of sleep, inability to focus, and even suicidal thoughts. Physical side effects include weight gain, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, lightheadedness, and general aches and pains.

“The proportion of Americans reporting these effects stayed stable or slightly increased between the spring of 2017 and the fall of 2020 prior to the presidential election,” researcher Kevin B. Smith writes. “Deterioration in measures of physical health became detectably worse in the wake of the 2020 election. Those who were young, politically interested, politically engaged, or on the political left were more likely to report negative effects.”

The fear is that political stress is increasing with each election cycle, potentially leading to an even more toxic and disastrous environment in the 2024 cycle. For those who are prone to political stress, being proactive is of paramount importance.

Tips for Fighting Political Stress