Why Politics Is Stressing Us Out So Much

New study shows just how upset many Americans are — but here's why it's no surprise

by Carleen Wild | 16 Feb 2017 at 2:10 PM

We don’t need a poll to tell us what we already know: At least half the nation is really stressed out because of politics.

But if confirmation was truly needed, then we’ve now got it. The results of a new survey done by the American Psychological Association show that more than half of Americans — 57 percent — are stressed over the current political climate.

The outcome of the election and the future of our nation rank right up there as well in terms of concerns. About two-thirds of those surveyed said the future of the nation is a significant source of stress, and 49 percent said the outcome of the election was a significant source of stress.

Also not surprisingly, opinions about the election outcome are divided along party lines, with 72 percent of Democrats seeing President Donald Trump's victory as stressful. Only 26 percent of Republicans feel the same way.

Rural versus urban also plays a role. Sixty-two percent of city dwellers say they are very or somewhat stressed related to the election outcome, compared to 45 percent of those living in the suburbs and 33 percent of rural America.

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Judy Ho told Fox 11 News in Los Angeles recently that people still seem to be in a fight or flight mode, experiencing too high of a cognitive load. "We're not designed to have that high level stress for so long," she said. "I think people are feeling a learned helplessness and they're still trying to understand the situation. They still feel activated. They're tired, they're overwhelmed, there's so much information coming at them at once and they can't process it all."

In other words — there is too much on our brains, Ho said. People are having trouble sleeping, eating, they've got terrible headaches, and they're irritable. In her opinion, it's due to too high a cognitive load.

"When that happens, we have almost no cognitive capacity left to have emotion regulation skills. And so our brains — you can't keep running them into the ground. It's like our bodies. After exercising, you have to rest. It's the same thing with our brains. If you continually barrage [the brain] with information, you are going to limit your ability to actually manage your own distress," Ho added.

She feels people on both sides of the aisle are feeling stress because of a constant fight-or-flight situation. Trump supporters are often put on the defensive, or trying to stay out of the line of fire. Trump opponents seem to be constantly looking for what they can do to fight or criticize.

Related: Stress Makes You — Younger? 

One solution, experts say, is to limit your news intake. Go on a news diet, take a walk, spend time with those you love, try meditation, and remember to breathe. All are important to give your mind and body some rest.

"Honest reporting and thoughtful journalism in the 24/7 news cycle has been replaced by sensational stories, many of which turn out not to be true," said Brian Joondeph, M.D., a Denver-based physician and writer.

A lot of modern news, Joondeph told LifeZette, is simply fear-mongering and serves only to pit people and groups against each other. Turn it off.

"We also have an entitled generation, accustomed to receiving participation trophies. Finding out the real world rewards achievement, not simply showing up, is another source of stress. This was also an acrimonious election, following eight years of a divisive president who pitted groups against each other for political expediency," he added. "After months of the media proclaiming one election result, the actual outcome was far different, leading to suspicions of tampering and fraud."

It's no wonder there is stress and angst.

The study was done as part of a broader look at stress in America. For the past 10 years, the annual APA survey has found money, work and the economy were the major stressors. Only over the course of the past year have politics, personal safety and terrorism entered the picture.

  1. #stress
  2. #Trump
  3. election
  4. emotion regulation
  5. headaches
  6. irritability
  7. President Trump
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