Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re likely to feel stress and anxiety about the current political environment.
You’re not alone.
A 2017 poll conducted by Harris Poll for the American Psychological Association (APA) showed that significant stress affects all ages—though millennials are still the most stressed out, as they have been since 2014.
And that stress transcends party lines. Majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents report being stressed out by the future of the nation.
Of course, all that stress is affecting our health and well-being.
But, when more than half the people surveyed consider this to be the lowest point in American history, how can you stay optimistic? How can you not lose hope?
The Health Benefits of Optimism
Studies show that optimists are physically and psychologically healthier than pessimists. Optimists have less cardiovascular disease and longer lifespans. Moreover, optimism boosts your immune response and makes you less susceptible to viruses.
Optimism also leads to better psychological health. In the words of psychologist and author Martin Seligman, “Optimism gives us breadcrumbs of hope. Whether they lead to a rainbow is not the point. What matters is that we are given enough crumbs to keep going.”
Tips for Staying Optimistic
First, process the thoughts and feelings that are stressing you. Then, to stay optimistic and involved in the current political environment, try these tips.
Look for the Silver lining
Focus on the positive. Find even one thing that is positive or good about a bad situation. If your car hits a school bus, be glad the bus was empty. Another school shooting is horrible, but people want change, and they’re demonstrating.
Seek a Positive Environment
Try not to spend time with negative people and sources of information. Stay optimistic by limiting your intake of bad news. Watch less TV, spend less time on social media. Be careful what you let into your mind.
You can also join forces with others for mutual support. Spend more time with positive people. And perhaps talk it over with a positive friend.
Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” helps reduce the stress hormone cortisol. In a recent study people who worked to cultivate gratitude had improved mood, more energy, and less anxiety.
So, give thanks for what’s good. Write thank-you letters. Journal. Savor the good moments. And share good news.
Fight Negative Thinking
Don’t dwell on the downside. Rather, try writing down negative thoughts as soon as you have them, to get them out of your head. Then put off worrying until later. Also, try scheduling a time in the future for thinking about the latest political situation. Delay reduces the sting and gives you time to put it all into perspective.
Instead of giving in to negative thoughts, dispute them with evidence. Look for facts to support a more positive view. And think about alternatives. What could happen to make things better? Consider the usefulness of the negative thoughts or worries you’re having. Will dwelling on them help? Probably not.
Use Distraction to Re-Focus
Interrupt negative patterns by distracting yourself physically. Get up and move. Go for a walk. Exercise. Run. When we move, blood flows to the brain, we feel energized, and new ideas pop up.
Exercise gives us nutrients and energy, reduces stress, and boosts happiness and creativity. It also helps us realize that we feel better when we do something. We feel more in control. We know we’re not helpless.
In addition, concentrate your mind on something besides the current issue. Take part in an activity that takes your attention. Clean house. Take a class. Or play a sport.
Do a Reality Check
Rather than letting yourself get carried away, focus on the finding out the facts. Don’t turn the proverbial molehill into a mountain. How important is the latest headline or peccadillo? Don’t lose perspective. Will this matter in five years? Stop. Breathe. Re-focus.
Take Charge of Your Day
Instead of letting the news cycle ruin your day, start slowly—with something uplifting. Have a conversation or listen to something positive. Read a helpful article over breakfast or during your ride to work. Starting well will keep your day from getting lost in worry.
Furthermore, move mindfully through your day. Focus on the present moment. Stay practical. And think about what you can accomplish.
Take Care of Your Self
Don’t forget to practice self-care. Get out in nature, do yoga or tai chi. Meditate. And eat a nourishing and healthy diet. Keeping centered and resilient is crucial in this noisy and chaotic time.
Get enough sleep. During stressful times we’re likely to sleep badly. But that’s exactly when you need more quality sleep to be energetic, clear-headed, and focused on your next step.
Don’t Lose Hope
Obviously, we’re living in stressful times. But we can focus on the positive and keep ourselves in a positive environment. We can practice gratitude and fight negative thinking. We can use distraction to help us re-focus, concentrate on reality, and be mindful as we go through our day. And, we can take care of our physical and mental health using resources such as anxiety therapy.
Yes, we actually can stay optimistic and involved, even in the current political environment. Don’t lose hope. It just takes determination.