5 Ways to Cope with Political Stress Without Alcohol or Drugs

If you follow politics, you’ve probably experienced elevated stress levels for the past two years. Frustration and anxiety are two things that members of both major political parties have in common.

After the 2016 presidential election, Democrats anticipated four years of doom and despair. But things haven’t been peachy for Republicans. Disagreements between the White House and Congress have caused worry and tension among GOP voters.

A November 2017 survey by the American Psychological Association found that 63 percent of Americans say the future of the nation is a “very or somewhat significant source of stress.”

More than half of each party’s membership believes the future of the nation is a source of stress, including:

  • 73 percent of Democrats
  • 59 percent of political independents
  • 56 percent Republicans

If you cope with your political stress by drinking alcohol, you’ve probably been drinking at unhealthy levels. If you’re in recovery from addiction, stress has likely been an unwelcome obstacle on your journey to maintain sobriety.

Don’t expect the midterm elections in 2018 to be as toned down as usual. It’s time to learn healthy ways to cope with modern political stress.

1. Take a Break from the News

Avoiding stress is the easiest way to remove it from your life. That doesn’t mean you have to remove news completely from your life. But you don’t have to follow it on TV or social media throughout the day.

You don’t have to listen to political discussions on the radio during your commute. Listen to music instead, or find a nonpolitical audiobook to help you relax.

When you’re at home, schedule time to watch news. It’s OK to watch your favorite news show, but you don’t need to watch every news show. Put aside time to read a newspaper or check news websites, but don’t spend half of your day trying to keep up with every piece of breaking news.

2. Don’t Engage on Social Media

Have you ever been outraged by something a friend or family member posted on social media? We all have. Social media should be a place where you can share your opinion and engage in healthy discussions. But if you find yourself spending hours debating politics on Facebook, you might be driving yourself insane.

If that’s you, it may be time to take a break. You can also change the way that you use social media. Stop following news organizations that provide political updates throughout the day. Mute or unfollow people that post about politics. Follow people or pages that bring you happiness.

3. Limit Political Discussions

It’s healthy to talk about things that stress us out. Talking can allow you to vent and avoid bottling up your emotions. Others can also offer alternative points of view that help us understand and cope with negative emotions.

But it doesn’t do anyone any good to beat a dead horse.

Have you ever had a good mood ruined by someone intent on talking politics? If a topic stresses you out, you can politely decline to participate in the conversation. Tell the person that you don’t feel like talking about politics. Make sure your friends, co-workers and family members know that you need to limit political discussions.

4. Practice Stress-Relief Techniques

The APA recommends several strategies for overcoming stress related to political change. You can try to find common ground with others who have different views. You may find that you disagree about specific policy points, but you share common morals and values.

If you’re religious or spiritual, seek emotional support from your place of worship. Practice meditation, yoga or other mind-clearing techniques. Go for a walk, run or ride a bike to clear your mind. While you’re taking a break from the TV, catch a breath of fresh air.

People in recovery can attend self-help meetings, such as those held by popular 12-step programs. You can talk to your group about the stressors in your life without sparking a political debate at a meeting.

Check out our free Sobriety e-book for more stress-relief tips

5. Go to Therapy

If politics are causing so much stress that you’re feeling extreme anxiety or experiencing depression, you may need professional therapy. Worrying about politics may be triggering an underlying mental health issue.

It’s natural to be stressed out by politics, but you should be able to cope with it on your own. If you’ve tried stress-relief techniques and they aren’t helping, or if you’re unable to stop watching the news, you may require therapy to learn new tips.

There is nothing shameful about asking for mental health help, especially if you’re in recovery. Stress is one of the top causes of relapse.

Whether you are in recovery or someone who doesn’t suffer from addiction, alcohol and other drugs aren’t healthy ways to cope with stress. The political climate doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon. If you’re turning to substances to relieve stress, it’s time to change the way you follow the news.

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