According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, 63 percent of Americans cite national politics as a major source of stress, in addition to the more perrenial sources, such as income and finances[1]  Many of us have lived through the Cold War, Vietnam and 9/11, but most of us agree that today is worse.I do not believe that this is the fading of memory, but the presence of unprecedented fear. There has never been a period such as this in our country’s history, where the entire foundation of democracy and even the health and survival of the planet seem to be unraveling.

Women and Black and Hispanic men reported a higher level of stress than did White men. It is possible that the pressures are uneven or that White men are being influenced by learned masculinity to keep silent about fear. These data can not be interpreted without more information, but they are worth mentioning.

The current situation is especially frightening for those who have children and grandchildren who will be affected even more than those of us alive now are. As a psychologist, what can I recommend to help?

First I suggest that each of you does something, volunteer somewhere so that you know you are having an impact on the situation and do not fall into passive guilt or despair. Do so in proportion to your ability and for a cause that you believe in.

Secondly stay apprised of the rapidly changing news cycle, perhaps once or twice a day. It is enough to check once in the morning and once in the evening. Doing so anymore may become a form of self-abuse.

Third, do one or more kind of stress reduction every day. As most contemporary readers of psychology already know, these include mindfulness meditation, yoga, exercise and living with gratitude for what you do have. Finally, nothing makes us feel better than an act of generosity a day. Try it and see how rapidly and significantly it raises your level of positive neurotransmitters. You can almost feel them surging through your body.

With 24-hour access to multiple news sources, it can become tempting to stay constantly updated. While, as a citizen, I believe in concerned involvement in public issues, as a psychologist, I want everyone to choose a careful balance between health and involvement. Stress can damage or destroy us all if it is not contained. It can turn to serious illness, depression or other malignant forces. Avoid it when you can!

References

[1] APA Stress in America Survey: US at “Lowest Point We Can Remember; Future of Nation Moist CommonlyReported Source of Stress,, November 1, 2017.

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