Stress

Republican or Democrat, We Are All Stressed Out

Use strengths to help you maximize old and new stress management tools.

Posted May 08, 2017

DepositPhotos/VIA Institute
Source: DepositPhotos/VIA Institute

New survey research from the American Psychological Association shows that both sides of the political divide are experiencing stress about not only the outcome of the election but the future of America. Almost 60% of republicans say the future of America is now a significant source of stress for them, and about 75% of Democrats say the same thing. These are the highest levels of stress since the survey began, 10 years ago.

The survey reviewed the most common stress management tools that Americans are currently using. I highlight these tools and weave in suggestions for using your character strengths to help you make the most of the strategy:

  1. Exercising or walking: a great way to use your strength of zest!, and also your appreciation of beauty to your environment.
     
  2. Reading: tap your love of learning and curiosity by picking up some new fiction or nonfiction books.
     
  3. Spending time with family and friends: any of the 24 character strengths can be deployed to improve our relationships. When you spend time with close others, try bringing forth extra levels of social intelligence, forgiveness, and fairness in your conversations.
     
  4. Watching TV: practice spotting the strengths of characters in the sitcom, series, or movie you are watching. What are the characters’ signature strengths?
     
  5. Praying: clearly this involves bringing your spirituality strength forward, but perhaps also you might infuse your prayer-life with creativity (mix up your approach), gratitude (a deliberate practice of thanks), and critical thinking (being open to other points of view). 

    Additional stress management tools, although not mentioned in the APA survey, include:

  6. Mindfulness: short-circuit your stressful nature with the mindful pause. This strategy is being used by tens of thousands of people and is two simple steps you can do anytime during the day – a.) Pause to feel you inbreath and outbreath for 15 seconds; b.) then ask yourself which character strength might you bring forth in the moment.
     
  7. Gratitude practice: there are many practices but the most scientific and popular is to count your blessings at the end of each day. Name 3 things you are grateful that occurred during the day and why they happened.
     
  8. Kindness practice: the “pay it forward” effect has scientific evidence supporting it. When someone does something – anything – nice for you, pay the kindness forward by offering a thoughtful action to 1 to 3 people that day.
     
  9. Curiosity practice: choose an activity you find boring or dull that you have to do each week or each day. While you do the activity, pay attention to 3 novel/unique features (e.g., use your 5 senses) about the activity. This activity will help you enjoy the activity more and will lift your curiosity.
     
  10. Signature strengths practice: there are always new ways we can use our best qualities and research shows it gives a lasting increase to happiness and decrease to depression if we do. Select one of your best qualities. Expand how you think about this strength. Allow yourself to use it differently each day this week.

References

Baker, W., & Bulkley, N. (2014). Paying it forward versus rewarding reputation: Mechanisms of generalized reciprocity. Organization Science, 25(5), 1493–1510. http://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2014.0920

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377–389. http://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.84.2.377

Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Wyss, T. (2013). Strength-based positive interventions: Further evidence for their potential in enhancing well-being and alleviating depression. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 1241–1259. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9380-0

Langer, E. J. (1997). The power of mindful learning. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Niemiec, R. M. (2014a). Mindfulness and character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.

Pressman, S. D., Kraft, T. L., & Cross, M. P. (2015). It’s good to do good and receive good: The impact of a “pay it forward” style kindness intervention on giver and receiver well-being. Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(4), 293–302. http://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2014.965269

Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Buschor, C. (2013). Testing strengths-based interventions: A preliminary study on the effectiveness of a program targeting curiosity, gratitude, hope, humor, and zest for enhancing life satisfaction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(1), 275–292. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9331-9

Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410–421. http://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.60.5.410