Are you stressing out about politics and COVID-19? A psychologist offers advice on how to stay calm

Stress can come from a myriad of different sources in our lives. But right now, not only is the coronavirus pandemic dragging on, but the division ahead of the next election is putting many of us on edge.

Lindsay Volpe-Bertram, Section Head of Psychology at Spectrum health, described 2020 as a roller coaster of stress and anxiety – and no one knows when that feeling might end.

She pointed out the American Psychological Association October 2020 Stress Survey, which showed that 68% of participants indicated that the presidential election is a major source of stress.

But COVID-19 has beaten that number. Volpe-Bertram said recent data shows that 78% of Americans have indicated that the pandemic is a major source of stress in their lives.

“Politics is a tenuous topic of discussion with families and friends, but it’s even more evident now amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Volpe-Bertram said. “Social distancing guidelines, mask warrants and scientific facts are politicized and challenged. Families and friends are divided.

“In our Spectrum Health community, we are seeing the increase in the number of COVID cases and the constant filling of our inpatient beds, with predictions that things will only get worse. “

Volpe-Bertram said that a key thing we need to remember to get through this time is that we should focus less on what we can’t control and prioritize what we can do to have an impact on our own environment.

All of this involves making the right choices. “We can do this by finding ways to safely connect with our support systems (follow distancing guidelines), using our voice (VOTE !!), being vigilant enough (wash your hands and wear your mask) and finding ways to show gratitude for the good that has been and is present in our lives. We need to take care of ourselves and our community. “

Below, Volpe-Bertram shares some tips for controlling your stress level:

  • Watch yourself. How much time do you spend online? How do others respond to you in political / COVID conversations? Does Media Consumption Make You Feel Better or Worse? Are there healthier ways to spend your time? If you find that your mood is worse, that you are not bouncing the way you want, consider seeing a therapist. Teletherapy services are readily available locally and throughout the state of Michigan. Once you’ve selected an office, just ask if they offer virtual tours or phone tours.
  • Monitor media exposure by staying educated, but setting limits. Have downtime where you log out completely: turn off your phone and go. Take social media breaks.
  • Consider the usefulness of anxiety. This is helpful to a point with planning, but after that continued worry is a waste of time and energy. It doesn’t stop things from happening, but it takes away the ability to stay in the moment. Know how you are going to handle the situations and the guidelines you will follow, then redirect your attention to other things. Stay aware of what you can and cannot control.
  • Practice mindfulness by refocusing on the present. Pay attention to the sensory information (sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste) that surrounds you. We are often so caught up in what has happened in the past or what will happen in the present that we lose sight of what is in front of us. There are many apps, such as Headspace or Calm, that offer guided mindfulness techniques to get you started.
  • Use your voice and take action — be sure to vote. Consider volunteering, donating, and / or advocating for the cause that matters to you. Chat with family and friends about how to stay safe and share facts rather than speculation.
  • Connect with the people who are important to you and set boundaries with your conversations. Take a break from policy / COVID discussions, or agree to only do so for a short time. Follow the recommended precautions for social distancing and work on your virtual resources! If that’s not an option, consider other means of connection (phone, letters).
  • Self-care: Turn off your devices an hour or two before bedtime. Instead, choose a calm and calming activity. Read a non-stressful book, watch something funny on TV. Stay consistent while eating, exercising, and engaging in enjoyable activities.
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