There’s nothing that impacts our daily lives, both individually and collectively, than the policies and the people governing our country. However, as we’ve seen in the years past, trying to stay informed during our fast-paced election news cycle can leave many people feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.
Amidst this constant barrage of information and navigating differing opinions and views, it becomes equally important to prioritize our well-being to avoid nervous system breakdown. In this blog post, let's delve into practical tactics to strike that delicate balance and navigate the challenging terrain of staying informed while maintaining our sense of control.
1. Scheduled News Time:
There are endless studies about how constant screen time is detrimental to our mental health and can exacerbate our sympathetic mode. During an election year, and especially any stressful news cycle, it’s easy to get caught doomscrolling.
One effective strategy to take back control of your day from the news is to allocate a specific time each week (or even daily as the election approaches) dedicated solely to catching up on the news. By setting aside, for example, an hour a week, you can efficiently consume the information you need without it taking over your entire day.
This focused approach not only helps you stay well-informed but also prevents you from becoming overwhelmed and frustrated by news overload. This reduction in news can also significantly lessen feelings of stress and anxiety, allowing for more space for positive experiences in your day-to-day.
2. Implement Digital Defenses:
Once you've dedicated your allotted time to stay updated, consider implementing several digital strategies to minimize any exposure that can trigger doomscrolling.
Social media and digital platforms are a great way to be connected to your loved ones and the community, but it makes it difficult for one to avoid the news during election years. Some strategies to help you stay connected while protecting your mental well-being include:
- Just like the above, dedicate a set time to browsing social media. This will help limit any potential exposure you might get while browsing your feed.
- Turning off notifications can help you be intentional about when you decide to look at your apps. If you’re not getting constant pings throughout the day, you’ll be less tempted to open the app.
- For those who need more digital defenses, consider setting a digital boundary. Temporarily block keywords and accounts that you know will trigger you to fall into a rabbit hole. You can easily find instructions on how to set up these blocks by Googling or searching on YouTube or TikTok.
3. Setting Boundaries:
While setting boundaries is easier digitally than in real life, it’s still crucial to consider your physical boundaries during a charged election year. Political discussions, especially during family gatherings, can be emotionally charged and exhausting.
Taking a cue from the boundaries playbook, establish clear and respectful limits with family members who hold opposing political views. Communicate your preference to avoid political discussions during gatherings, creating a space where relationships can thrive without the tension of differing opinions.
Here are some example scripts and a flow to state and reinforce your boundaries:
- (Before the family gathering) “I know we don’t see eye to eye on political or social justice issues, so let’s please agree not to bring up, discuss, or provide viewpoints on those topics during our visit. It’s the only way we’ll enjoy our time together, and I really want to.”
- (At the moment) “Stop, [name]. We all agreed not to bring up [topic], so please change the subject.” Then, change the subject.
- (If they continue) “If you don’t stop talking about your views on [topic], we’re going to leave.”
- If they decide to continue, it’s important to demonstrate that you will uphold your boundary if they keep overstepping.
4. Designate 'Politics-Free' Zones:
In addition to setting boundaries with family, consider designating certain areas or times as "politics-free zones." This could include specific rooms in your home or certain activities where political discussions are off-limits. Creating these safe spaces allows you to focus on relaxation and socializing without the stress of navigating heated political debates.
Remember, in order to maintain these places as “politics-free” zones, you must be willing to ask your family members to leave if they decide to bring up those topics in these areas.
5. Mindful Consumption:
It’s easy to only think about current events during a charged news cycle, but being mindful of the type of and amount of content you consume can drastically influence your mood. With a dedicated time for news, consider reframing election year as the year to expand your media diet to other content like fiction, podcasts, or documentaries. Take advantage of your newfound time to consume other forms of knowledge!
6. Get Involved and Take Control:
Still, feeling overwhelmed by events beyond your control? Channel that energy into positive action by getting involved locally. Research has shown that volunteering leads to lower rates of depression and anxiety. As you help others, the action activates the reward center in your brain and releases serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. By participating in grassroots efforts, you not only contribute to the democratic process but also regain a sense of control over the situation.
Some ways to engage with your community include, but not limited to, volunteering to help with local offices, making calls, rallying support, or organizing events. You can also take charge of your immediate environment, whether encouraging voter registration or ensuring that everyone has easy access to voting booths.
As we navigate the inevitable intensity of election cycles, it's crucial to recognize the importance of balance. By incorporating these tactics into your routine, you can stay informed without sacrificing your well-being. Remember, being an informed and engaged citizen doesn't mean being constantly plugged into the news cycle. Finding the right balance allows you to contribute positively to society while also taking care of your mental and emotional health.