Feeling Stressed by Politics? Doctors Have Concerns
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- No matter which way you cast your vote, the level of emotion surrounding President Trump's first several weeks in office is undeniable, and that has mental health professionals concerned.
With executive orders, contested confirmations and "alternative facts" now part of the daily vocabulary, many Michiganders are finding it tough to separate politics from the rest of their lives. Clinical psychologist Todd Favorite, who heads up the University of Michigan Psychological Clinic, said it’s been a long time since so many people in the general public experienced this consistent level of stress over American politics.
"So if you're having a hard time in relationships, or you're overly worried, or you're irritable all the time, or you're not able to do your work, those would be our markers for where this is over the bounds of good function,” Favorite said.
He explained that stress increases cortisol levels, which can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and other health problems. He also said that those who simply can't find their bearings right now might benefit from talking to their primary care physician or a mental health professional.
While everyone deals with stress in different ways, Favorite said there are known self-soothing strategies - including meditation, spending time with friends, reading and exercise - that may prove helpful. He said being able to manage technology also is a critical piece.
"All of the digital overlay just makes all of this much more vivid,” he said. “And it also makes it hard for individuals who are typically dialed in to these kinds of media to be able to parse out when do I shut it all off, when do I just get away from this and not be stimulated."
Favorite said that because there's no way of knowing how long the political and social landscape will remain this charged, coping with it will require attention and focus.
"We have to intentionally kind of anchor ourselves by behavioral anchors,” he said. "What am I going to do today? How much am I going to pay attention to the news? How much am I going to do things that make me feel calm or give me a sense of well-being or connection?"
Some mental health professionals are calling the current heightened stress and anxiety levels "Post-Election Stress Disorder." And one California doctor who said he's seen a sharp increase in alarmingly high blood pressure in patients for whom it was previously well-controlled, has coined the phrase “Trumpertension."