Can Politics Bring You Down?

by Andrea M. Darcy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Feel upset after reading the news? Or find yourself worrying about politics and the state of the world more and more lately?

Why do I have stress caused by world events?

Stress, depression, and anxiety from world events are more likely to happen if you already have or have had mental health issues. This includes a difficult childhood that has left you stress sensitive, or recent upsets that have made you prone to sadness and anxiety.

But why do world events make things worse?

1. We feel out of control.

It’s one thing to be stressed by something but know what we can do to repair it. We lose our job, but we know it’s time to make a new CV, call an agency, and do some career counselling. World events and politics, on the other hand, are different or closed worlds. They feel outside of our control.

2. And experience powerlessness.

Creating political or world change requires great effort, and often many people working together. So most of us are left with a feeling of powerlessness and overwhelm in the face of unfortunate political takeovers, terrorism, and world wars. When we can’t fix something, we feel more stressed.

3. Danger can feel everywhere.

If the economy is crashing due to a prime minister making bad choices, we can worry about our future, and that of our children. Something like terrorism of a natural disaster means we can worry if it will happen near us.

4. Life can feel suddenly lonely.

We might live in another country to family, or work so hard our social life is limited. But we carry on, managing. Then we read about a bad election, or an act of terrorism. And we realise just how alone we really are. Who is really there for us if something bad happened near us?

5. Our thoughts get stuck in the negative.

Bad news can lead to exaggerated negative thoughts called 'cognitive distortions'. We can also get caught up in what cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) calls ‘thought loops’. One negative thought sets off a cycle of negative thoughts until we feel quite low, if not depressed.

A study at Harvard medical school connected negative thoughts about global terrorism directly to mental health issues such as low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.

Have world events triggered anxiety for you?

Stress happens when we know what we are worried about, but feel overwhelmed. Stress, if left unsorted, can become anxiety, where we lose site of what one thing we are upset about and instead find endless new reasons to feel fearful.

The anxiety signs to look for are:

  • thoughts are increasingly illogical
  • your mind is always in the future and ‘what could happen’
  • you are scanning for danger and what can go wrong
  • a small thing triggers a big negative thought loop (a train being late ends up with you worrying about what happens after death)
  • physical symptoms can now include a beating heart, muscle tension, and sweatiness.

What can I do about stress caused by world events?

Practice mindfulness.

It pulls you into the present moment and away from worries about things that might never happen.

Give gratitude.

Focussing on what we are thankful for is shown to help moods and move thoughts from negative to positive.

Connect daily.

Not with the internet, but with people. Even shared words with a shopkeeper can remind us we are all in it together, an d help to ease feelings of loneliness.

Take action.

Make a list of all the things you can do about what is upsetting you, no matter how small. And then do the easiest thing as soon as possible, whether that is signing a petition, giving to a charity, or calling your local MP’s office to discuss your concerns.

Seek support.

If your stress has turned to anxiety and your thoughts are increasingly illogic, it is a good idea to seek proper support. A talk therapist creates a safe space to discuss what is upsetting you and find ways to feel more at ease with yourself and the world.

Time to get control of your anxiety and stress? Find a therapist you like at a price you can afford now, and be talking this week.

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