Newswise — A volatile and contentious presidential race has left many people feeling tense, frustrated, and even hostile. This tension is having an effect on our mental health, with the American Psychological Association reporting last week that more than half of U.S. adults felt very or somewhat stressed by this election.
The stress and political climate can affect our personal relationships, too. Discussions over politics can devolve into a hotbed of arguments among friends and family, whether around the dinner table or on social media.
This can feel overwhelming, but there are steps we can take to bring the hostility down a notch, says Emanuel Maidenberg, clinical professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA’s Semel Institute and David Geffen School of Medicine.
Maidenberg suggests ways we can turn down the heat when the tension gets too high or an argument gets too hostile:
De-escalate when arguments get too personal. The purpose of many discussions around politics is to express and exchange points of view – not to win. Be the first to de-escalate.
Show curiosity for others’ views. It can be difficult to show understanding when you strongly disagree with a friends’s view, especially if it upsets your sense of right and wrong. But asking questions about why they feel that way – rather than attacking – is worth the effort.
Remember that political views are personal. Political views alone don’t make a person who they are. Rather, they are only a small part of each of us.
Weigh pros and cons before sharing online. Take a moment to consider the implications before sharing a post on Facebook or Twitter. It’s important to remember that not every private experience is intended to be public.
Put the online world into perspective. If you get into an argument online, remind yourself that such virtual experiences are only one way to share and interact with others. In-person interactions are likely to be more satisfying and rewarding in the long run.
Minimize TV and other mass media exposure. There’s a difference between being informed and being overwhelmed.
Share your feelings with family or friends. It’s important to share your anxious feelings with others close to you. Chances are they are feeling the same way.
With the third presidential debate coming up on Wednesday, there are steps each of us can take to manage stress – and turn arguments back into discussions.