It’s been less than a month since Trump’s inauguration, but things are moving quickly. Each day sees an avalanche of extreme executive orders, controversial cabinet appointments and nationwide protests that have many Americans feeling emotionally-charged and agitated.
Pre-election stress was a widespread (and bipartisan) phenomenon, with the American Psychological Association (APA) reporting that more than half of Americans were experiencing election-induced anxiety in the days leading up to Nov. 8. You could call our current plight “post-inauguration stress” — but four years of mass high-anxiety is not sustainable.
“For many people, continual alerts from news sources, blogs, social media and alternative facts feel like missile explosions in a siege without end,” Stosny writes in the Washington Post.
Dr. Ellen Slawsby, an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, agrees that the non-stop exposure to the news cycle is overwhelming.
“There’s so much news coming in, the brain and the body can’t handle it,” she says. “If you just let it all flow in like a wild ocean tide, you’re going to drown.”
Limit your news intake
Slawsby, who is also the director of chronic pain services at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that in her sessions with patients, “the election has come up much more than I’ve ever seen in my 25 years in practice.”
She urges her patients, who are seeing symptoms of chronic illness exacerbated by political anxieties, to regulate how much they’re consuming. While many of us constantly scroll Twitter or set push notifications on our phones so as not to be a second behind word of the latest hot button issue — with the exception of folks who work in breaking news media, that’s a choice that we’re making, she says.
She recommends setting aside a time to read the news; maybe twenty minutes in the morning, or twenty minutes at the end of the day, to stay informed, but not overwhelmed. And logging on too close to bedtime is a recipe for insomnia, she says. (Besides the obvious detriment of getting emotionally-revved up before a time of rest, research has shown that pre-bed screentime, specifically the exposure to the artificial light, disrupts Circadian rhythms and interferes with the sleep cycle.)