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Study: Political Turmoil Pushes Americans To Record Stress Levels

November 03, 2017

If watching cable news shows and reading your Twitter feed has you a bit stressed-out these days, you’re not alone.

A new study by the American Psychological Association (APA) says nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) say the future of our nation is a very or somewhat significant source of stress, beating out traditional stress causers like work and personal finances.

In the APA report, “Stress in America: The State of our Nation,” 59 percent of adults say that current social and political divisiveness is a source of stress.  The most common issues facing our nation that cause stress are health care (43 percent), the economy (35 percent), trust in government (32 percent) and  hate crimes (31 percent). Coincidentally, the report appeared in the media on the same day that a terrorist struck a bicycle trail in New York City.

Carrie Pichie, PhD, Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network East Region Director of Ambulatory Care — which includes Natchaug Hospital and the psychiatric services departments at Backus and Windham hospitals —  says the sense of powerlessness people feel while watching stories unfold on TV or in their newsfeeds can trigger feelings of anxiety.

“The feeling is that these things are being imposed on you rather than you having a choice in the matter. It’s a feeling that something is coming from above, whether it’s from the President or Congress,” Pichie says.

And, while 95 percent of those surveyed say they follow news regularly, more than 50 percent believe the media sensationalizes stories to make them appear worse than they are.

“An immediate strategy to combat the stress is to limit your access to the news,” Pichie says. “eing informed is important, but we shouldn’t take it to the level of being obsessed with what’s going on Twitter or Facebook.  When you’re at work or when your home with your children, shut that part down.  Do things you enjoy and don’t be hyper-vigilant about the news at all times.” 

Pichie says you can reduce stress by “controlling what you can control.”  She says do something good for yourself to reduce stress like exercise, engage in hobbies you enjoy, read or watch something unrelated to news.

“It’s important to understand that there are certain things you have no power over,” she said. “But there are actions you can take [to reduce feelings of powerlessness] whether it’s writing or calling a member of congress or participating in the political process locally.”

There is some good news from the findings. According to the survey, 51 percent of Americans say that the state of the nation has inspired them to volunteer or support causes they value.