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Politics can be exhausting. Add in a polarizing political figure, an election cycle year, an often politicized global health crisis, incidents of racial injustice and the political fatigue sets in pretty quickly. The constant stream of news – online, on television, through social media – can add fuel to the fire. It can feel depressing sometimes. Political fatigue is real and with the state of the world as it has been lately, it may feel like it is affecting every part of your life.
Why Are You Feeling Political Fatigue?
Constantly being exposed to politics in the news, on social media, through all the flyers that appear every time you open your mailbox, and in what feels like nearly every conversation you have gets exhausting. It is not just the overexposure to political opinions that can cause political fatigue. All the negativity, the infighting, and the feelings of helplessness and sometimes hopelessness that sometimes accompanies all this exposure contributes to it too.
Election years can be especially exhausting because of how much extra coverage politics gets when candidates are running for office and fighting about who is better for your city, state, or the country. The ads run nonstop. The mailings get out of control. Twitter becomes an insane dueling ground. Sometimes it makes you want to turn it all off and go off the grid.
What is it about exposure to political opinions and political news that is so exhausting? Part of the problem is how little or how much you care about politics. If you could not care less about politics (Although you should care at least a little bit because it affects your life in many ways, but that is a whole different topic.), hearing about it constantly is going to get tiring after a while.
When you do not care about something but are being forced to see and hear about it all the time, you are going to zone out and stop paying attention. The same goes for any topic you do not care about – if your coworker is constantly talking about her cats and you could care less about cats, after awhile you are going to completely stop paying attention to her rambling about them. We do it when our kids drone on about Minecraft or Shopkins.
If you are on the other end of the spectrum and have passionate political opinions, hearing political coverage constantly is going to get exhausting because of how much of it you are trying to absorb. Your brain gets tapped out when you try to process every bit of political talk and every argument you see and hear. The constant energy that it takes to keep up with everything going on is draining. It is the same as when people get burned out from working too much. Political fatigue is just political burnout.
When you feel a responsibility to participate in politics and you feel like you are defending your political opinions all the time or you feel like you have a societal responsibility to stand up for people who cannot or who are in the minority, it is a lot. Add in the opposing viewpoints for topics you are extremely passionate about – think those hot button issues – and your brain is in overdrive.
Again, it takes a lot of energy to be vigilant. This is especially true if you have a close friend or family member who is “on the other side of the aisle” from you. Non-stop arguing is absolutely exhausting. When you take all of that on, it gets mentally exhausting.
It Is Affecting Your Life
Whether you realize it or not, political fatigue affects more than just whether or not you start to tune out the news or other people’s political opinions. It can affect your relationships with other people, your work, and even your mental health.
You might feel anxious about election results. You may be angry because you have family members with what feels like dangerous and extreme political opinions, or you are mad about people sharing false information. Maybe you feel pessimistic about the future of the country because of incidents of racial injustice. Those feelings do not live in a bubble. They do not go away when you turn off the news or sign out of Twitter.
These feelings and thoughts end up carrying over into all of your relationships – your marriage, your relationship with your kids or other family members, friendships – because at the end of the day it becomes a mental health issue. You are mentally exhausted and the way that manifests is often through symptoms that are similar to those of depression. Common symptoms of political fatigue include depression, anxiety, feelings of pessimism, detachment, anger, hopelessness, and a decline in motivation.
You may find yourself lashing out at people for no real reason. You might be withdrawn. You may start to fall behind at work or neglect housework because who cares if the laundry gets done when the world is on fire? When you feel anxious or hopeless, it is easy to stop caring about things that you normally care about (or at least normally take care of).
Political fatigue may even make you want to disengage completely from politics. What is the point of making yourself mad all the time? Who cares anyway? What difference does it make? This might seem like a good solution as a way of self-preservation, but it will not make you happy. It will not make things change for you or for anyone else either. There are ways to cope with political fatigue rather than ravaging all your relationships and giving up on civic engagement.
So Now What?
If you are feeling the political burnout, there are a few things that can help. First, take a break from screens. While it is good to stay informed, do not allow yourself to become obsessed with political news coverage. Just like you give your children screen time limits, give yourself some limits. Turn off the news after you watch one news program. Give yourself a certain amount of time on Facebook and Twitter and then put your phone down. If you just do not have the will power, there are apps you can download and program to limit your access to certain sites and apps.
Next, practice some self care. Meditate. Practice deep breathing. Take a little time for yourself. Go for a run or a long walk, practice yoga, take a hot bath – do whatever it is that helps you think things through and get perspective. Center yourself and get back to why the issues that are important to you are so important. Remember that you care about people. Remember that you want to make a difference. Remember that you are privileged to have the right to cast a vote in a democracy.
Try to avoid all or nothing thinking. It is easy to look at politics with this kind of perspective. When you think things like, “If so and so is elected, we are all doomed” you are boxing yourself into feeling depressed and hopeless. While you may not agree with that person’s politics, no one politician has all the power. Even if a large number of people from an opposing political party or with viewpoints you disagree with are elected, there are always people fighting on your side too.
Rather than feeling doomed, find ways you can make a difference or be heard. Join a local political chapter. Attend peaceful protests. Contact politicians who represent you. It is never all or nothing. There is always the in between, and there is always another election.
Finally, recognize how you are feeling. Not only recognize it but share those feelings with the people around you. They love you and want to help. So if you are feeling particularly tired of talking about political opinions, let your family or friends know you need a break and want to talk about something else. Chances are some of those people feel the same way and would love to talk about movies or the last book you read instead.
Also, the people around you are there to encourage and support you. When your parents are driving you crazy because they keep spouting some crazy political opinions you do not agree with, talk to your husband or partner about it. Oftentimes, sharing those feelings in and of itself helps and can take that burden off your mind and leave you feeling less exhausted.
We are lucky to live in a time and place where we have the right to vote regardless of the color of your skin or your sex. It was not that long ago when moms did not have the right to vote. Now we have a female vice president! So do not let the political opinions and all the news (and fake news) get you down. Take care of yourself. Remember why things are important to you. And at the end of the day, let your voice be heard rather than hiding it away because you let outside things get the best of you.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on Why We March: An Open Letter.
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Sources: Am I Experiencing Political Fatigue
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