Washington Post Article Reports Survey Showing High Levels of Stress Nationally About Politics and Quotes Expert Urging “Disengage[ment]”

The Washington Post Reports:

Because so many of its members were reporting election-related stress, the APA [American Psychological Association] added questions about politics to its annual survey in August. When the negative feelings didn’t ease up, APA did another survey in January to capture stress levels post-election. In August, 71 percent of Americans reported feeling a physical or emotional symptom of stress at least one day that month. In January, 80 percent had symptoms such as tension headaches or feeling overwhelmed or depressed.

The survey, conducted by Harris Poll, found 66 percent of Americans reported stress about the future of the country, 57 percent about the current political climate and 49 percent about the election outcome. Minority groups, millennials, those living in urban areas, and those with a college education had higher levels of stress about the election, which is unsurprising since those demographics tend to lean left politically.

The remedy, according to Vaile Wright, a licensed psychologist and member of APA’s Stress in America team, quoted in the article (which I encourage should be read as a whole).

Maintaining such high levels of constant stress puts a strain on your relationships, work and health, which only increases the stress. It’s a vicious cycle that people need to actively remove themselves from by making a conscious choice to disengage and focus on friends, family and activities that bring them joy, she said. 

“Know your limits — really prioritize taking care of yourself,” Wright said. “People think, if I choose to cope or do something for myself, I’m saying what’s happening isn’t a big deal. But the reality is burnout isn’t going to help anybody.”

What is stunning and disappointing is the absence of any real affirmative suggestion that stress might actually be reduce by engaging in activism to deal with the challenges we are being forced to face.  Taking care of yourself is one thing.  Using advice to do as an excuse for debilitating passivity is another.  Such advice needs to be more carefully thought out.