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by Genevieve Kim, MA, LMFT

Since the months leading up to the election, it seems like everything has been made a political issue. Not only did we watch the presidential debates, but if you’ve been active on social media, you’ve probably witnessed highly contentious arguments that feel like train wrecks. For some, if you’ve engaged in political discussions with loved ones, it might be negatively impacting those relationships.

I’d like to offer 3 ways to navigate this current season to alleviate some of the stress related to politics:

1) Set limits in watching the news.

Even before the pandemic, you could only take so much of the news. With our cell phones, we can receive news notifications around the clock, but does it really serve you? If you’re someone who likes to be up-to-date with politics by watching the news, designate a certain time of day when you can handle it, and only watch it then. If you usually catch up with politics via online articles on your phone/tablet, similarly, designate a set time of day to scroll through articles and set your phone on “Do Not Disturb” for the hours between your wind-down time in the evening and when you’re ready to start your day. While we cannot control politics or the news, this is a way in which we can control how much/little it can impact our day-to-day.

2) Unplug from social media.

Right before the election, I decided to go off social media for the months of November and December to drown out the noise it was causing. It started by taking the weekends off, when I noticed that I did not care to hop back on during the week. After 2 weeks, I have found that I have less mental clutter and more breathing room to attend to things that really matter, such as being more present for my family. I’m not saying you need to take off social media for 2 months like me, but I would encourage you to try a day a week or a weekend, and see how you feel. If you find that it’s a welcome change, integrate a steady rhythm of going off it for the amount of time that seems right for you.

Also, when you are on social media, please don’t feel like you to need to engage in every disagreement or that you need to defend your stance on every issue. This is where you pick your battles, and battles on social media are rarely resolved online. Reverend Dr. Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, wisely stated: “I don’t have to respond whenever provoked. No one does. Steward your energy well…It’s okay to let provacateurs leave empty handed.”

3) Establish healthier boundaries around discussing politics.

I have heard many people around me unfortunately develop strained relationships with family members and loved ones due to disagreements around politics. If this resonates with you, and you worry about losing said relationships, I encourage you to have conversations establishing boundaries around the topics where it is difficult to conclude “Let’s agree to disagree.” It can sound like, “I care about you and keeping our relationship, and have noticed that when we talk about ___________, things get extremely heated. I would really appreciate if we could agree not to discuss such topics.” For those relationships where you’re able to healthily resolve conflict and can mutually be at peace agreeing to disagree, you may not need to have this conversation. However, for those where tension remains high after political conversations, boundaries around conversations may be beneficial for the sake of preserving the relationship.

Start Counseling in Pennsylvania

If you find that you’re struggling to draw boundaries for yourself and/or with others, please do not hesitate to reach out to Lime Tree Counseling, as any one on our team of therapists would be glad to meet with you to give you the support and tools you need to navigate this challenging season. We offer in-person and online counseling to accommodate your busy lifestyle and preferences. Schedule an appointment with us today!