The quest to “make America great again” may be having the opposite effect and resulting in more anxiety instead. A new report shows the majority of Americans are stressed about the future of the nation ― more so than they are over their finances or work.
Data released this week by the American Psychological Association shows that 63 percent of Americans say the state of the country is either somewhat or a significant source of stress, just slightly above stressors like money (which was source of stress for 62 percent of people polled) and work (a stress source for 61 percent of people).
Not only that, more than half of respondents ― approximately 59 percent ― said they consider this time in the country to be the lowest point in U.S. history that they can personally remember. This figure spanned across generations, including those who lived through events like World War II, the Vietnam War and Sept. 11, according to the report’s researchers.
The report, called “Stress in America: The State Of Our Nation,” surveyed more than 3,400 American adults across multiple demographics to reach the results. Researchers polled respondents on what brings them stress, as well as asked specific questions on anxiety as it pertains to the current political climate.
Stress over politics went across party lines, according to the study authors, but some political affiliations felt it more than others. An estimated 73 percent of Democrats polled said the state of the nation was a source of anxiety for them, compared with 56 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of independents.
Experts say the survey highlights how the focus on negative news and political turmoil is a major driver of daily stress.
“I think people intuitively understand that if they’re having financial troubles or problems with work, that can be a source of stress,” Arthur C. Evans Jr., the APA’s chief executive officer, told HuffPost. “People may not be as conscious about how the current environment is having an effect on how they feel and their health status.”
So how do you zap that stress before it becomes a major issue? Below are some of Evans’ suggestions on how to manage the anxiety the political atmosphere may cause:
Take social media and news breaks when you need them.
According to the survey, an estimated 6 in 10 adults said divisiveness among peers (even on social media) was a significant cause of stress. More than half of respondents also said that watching the news caused stress.
It might seem like an obvious solution, but it’s important to take breaks from the barrage of coverage, Evans advised. Even if it means turning off your push notifications.
Sweat out your stress.
Many of the individuals surveyed for the report said they turned to exercise to help deal with their stress, Evans said. And it makes sense: Research shows physical activity can help boost your mood, ease stress and improve symptoms associated with poor mental health.
Lean on loved ones.
“Connecting with family and friends can really help with stress,” Evans said. “There has been tons of research that shows people with social support are much healthier and have fewer mental health problems.”
But what happens when your loved ones are contributing to that stress? Disagreements on political viewpoints are becoming more contentious across social groups, Evans said. The APA recommends engaging in an open dialogue with family and friends, while also setting productive conversation goals to help manage stress levels. The organization also put together a guide to help with tough chats around this topic.
Go out and make a difference.
Volunteering for a cause you care about or lending your support or voice to an issue that means something to you may alleviate anxiety, Evans said. Bonus: Research also shows acts of kindness can lift your own mood as well as other people’s.
Looking for more tips? Check out this list on how therapists take care of their mental health when they’re stressed out by the news or politics.