By Stephanie Schafer, MEd, LPC, NCC
It seems everywhere we turn there are political ads, political discussions, rallies, polls, and elections. During these times, a lot of things get stirred up, particularly emotions. Learning how we can manage the stress of something as emotionally charged as politics can do us a lot of good.
What can I control?
First, let’s acknowledge why this topic gets people so riled up. My theory: it has to do with what we can control, and it has to do with values.
One of the ways we manage stress is looking at what factors we can control, and what we can do about those factors. Ultimately, we cannot control another person. Though we can affect them with what we say and what we do, we cannot decide for them.
I’ve been told that one of the most frustrating things is when someone has a logical argument, and the person with whom they are talking disagrees despite all logic. When we can accept the things that are outside our control, and redirect our focus to what we can control, our stress can subside.
What is within our control in these situations? Our reactions and responses, our values, and our coping strategies.
Seek first to understand, then be understood
Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” has a principle surrounding empathic communication, which he terms “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” This resonated with me when I think about how to control reactions.
At times, this concept has seemed like it’s saying that we have to put our beliefs aside and agree with the opposition. This is not true. All too often, we are operating from a defensive stance. This principle is meant to draw us out from our defenses and try to see where the other person is coming from.
Think about it. If everyone were walking around in a defensive bubble, and no one is stepping out from it, we will all continue to be stressed by the lack of connection. So if one person steps out – if you step out – and says “I’m going to try and understand her point of view,” you have sought first to understand. At any point, you can share your points and seek to be understood, and the stepping out gives more opportunities for others to seek to understand.
Lastly, let’s talk coping strategies. If the above strategies just aren’t cutting it for you, employ some strategies to take care of yourself. These are activities we do to take a break, recharge, unwind, and refresh ourselves.
- Take a walk outside.
- Set aside 5 minutes to be goofy.
- Eat your favorite meal.
- Find a relaxing scent.
- Do some gentle stretches.
- Listen to some soothing music.
The list is endless … pick at least one thing you will do to care for yourself each day.
Stephanie Schafer is an Employee Assistance Counselor with The Village Business Institute. She has a Master of Education in Counseling from North Dakota State University, and specialized training in Critical Incident Stress Management and suicide intervention.