October 1, 2020

Politics, Voting and the Stress Response

“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” Anais Nin

What do you feel upon hearing some of the current political advertisements that may have upsetting tone or content?  If you get upset, do you know what happens to your physical and mental health?

Once again it is time to exercise our democratic prerogatives by voting. This right comes to fruition this week as the dark side of our thinking is also highlighted.

Politicians and their representatives often demean the opponent. These last two years, while seeming particularly nasty, offer nothing new. The opposition has a growing desire/ability to speak of opponents as if they are evil; as if there is intent to do what is inherently designed to wreak havoc with our city, county, state, or nation. Some ads are full of lies with rather mean spirited voice, not meant to inform, but rather to scare.

The point of view that either Sarah Palin or Barack Obama is evil, or trying to do evil, is not worthy. Both, and other politicians, are in fact humans that we sometimes disagree with yet often go overboard in our thoughts and statements to make that disagreement clear. 

From the perspective of our mental health, this continual agitated underlying thinking is not healthy. It creates in our body an ongoing low level production of adrenaline, cortisol and glucocorticoids that, when produced in continuous abundance, are not good for our physical or mental fitness.

It creates in our body this stress that is as if we are being attacked by a lion. The fight or flight response, at a low but near continuous level, is a known contributor to high blood pressure, diabetes and a variety of other physical conditions. Of course, if we are perpetually mad, it is also a contributor to depression and anxiety.

In our democracy, speak your mind as a loyal and patriotic person. Don’t be Pollyannaish either. We may recognize there are some politicians that have taken advantage; we must then speak up and remove them from office and in some cases send them to jail.

Think about this: Have you ever created in your mind catastrophes about what will happen if so and so wins? Then, when they win, there really is not much different in your day to day life. “It will be awful” we tell ourselves, if so and so wins. We feel bad when our candidate loses, but life goes on and we can try again in 2 or 4 years. This is the beauty of our democracy.

The rest of this story is that politicians are just humans, doing the best they can, some of whom happen to have a different way of solving problems than the one you may prefer.

Take an active and healthy role in our democracy. Keep elections in perspective and you will have a more robust mental well-being.

Be respectful, agree, disagree but VOTE.