Have you made your New Year’s resolution? Many of us will resolve to create better health in our finances, fitness level or even our relationships.
I wonder how many of us are looking for ways to protect our health when it comes to politics?
Few I am afraid. We have not considered that our repeated exposure to political outrage is adversely affecting our health.
Who hasn’t felt outrage about policies, politicians, or the culture around us? Headlines cause outrage too. This kind of anger can happen to any of us regardless of party or even within our party.
As part of our New Year thinking, we need to give our mental, emotional and even our physical health some consideration as we engage politically. Especially if we spend a lot of time being outraged about world, national or even local politics.
The incidence of depression among those the most engaged in feeling and expressing political outrage is on the rise. Election, post-election and campaign depression have become very common not only full-time politicos but for average citizens.
And depression is dangerous. Especially when it lasts for long periods.
It is certainly true that we should care about the world around us. Politics demands our attention, our emotions and even our money but balance has not been a requirement. No wonder we float from one outrage to the next!
Being in a state of outrage driven anger is not unhealthy if it is for a short time. Anger can be an effective short-term motivator. However, prolonged political outrage (no matter the sources or cause) will cause increasing anger, resentment, depression and can even lead to addiction.
“Anger is a public epidemic in America; it contaminates everything from media controversy to road rage to wars to mass shootings,” according to Jean Kim, a psychiatrist for the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Kim goes on to explain in her article in Psychology Today that the anger in outrage is addictive. For the vulnerable, anger feels too good. So good that expressing it towards others overrides good reason, usual moral positions and rational responses in political debate.
Therefore, some of us find ourselves trying to bully those with different beliefs into submission. Most of us don’t even know the people we attack so vehemently. Some of us don’t even want to control ourselves when it comes to political debate.
The anger fueling our outrage originates from our original limbic system. Some call this fight or flight. The feeling of invulnerability is almost worth the price.
We love the physical payoff of adrenalin coursing through our bodies attached to outrage. However, relating like this regularly will cause depression and can cause physical illness as well.
Some of you reading this are experiencing some of those physical symptoms which can include: regular tightening of the chest, elevated blood pressure, headaches and unexplained fatigue.
You may need to set aside your outrage.
Amy Morin is an internationally recognized expert on mental strength. She says, “Many people who enter my therapy office with depression, anxiety, and stress-related issues have one thing in common: They spend a lot of time focusing on things they can’t control.”
Most people experience anger and outrage when they feel that circumstances are beyond their control. Unfortunately, politics brings issues that can’t be controlled to us every day.
No wonder outrage is addictive.
Author Andrew Park summarizes this brilliantly, “A quick fix of political bile is the perfect drug for our multitasking times, gratifying in a way that an in-depth exploration of the issues isn’t. But like any addiction, our devotion to it creates a vicious cycle, with each dastardly comment on talk radio or cable news raising our internal threshold until soon, only something truly insulting can produce that feeling again.”
In politics we are taught, “Anger is the only healthy response to injustice.” I dare to differ in my view. A truly healthy response to injustice is to rationally create a plan to do something about it.
Consider adding being rational about politics to your New Year’s resolutions. It could add to your emotional and physical health.
Rachel Stovall is a longtime community advocate and organizer. Also a fundraising, media and marketing consultant, Stovall is most known for singing with her dance band Phat Daddy and the Phat Horn Doctors.