HANDLING POLITICAL ANXIETY AS THE RACE GETS CLOSER

The 2020 presidential election is just over a year away; however, things are already heating up on both sides of the political divide. If the 2016 election is any indication, the period leading up to the 2020 election could get quite ugly. This will produce a lot of debates and there will be significant political anxiety as well.

Until the day of the election, there will be a gradual build-up of increasing coverage right around the clock. This will make it difficult for individuals to escape election-related news. If you are already concerned about what it will be like, there are some tips below on handling political anxiety as the race gets closer.

Unplug

Social media has made it so there is no lack of opinions about current events. There is a certain level of anonymity on social media; therefore, these platforms can turn into a vicious war zone of heated back-and-forth arguments between individuals of differing political views.

Political experts are expected to share their thoughts on the election. However, what increases anxiety for many individuals is seeing constant arguments between family and friends over their different stances. For example, if your brother and uncle have differing views and make personal attacks during arguments online or offline, this could negatively impact family gatherings. Social media talks result in a lot of wasted energy and can be extremely unhealthy for individuals.

Avoid Political Commentary

Keeping up with local and national news is important and this includes any newsworthy item leading up to Election Day. However, actual news only takes up a certain amount of television airtime. The same is true for newspapers and magazines. Therefore, for some additional “spice,” political commentary and the creation of “hot takes” are used to extend election coverage as the day approaches.

>READ: STEPS YOU CAN TAKE NOW TO MANAGE STRESS

While good points are made in some of these commentaries at times, the majority of them are only going to increase anxiety and stress. Every publication is more or less biased towards one side or the other and as such, many individuals simple seek out the views of those who are politically like-minded. Nothing is wrong with getting confirmation on your beliefs, however, consistently seeking out the opposition to get their take on issues is unhealthy. A heavy right-leaning or left-leaning media house is not really going to be making any new points.

Television stations are constantly seeking great ratings and views drive the online world. Keep this in mind when you hear controversial statements on these platforms.  Some of these people don’t even believe half of what they are saying! They are simply trying to get a positive and negative reaction from members of the two major political parties.

>EDITOR’S NOTE: Prime Women Media outlets will not be engaging in any political opinions or choosing any sides…so you’ll always have a safe haven of information here. 

Become Involved in the Community in an Objective Way

Going into the presidential election of 2020, among the biggest focuses is boosting the number of voters. Many individuals are not interested in voting in the election. Even though one vote might seem irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, the country needs increased participation in voting.

 

Volunteering to register people to vote is an overall positive move. It assists in spreading a good message, without having to take one side or the other.  This is among the most positive things an individual can do to assist with the upcoming election. Doing a bit of good is sometimes the best way to handle any type of anxiety.

Focus on Loved Ones

Whoever ends up winning the 2020 election, many people will be disappointed. Rather than allowing the election to direct the mood of a household, focus on the important people and things in your life.

>READ: 5 SIMPLE STRATEGIES FOR RELIEVING STRESS

Additionally, you should bear in mind that others may not share your political views. This is quite alright. Regrettably, there are family members who have such strong opinions against each other’s views that it sometimes breaks a family. But, is losing a relationship over political differences worth it in the end?

Regardless of who takes office, residents of the U.S. will continue to have a lot of control over their success and happiness. There is a good reason for the checks and balances system in the U.S. The winning president cannot just take office and change everything in a matter of a few years.

Strive to control what is within your control and do not allow a victory or a defeat to make a huge difference. Embrace your beliefs, work hard pursuing your individual goals and do not allow politics to consume too much of your energy. And if you are facing political anxiety know you’re not alone. The American Psychological Association has resources to help cope with political anxiety, and using our tips above can make a difference.

Train the Motivation Center in the Brain

mWhat biofeedback was to the 1970’s, neurofeedback could be to the 2020’s. Neurofeedback is a diverse and fascinating area of research that combines neuroscience and technology to monitor and modulate brain activity in real time.

Recently, Adcock Lab at Duke University studied to see if people could train themselves to increase brain activity in a tiny region of the brain called the VTA. The VTA is thought to be involved in motivation—the desire to get something that you want. For example, if you believed that by buying a lottery ticket you would be guaranteed to win $1,000,000, you would probably be very motivated to buy the ticket and would have a spike in brain activity in this region of your brain. But while studies have shown that motivation for external rewards (like money) activate the VTA, until now, we didn’t know whether people could internally generate a motivational state that would activate this brain region.

To see if people could self-activate their  VTA,  the study used neurofeedback, which provides information on a person’s brain activity milliseconds to seconds after it happens. Neurofeedback can use either an EEG machine, which records the electrical activity of the brain and is very fast, but not very specific, or it can use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which records changes in blood flow in the brain and can better target specific brain regions, but is slower. Studies on rtfMRI (the rt stands for “real-time”), have found that giving people feedback on their brain activity might be able to help them to control that activity.

The study’s purpose was to use the technology to better understand the functioning of the VTA and its relationship with internally generated motivation, with potential for clinical applications down the road. The premise is – if people could learn to activate their VTAs deliberately, it could have important clinical applications, like helping someone stick to a diet, helping with psychological disorders or chronic pain.

Participants were placed in one of four groups. All four groups started out by getting in the scanner and trying to activate their brains using their own motivation strategies (for example, winning a race) , but first without receiving any feedback. After doing this for several minutes, people in the first group  would try again, but this time would see a thermometer on the computer screen in front of them. When activity in the VTA went up, the bar on the thermometer would rise. When activity in the VTA went down, the thermometer would drop. The other groups either got feedback from a different brain region, got fake feedback, or were shown a visual distraction. These groups were used as comparisons to ensure that it really was the signal from the VTA that was being registered in the neurofeedback group.

The results were published recently in the journal Neuron. It turns out that the strategies people tried initially did not activate their VTAs very much.  In other words, what people thought of as motivating did not match up with activity in what we consider to be the “motivation center” of the brain. How could that be? One possible explanation is that it can be difficult to get a sense of just how motivated we are to do something. Consider times when you might have thought you were highly motivated (“I know I am going to stick to my diet/exercise regimen this year”), and didn’t follow through. Another interpretation is that while we might have some sense of how motivated we are in a given moment, our subjective perceptions might not translate to VTA activation. That’s where the feedback (the rising/falling thermometer visual) came in.

The study did find that people were better able to activate their VTAs, on average, once they got neurofeedback compared to people who got false feedback or no feedback. And the learning stuck—once people knew the strategies that worked for them, they were effective even once the feedback was taken away. Overall, different strategies worked for different people and some people in the control groups were still able to activate their VTAs even without the neurofeedback. The take-home message is that there is still a lot to learn.

Perhaps the biggest unanswered question is: What could result from an ability to better activate one’s VTA? One possibility is that internally generated VTA activation could allow people to have the extra oomph to better meet their goals. So maybe when you need to do errands, but are really not in the mood, you  might think about winning a race and it will give you the drive to go to the grocery store. For others, enhanced VTA activation might be able to help with studying. After all, studies have found VTA activation associated with better memory performance. And given other studies showing VTA signaling being related to eating and mood, it’s possible that it could help people with eating disorders or depression. Time will tell whether this method will be useful clinically, it can be a lot of fun getting to know your brain—and it seems that having fun is one of the keys to activating your VTA.

Bored to Death

boringMany of us are familiar with the old expression, “bored to death,” and usually take it as nothing more than hyperbole. However, a new study has shown that this is more than an overreaction, and an actual possibility. The Mind Scientific American July edition reports that a recent British study examined data collected from civil servants for self reported boredom, and several cardiac risk factors. They were first assessed in the 1970’s looking at different factors, including job satisfaction and boredom. In a follow up in 2010 they found that people were being bored to death. Certainly there were a number of factors that played into these findings such as poor physical fitness, unhealthy diet, and financial stress, but this isn’t the first time that boredom has been linked with undesirable mental and physical conditions.

As parents we have all been told by our children that “this is boring”, or “I’m bored,” and thought nothing of it. Even as students, we have sat in lectures that went on and on and on, and as adults most of us have had that dinner date where we just drum our fingers on our knee quietly and skip dessert. Sometimes boredom may arise from not fully engaging with ones surroundings. Some research suggests that we disengage because of a lapse in focus, meaning the frontal cortex of the brain is out of balance. Recent research suggests that chronic boredom is often linked to depression and often manifests in one of two ways, which are apathetic or agitated boredom. While these are polar reactions, most of us are somewhere in between the two. Boredom is associated with a lack of motivation, and a lack of internal or external stimulation. Think about this, when do you get bored? And more importantly how do you deal with the boredom?

Another thing to consider, is boredom being caused by an external factor, such as brain injury, as many people who have suffered from a brain injury report high levels of boredom. People who have had an intense blow to the head often demonstrate impulsive, risk taking behavior. It is therefore possible to see the correlation as the chronically bored are more likely to use drugs and alcohol, drive recklessly, and practice unsafe sex. The brain region most commonly damaged in a head injury is the orbitofrontal cortex, the region that is responsible for associating events, actions, and decisions with the cognitive and emotional actions. The frontal lobes are also the last part of the brain to develop, and recent research shows that the frontal lobes are not fully developed to the late twenties. So while boredom might not be listed a person’s cause of death on the reports, an idle and restless mind can play a part in risk taking or destructive behavior.

Boredom is more complex that we think. I use to tell my kids, “Only boring people get bored.” Nothing could be further from the truth. To learn more about where the truth lies read the full article that offers many resources for further reading.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=chronic-boredom-may-be-sign-poor-health