Ways to look after your mental health at times of political uncertainty

Political uncertainty can negatively affect our mental health.

Fortunately, there are many things we can do to try to minimise the effect that events outside our control can have on how we feel.

Here are some top tips:

Stay informed, but be aware of your limits

  • Consider how much information and news you take in and reflect on how it’s affecting you. Try to accept that with global and national events there are things that are out of our control.
  • It may be a good idea to mute or turn off news notifications on your smartphone, or limit your news intake to reading a morning paper or watching the evening news.
  • Alternatively, if a specific topic comes up that you feel strongly about, you could post it on social media. But think first and avoid ranting, and don’t rise to the bait of others using abusive language, or be tempted into this yourself. Don’t get upset if people don’t agree with your point of view. Remember that not everything you may read or hear is necessarily true.

Engage with your community in a meaningful way

  • If you feel that political uncertainty is affecting your community, see if you can be meaningfully involved with local grassroots or community groups working on issues that are important to you.
  • We know that helping others is good for your mental health. For example, if you are concerned about the impact on homeless people or asylum seekers, consider volunteering at a food bank. You may want to seek the views of your local MP who represents you in Parliament or see if any local events have been organised where topics you're interested in are being discussed.

Empower your voice

  • Regardless of where you stand on issues, you may feel powerless if you have opinions but remain distant
  • Focus on what you’ve got in common. You could join a political party if you feel this could amplify your voice, or you could also explore ways to be engaged in a political community.
    • For example, you could take part in a peaceful organised rally, attend hustings or join relevant events or debates online or in person. Or you could write a letter to your local paper or online community forums.
  • You also don’t have to join a political party but could explore ways to be engaged in a political community. Civic and political activism may make you feel more empowered and give you an avenue to express your thoughts in a constructive way.

Invest in what’s common between people and don’t overestimate differences

  • It is healthy to have friends, colleagues and family who have a range of different political opinions. It can be a great thing to spend time with others with a range of views, as it can help us to keep an open mind and to understand where other people are coming from.
  • If a topic comes up that you disagree with, try to avoid aggressive discussion and, instead, focus on active listening, respectful discussion and assertive communication. If a comment upsets you, take a break, pause the conversation and come back when you feel ready. There may be things that you can agree on. But if you don’t agree, don’t be abusive to your friends and family or about the politicians involved. Remember that everyone should be treated with respect and listen to others’ opinions.

Don’t bottle it up

  • If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t suppress your feelings. Get some support: talk to a friend, or family member or make an appointment to see your GP. There are also telephone helplines that provide vital emotional support during stressful times. Contact Samaritans if you need someone to talk to.
  • If you are stressed about your long-term status at work because of the result of trade negotiations as part of Brexit, changes in immigration rules and other arrangements or discussions about your company moving staff from the UK, then talk to your HR colleagues to seek assurances and advice. Contact your employer’s Employee Assistance Programme, if there is one, for psychological support.

Look after your mental health

  • Remember to keep allocating time to things, activities and actions that are good for your mental health
  • What works will be different for each person, although we know that good quality sleep is important for everyone’s mental health.
  • Other examples are exercising, eating healthy foods, avoiding alcohol, spending quality time with friends and taking a break to spend time on a hobby. All of these will make you feel better and take your mind off the stress of the news cycle.

Talk to children

  • Research shows that scary news is also likely to affect your children. Notice how your children are exposed to news and whether their behaviour has changed (for example, are they getting easily irritated or are having nightmares?)
  • Have an honest discussion with them.
  • Be truthful, give them facts and allow plenty of time for questions. It’s always best to wait for the next question, rather than racing ahead and giving them too much information all at once. Sometimes they won’t need as much as you might want yourself. Remember that small doses of real-time news are helpful, but over-exposure is not. Read Talking to your children about scary world news.
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