Staying on top of politics is a new priority in many people’s lives. You’re likely getting more news alerts, reading more news articles, and watching more news clips than ever before. And though it’s true that today’s political climate is troubling for all people, this trend in paying attention to current events is really nothing new for the rest of the world. While many Americans may be just now starting to care deeply about politics, in some places, especially third-world countries, it has been the forefront for centuries.
How do the people who live in these places deal with all this strife? They know that politics can’t drive one’s life.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t care about what’s going on or refuse to be informed, but the key to keeping yourself going in times like these is to limit your emotional involvement with day-to-day political happenings. If you find yourself reading or watching the news and notice an emotional reaction in yourself or your family is becoming divided by differing opinions, the best approach is to respond mindfully.
Here are three coping strategies that you can use when it all just seems like too much.
1. Consider Humanity vs. Politics
The simplest way to rise above political stress and conflict is to ask yourself: Am I a human being or am I a political being?
The answer, of course, is that you’re human. That means that in order to go beyond what’s happening in the news, you need to connect to your humanity first and foremost. By its very nature, politics is divisive. Throughout history, it’s always been “us” against “them.” Humanity, on the other hand, stands for something different—the things that unite us all despite our beliefs: compassion, support, and survival.
When you focus on your humanity first and go beyond politics, you’ll find that you begin to see people who support a certain ideology that is not aligned with yours more as humans and less as members of an an opposing party. Focus on what you have in common—your human nature—and you’ll see that you’ll start define people less by what they believe and more by who they are.
2. Use the 5 Essential Elements of Humanity to Connect With Others
In the absolute worst political scenarios, where people are imprisoned, killed, and stripped of the traits that usually define them, there are five things that nobody can take away from those who are persecuted—the essential elements of their humanity. Creativity, the ability to connect with nature, memories of the past, spirituality, and survival instincts are elements all people have in common and have unique ownership of.
That means that not only are these elements of your humanness great ways to remove yourself from the political day-to-day, but they’re also wonderful ways to connect with others, regardless of your respective ideals. In moments when you’re personally overwhelmed, try doing something creative. If you’re struggling to connect with a family member or friend whose thought patterns don’t line up with yours, go for a scenic walk and reminisce about the best memories you’ve made together. These are things no one can take away from you, no political conflict can taint, and they have nothing to do with current events.
Related: A Meditation for Unity
3. Take the News With a Grain of Salt
It can’t be ignored that much of how we think about what’s happening in the world is dictated by the news. No matter which media outlets you subscribe to or how fair and balanced they are, you’re inevitably reading an account of events through someone else’s lens. This isn’t right or wrong, just a reality. For that reason, it’s crucial to look at the news you consume with awareness and a healthy dose of skepticism. Instead of blindly believing everything you hear or see, take a moment to consider how it fits in with your worldview and what the motives behind it could be. Between all the social new media channels available, we have more tools than ever to reach out to each other. Let’s focus more on joining together than ruminating on our divisions.