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If you’re feeling a bit worn down from the dramatics and mental strains that 2020 dished out, you’re not alone. Here are a few ways to go about processing and preserving your mental health, particularly amid the perpetual political firestorm that has shown little sign of slowing down any time soon.

Unique challenges to mental health in 2020

2020 was a challenging year, to say the least. The coronavirus arrived early on and set the tone for the long months that followed. Worrying about a virus was already bad enough. However, quarantines and shut-downs complicated matters by adding an extra layer of economic stress to everyone’s lives.

Lack of social interactions also threw an unexpected curveball. It doesn’t matter if you’re an extrovert or the most introverted individual on the planet. The feeling that hugging or even touching someone is wrong was a surefire way to pile onto the mounting emotional turmoil.

Then, as if adding insult to injury, the country had to deal with one of the most divisive elections in recent memory. Toxicity ran high and hatred was traded as a currency like never before. The political turbulence both leading up to and following the election very much lined up with a plethora of adages. It was the “match in the powder keg,” “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” the “bridge too far.” The fear of getting into a politically-charged altercation — while still social distancing and scraping together enough cash to pay the bills — was too much.

Here’s the thing. Through all of this, physical safety has been fairly well-addressed thanks to things like social distancing and mask-wearing protocols. However, as always, mental health has been left in the dust.

Fortunately, humans are a resilient lot, and it doesn’t take much to rekindle that spark of hope. With that in mind, here are a few of the most actionable and practical ways to restore and protect your mental health going forward. 

Use information to create opinions, not the other way around

Opinions can make for a great conversation, but the truth is, if someone is giving you their opinion, it should never be presented as fact. And yet, opinions were constantly trumpeted as fact throughout this past election cycle. Everyone was getting in on the opinionated firefight.

The takeaway from this painfully impressionistic manner of communication has to be a return to the facts.

Make no mistake, it can be challenging sorting through the plethora of opinionated information out there in search of those “gold nuggets” of truth. However, as the stress and strain of varying opinions mount, remember that you can always find solace by researching good, solid information. This can be anything from professionally-backed environmental reports and academic studies to brushing up on the details behind your right to vote.

By equipping yourself with knowledge, you’ll be less easily swayed by the emotional arguments that you hear every day. Instead, you’ll be able to receive each opinion with grace as you sort the wheat from the chaff and look for the value that each point of view holds.

Establish political independence

No, this isn’t a reference to the Founding Fathers or the Declaration of Independence or even a third-party candidate. This is about individual autonomy. In other words, you need to be able to disconnect from politics from time to time to reset your mind.

Some of this can be accomplished through basic unplugging behavior. Turning off notifications, deleting news apps, and even powering down your phone can help you restore a sense of calm at times. As far as long-term mental health goes, try to become as truly self-sufficient as possible. This doesn’t mean you have to live off the grid or anything. However, you can focus on concepts like: 
  • Frugality and going back to basics.
  • Growing and storing your own food.
  • Learning new life skills.
  • Reusing and repurposing your belongings.
  • Syncing up your habits and activities with the seasons.
By recentering your life around a sustainable and natural mindset you can establish an independent lifestyle that can be a haven from the political madness. 

Hate has no place in politics

As you form political opinions, remember that hate should never be an option. Disagreement? Sure. Debate? Absolutely. But hate should never have a place in the equation. John Lewis covered this one nicely when he stated, “Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won.”

A society that can learn to communicate in love can govern itself with a sense of unity and agreement, even when its members disagree on the issues. That’s it for this one. It’s as simple as that. In the words of the great, late Stan Lee, “Nuff said.”

Protecting Your Mind Takes Mental Strength

As with most things in life, it takes an effort to stay mentally healthy. If you want to protect your mind, you can’t casually count on external stability to do so. Stress is going to happen. Anxiety is going to gnaw at you. Emotional instability will take place at times.

When that happens, particularly in the arena of politics, it’s important to have mental health safeguards in place. Focus on information rather than opinions. Develop your own independent sustainability to fall back on. Avoid hate like the plague. If you can center yourself on these concepts, you’ll be able to not only survive but thrive, even in the midst of the political turmoil that surrounds us every day.