How To Maintain Your Mental Health While Staying Politically Active

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I was in a cab back to my apartment in New York City on the night that protests erupted in airports across the country against the immigration ban when my driver suddenly asked me what I thought of Donald Trump. To make a long story short, he and I then spent that cab ride bonding over being children of immigrants as well as commiserating over feeling inundated by the state of the world.

"It's like every day is just bad news," he said.

And we don't seem to be alone in that feeling. In an ideal world, staying informed about what’s going on in the news wouldn’t have to feel exhausting.

But between keeping up with the news pouring in nearly every day about measures put forth by Trump’s administration (as well as the people he's nominating for cabinet and supreme court positions) and keeping track of the many subsequent protests and calls to action, you might find yourself on your phone at 2 a.m., scrolling through Twitter, wondering if you’ll ever feel joy again.

And if you're pleased with the results of the election and support the actions the new administration has been taking, I imagine you're likely dealing with an onslaught of worried posts from your more liberal friends and juggling the right way to voice your opinion.
In the eternal words of Solange, “Man, this shit is draining.”

If you're feeling some form of fatigue from the news, trust: You're not the only one.

“It’s important to take action and do something that reflects your values,” Samantha Boardman, MD, a psychiatrist and founder of Positive Prescription, tells Refinery29. “The flip side of that is the toll that it can take on you physically and emotionally.”

Farha Abbasi, MD, a staff psychiatrist at Michigan State University and the managing editor of the Journal of Muslim Mental Health, says that she’s seen a huge increase in numbers of people feeling more anxiety about what's happening in the world.

“With the new laws and the immigration ban, there are students that are directly impacted, or their family and friends are being affected,” she tells us. The anxiety, she says, seems to be especially felt amongst minorities who may no longer feel that there is a space for them in the new political agenda.

“The quality of being American is being defined so strictly that a lot of minorities feel excluded,” she said. “Even people who are conservative and believe in the [new] policies were still worried whether there is still a place for minorities in this rhetoric.”

And even if you’re not directly impacted by any of the new laws, Alice Boyes, PhD, author of The Anxiety Toolkit, explained that there’s still a general air of uncertainty that’s causing people to feel helpless.

“There’s just some uncertainty, and uncertainty is one of the things that’s so anxiety-provoking,” she tells us.

If you care about social issues and justice, Dr. Boyes says, it can be especially difficult to reconcile your exhaustion with your desire to help. "If you’re someone who takes a lot of responsibility, and who feels a responsibility to protect other people from harm, you need to try to keep a balance," she tells us.

“I think we’re underestimating the toll of the anxiety that this is giving us,” Dr. Boardman adds. “You can be an informed person, but not be consumed by it.”

Balance is, of course, the key — but that’s easier said than done. That’s why we spoke to a few experts to get their insight on how you can stay woke without burning out.