GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Most Americans agree: no matter your political leanings, this has been an election season like no other. Non-stop messages bombard us through the 24 hour news cycle and social media provides a constant stream of passionate opinions. At times we want to shut if off or shut it out.
Emotions are running high as the election draws near, for candidates and voters alike. That can be draining or worse.
"My experience is that people are way more upset than they have been in previous elections," said Dr. Jared Skillings, the chief of behavioral medicine and psychologist at Spectrum Health.
Skillings says worrying over politics alone doesn't lead to a mental disorder, but it can very well make you feel crummy and upset. In fact, undirected anger can cause drowsiness and headaches, and even interfere with relationships.
If that's happening to you, Dr. Skillings says don't worry, because there are ways to deal with political stress.
Strong viewpoints certainly can upset people, especially when they disagree. Dr. Skillings says it's important to avoid viewing relationships through a political lens. "I’ve actually known several people through Facebook or their social media who have cut people out of their lives because they’re frustrated and they really prefer the other candidate," Dr. Skillings said. "Frankly, that's not a good idea. Changing your relationships isn’t a good idea when talking about politics."
If you're one of those who gets bent out of shape over what you hear on TV or read on Facebook, Skillings recommends turning it off or logging off, and maybe taking a walk.
"One of the important things to do is to not focus on politics all the time," Dr. Skillings said. "Learn enough information to decide how to vote, and then after that it’s really too much."
Skillings adds that it's important to accept that others view things in different ways. "Even if you think you dislike something, the more you’re exposed to it the more you’re likely to actually have positive feelings when they do research and check this out," Dr. Skillings said.
If you still don't like what you hear, Dr. Skillings tells patients to channel your emotions into something positive: take action, advocate for the party you think should be in charge.
"It’s very important for people to pay attention to the things we have control of," he said. "In order to not be so bent out of shape or get upset over this political season is just recognize is we can’t control any of that. The only thing we can control is how much we watch of it and what our own reactions to it are."
A few other tips from Skillings include watching what you say in front of your kids because they learn from how you act and treat others.
Also, if you're sick of seeing those political ads on TV, Dr. Skillings suggests you record your favorite shows and watch them later so you can fast forward through political commercials.