Political stressKANG KI-HEON
The author is an industry 1 team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
If your mood changes drastically, it becomes difficult to fall asleep. When blood pressure is higher than usual, you either lose or gain weight. You feel uncertain and anxious. These are the symptoms of politically-induced stress that the University of Michigan Medical School published in October 2019.
University of Michigan Prof. Michelle Riba said that these symptoms can be experienced when a person is excessively exposed to political content or when there’s a national issue affecting the entire country. She advised that continuous stress could affect one’s normal lifestyle.
Politically-triggered stress is not an academically verified concept. Related studies began in the United States in 2017, when President Trump was inaugurated. After an increasing number of patients complained of similar symptoms, academics began to look into it. According to a survey published in June by the American Psychological Association, 83 percent of the respondents said that the main cause of stress was worry about the future of the country. It increased by a whopping 17 percent from last year’s 66 percent. The American Psychological Association diagnosed a considerable number of Americans who complained about mental symptoms like depression as well as physical symptoms, like headaches and indigestion due to political stress.
How about Koreans? While there are no related studies, Koreans must feel just as much political stress as Americans, if not more. The unique circumstance of being one of the only divided countries in the world is a notable constant causing political stress. The demolition last month of the inter-Korean liaison office by North Korea was a psychological shock beyond stress.
On top of that, an increasing number of notable politicians took their own lives. As a result, regardless of party affiliation, people are inevitably exposed to political stress. More people complain of stress as economic policies such as income-led growth and soaring real estate prices all turn into political issues.
The University of Michigan proposes five ways to reduce political stress. First, beware of how much content you consume and how much time you spend engaging. Second, be mindful of your surroundings when sharing political opinions. Third, be open to learning about other points of view. Fourth, step away from uncomfortable political conversations. Fifth, self-assess why you consume political content.
If these methods don’t reduce your political stress, there is an extreme yet effective short-cut. “If you step into another world, or until you do, it’s okay to turn it off for a while.” The advertisement by SK Telecom 22 years ago is still valid today.