The world of politics feels very divisive at the moment, and that can play havoc with our mental health: a few thoughts on ways to deal with it all.

Hello and a very warm welcome to Mental Health & Wellbeing Matters, our part of the Film Stories site where we talk about, as you’ve probably guessed, mental health and wellbeing. If you’ve not read one of these pieces before, it’s a place where we write about things that may be affecting you, us, or people around us. Just a few thoughts on how to deal with modern life too.

We work on simple rules: not every article we run is going to be of use to everyone, but hopefully across this series, there’s something that’s of use to you. And also, comments are very welcome, and appreciated.

This week, we’re talking politics. Because I figured that’d cheer everyone up!

It’s not so much what your politics are, or how you feel about the world. Heaven knows there’re enough sites if that’s what you’re after. But instead a few thoughts on how to deal with the helplessness that surrounds watching modern politics. After all, in the UK and US, it’s been an era of particularly divisive leaders in recent years, and vehement feelings on each side of political debates. Sometimes it feels like it’s no longer enough to pick a side. You also seem to have to hate the other side too.

What I struggled with for a while though was opening up a news page every day, and being hit with a bunch of headlines that made me feel miserable as sin. And that feeling: what could I do? How could I affect anything? What power do us on our side of the fence actually have, aside from an election every few years? I couldn’t come up with useful answers. I still can’t really. Instead, appreciating I wasn’t going to stand for office (and I’ve genuinely got a lot of admiration for most people who do), I found ways to co-exist a little.

I came up with a small way of dealing with it all, and hopefully there’s something here that may be of use to someone.

Firstly, I limited the amount of news I allowed myself to look at. If my head was starting to close in a bit, I just zoned out of it for a few days and didn’t look. Even if I did look, I restricted myself to just one or two outlets, cutting out the extreme ones, and cutting out the doomscrolling. Modern politics and modern news means there’s an outlet that caters to most, writing a version and a slant on a story that caters to most too. I went through a phase of reading the same story across lots and lots of sites. I don’t do that now. My head is better for it.

I also didn’t go hunting for news stories. I stopped thinking ‘I wonder what’s happened in American politics today, I should look’, and I was none the worse for it.

Also, small thing: I make sure I’m registered to vote, and I vote. Small thing, but I think it matters.

Thirdly, I try my best not to post much politics on my social media channels. It’s not that I’m not interested – I absolutely am – I just try not to comment on everything. I have to be careful how much brainspace I allow it. I’ve long concluded my energies are best spent with smaller things where I can make some kind of difference than engaging in a discourse that makes me feel unhappy, and where I’m not doing anything of use.

Fourthly, I’ve realised that politics and politicians – again, no matter which side you fall on – may affect my life, but I have some control over how much I let them into my head. I’ve put the drawbridge up a little there, and it’s helped.

None of this is perfect. You’re likely to have better ideas. But these are things that help my head a little, and I hope they might help yours.

This column returns next week. You all stay safe and take care.

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