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Y'all-itics podcast: How you can navigate family, politics - and anxiety - this holiday season

Mental health expert provides tips for coping with political talk over the holidays and how to minimize the stress.

DALLAS — There are just some things we can’t avoid over the holidays.

Family. Food. Adding a couple of pounds.

And these days?


And that’s leading to another unavoidable holiday guest: political stress.

Brianda Diaz de Leon is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with Thriveworks in Arlington, Texas. She says more and more of her clients bring up politics during their sessions together. Some even want to divert attention away from their actual goals to dedicate entire sessions to their political anxiety.

“I have students that have a difficult time studying. They have a difficult time while they're taking their tests,” Diaz de Leon said on Y’all-itics this week. “I have people that are just spending hours and hours scrolling through social media or researching these things and so they'll see that it's like one, two in the morning and they're just down this deep hole and are completely dysregulated and feeling anxious.”

You might have even heard of phrases such as “political stress syndrome.”

While descriptive, Diaz de Leon says such a label can allow some folks to mask their symptoms and claim they’re OK when they’re not.

“Although that’s very helpful, I think sometimes when we put a label like that on it, we have the tendency to think of it in really extreme measures and say, oh, I’m definitely not experiencing that,” she told us. “But I don’t know that I agree with just using that term because I think a lot of us are experiencing stress.”

And she says that stress is affecting many more folks these days – even people who may not admit it – because the current political climate is rife with a number of polarizing and triggering subjects, from abortion rights to religious freedom to racial politics.

And all of that can stress us out, especially during the holidays.

Listen to the full episode here:

Things have changed so much politically, Diaz de Leon says some of her clients are turning the tables and are now even asking her about her political opinions.

“I am very curious to know why they’re wanting to know that information. And depending on how our session is going and definitely what the purpose is, what their purpose is, and knowing my stance, then I’ll decide how much to disclose and not disclose,” said Diaz de Leon.

So, before you head off to that holiday gathering where you’re dreading possible political talk, Diaz de Leon has some advice.

One of her first suggestions to her clients is to limit their social media intake. The 24-hour news cycle and access to information can lead to an anxiety loop that’s difficult to escape.

Diaz de Leon also recommends setting clear boundaries. Maybe some topics are off limits. Or you’re prepared to end a conversation when it is no longer productive.

And finally, she says it’s okay to put yourself first in some situations.

“I definitely encourage them to prioritize taking care of themselves, right? So, I think having these conversations is so super important, but we also have to be mindful of when we have them,” Diaz de Leon told us. “So, the holidays for a lot of us are already very, like, emotionally ten times, right? So, maybe being mindful of are there some topics that maybe we won't discuss?”

Be sure to listen to this episode of Y’all-itics, and keep it close during the holidays in case you need another listen to make it through that holiday meal stress free! Cheers!

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