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Trump, nation reach end of exhausting first year

The White House and nation are ending an exhausting first year of the Trump presidency.

From Inauguration Day on, Trump’s year has been one filled with unprecedented drama, record ratings, high tensions and hundreds of tweets.

It’s a year that has proceeded at a breakneck pace, with one controversy leading to another, from fights over the size of the crowd at his inauguration to firing ex-FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyWray says FBI not systemically racist John Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Trump DOJ officials sought to block search of Giuliani records: report MORE and describing some nations sending immigrants to the United States as “shithole countries.”

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In the process, Trump has redefined traditional views of what a news cycle is, turned the White House press briefings into must-see television and dominated conversations not just on cable news, but in the worlds of sports and entertainment.

The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests Trump and the media-fueled battles around him are literally stressing the country out.

It found that the most common stressor cited by Americans in 2017 was “the future of our nation.” It outpaced the usual leader, money.

People who watch the news rarely get a break from stories about Trump, a sign that cable news continues to get eyeballs by broadcasting about the president.

The APA suggested the coverage is almost addictive.

A whopping 95 percent of respondents in the APA study said they follow the news regularly, even though more than half said it causes them greater stress.

Social media users are more likely to report stress than people who do not use the platforms.

“There is absolutely something going on that we are tapping into that is connected to what’s happening right now,” said Vaile Wright, a licensed psychologist and the APA’s director of research and special projects.

Stress levels spiked just before Trump’s inauguration last January, but people were more likely to report in August symptoms like headaches, stomach aches and difficulty sleeping.

“Over the past year, people have just sort of gotten used to the new normal,” said Wright. “But when you dig down and ask them specifics, you start seeing how people are being impacted.”

Wright said it’s not just Trump’s words and actions that are causing stress, but also media coverage that a significant number of respondents said is blown "out of proportion."

Some companies are changing the way they do business because of the constant churn of news about Trump.

Life Time Fitness, a major chain of gyms, announced this month it will remove national cable news networks, including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, from its large-screen TVs.

The company says the decision is not just because of the last year.

The decision was based on “many member requests received over time—meaning years and years, not solely in the past year, months or weeks—and is in keeping with our overall healthy way of life philosophy,” Natalie Bushaw, a company spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

“We believe that polarizing, politically charged content and opinions are not news and, ultimately, not healthy in our environments,” she added.

Many experts agree it’s healthy for people to limit their exposure to the news, but some also warn there are dangers to tuning out entirely.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say they are trying to avoid news about Trump, about the White House, about Washington,” said David Feldman, a professor of counseling psychology at Santa Clara University. “They have turned off the notifications on their news apps because they feel when they get the news on their phone about Trump it is simply frustrating to them.”

Feldman said he is “constantly amazed at the sheer number of controversial statements and seemingly offensive things that Trump says and does,” but added that “if people really do develop over time a sense of learned helplessness about politics, that’s really bad for a participatory democracy.”

Trump supporters say they’re willing to tolerate, and in many cases celebrate, the political maelstrom, especially since the president is checking items off his agenda.

The president ended a tumultuous 2017 by signing a sweeping tax cut into law, an achievement long sought by the Republican Party. He had also earned plaudits from conservatives for implementing stricter immigration enforcement measures, loosening environmental regulations and naming judges to the federal bench at a fast clip.

“I don't think any administration has ever done ... what we've accomplished in its first year, which isn't quite finished yet,” Trump said a Cabinet meeting last week. “You never know what's going to happen over the next few days.”

Those achievements are often overshadowed by Trump’s bombastic statements and personal feuds — which can also be exhausting for his staff.

“Watching staff from afar trying to deal with that Twitter handle is like watching an undersized person trying to wrangle an out-of-control fire hose,” said one former White House official.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Burnout and exhaustion are common among staff in every White House, where the hours are long, the duties can be large and the pay can be low.

“Burning the candle at both ends is a certainty at the White House, particularly in a 24-hour news cycle, no matter who is president,” the former official said. “Can’t say they’re any more tired than would be normal.”

For those Americans feeling stressed by what’s going on inside Trump World, a few lifestyle changes could go a long way, according to Leigh Weingus, an editor at the online wellness publication Mindbodygreen.

Weingus recommended choosing specific times to consume news instead of reading all day, a little yoga and more sleep.

“Sleep is crucial to mental health, and a good night's sleep helps you get a fresh perspective on a stressful, exhausting situation,” she said.