Self-Care: Election Day & Beyond
This has been a tough year and there are a number of sociopolitical issues riding on this election. To label it as “stressful” would be a gross understatement. As we collectively hold our breath and wait for the results, it is important to recognize the toll that this election has, and will have, on all of us. Because the feeling of dread and anxiety is likely to extend beyond Tuesday, self-care is paramount in surviving election season and the end of the year. Here are a few fundamental self-care strategies for tonight and beyond:
1. Listen to your body
Your body will tell you what you need more of and what you need to cut back on. If you’re feeling drained, exhausted, irritable, or at a breaking point, it might be time to rest or retreat to recharge. Make sure you’re sleeping enough hours, taking breaks, and doing enjoyable things.
Listening to your body will also clue you in on which of the following strategies you need most and to what extent it would be helpful to apply them.
2. Be mindful of what you eat and drink
We can all relate to reaching for a pint of ice cream, pizza, or alcohol when we’re going through something. This election in particular will be emotionally difficult for many of us and the urge to avoid or quiet heavy emotions is likely to come up full force. It is important to remember that what we eat and drink has a significant impact on our mental and emotional well-being. Using food and alcohol (or drugs) to cope over the next few days could result in a worsened emotional state and could even make it more difficult to cope. Instead, opt for fresh and healthy alternatives. If processed foods and alcohol are already a part of how you plan to cope with the election, you might consider limiting the amount you consume or eating them more mindfully so that it takes less of them to fulfill your cravings.
3. Monitor your media consumption
Tapping into the first point, listen to your body to inform whether you should lean into media coverage of the election or take a step back. If you’re feeling oversaturated and overwhelmed, it might be time to cut back on coverage. Remember to turn off app notifications (or turn your phone off all together), and to discuss your limits and needs with family or roommates who might have other needs. Plan your “checkpoints” for when you want to check media coverage and go directly to a few trusted sources rather than scrolling through a newsfeed where you have less control over what will pop up.
On the other hand, part of your self-care plan might be to stay up-to-date and informed. If so, take a moment to reflect on your limits for media consumption and how you might know when you’re nearing them (e.g., feeling hopeless, overwhelmed, angry, etc.). Continue to plan for rest and self-care as high amounts of media consumption can eventually take a toll.
4. Create a distraction plan
Tuning out election coverage can be particularly difficult. If you have decided to take a break or avoid it all together, plan to also actively engage in uplifting and distracting strategies. This might include reading your favorite book, watching comedies or binging your favorite show (streaming instead of live TV), playing board games, taking your dog for a walk, funny cat videos, catching up on sleep, or cooking an elaborate meal. Whatever activity you choose, just remember that social media is not your friend when it comes to election distraction.
5. Seek support
This is another tip where listening to your needs is important—you may need to be around supportive people or on the other hand, you may need to spend time alone with your thoughts and emotions. Seeking support and being in community can be really healing, particularly if the outcome of the election jeopardizes your safety, well-being, or rights. It is important to be around others who will understand what you are going through and can provide support. You’ll feel less alone and safer—after all, there is more safety in numbers.
You may have an impulse to withdraw and may be feeling like you have enough to carry without having to show up for others. And that’s okay, just make sure to reach out for support and community as you need them. So, take a moment to check in with yourself regarding the amount of time you need around others, if any.
6. Channel emotions into a cause
The outcome of the election could leave you feeling a number of things including shock, frustration, indignation, hopelessness, fear, and anger. Overall, you might be feeling like everything around you is out of control. Channeling your emotions into a movement or cause (e.g., Black Lives Matter, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, The LGBT National Help Center, Planned Parenthood) can help you feel like you’re making a difference, which in turn helps to regain a sense of control. Being around like-minded individuals and in community can also instill hope and offer you connection and support. All emotions move us toward action, and channeling these can be a great way to contribute to something larger than yourself and avoiding despair.
7. Safety planning
Regardless of the outcome, it is probable that violence against marginalized communities will spike in the days to follow. It is also expected that protesters will take to the streets after the election is decided, which is likely to result in violence over an extended period of time. It may be helpful to put together a safety plan sooner rather than later, as your mental and emotional resources will become depleted as things become increasingly heated. Plan for having enough groceries, medication, cash, transportation and a full tank of gas, an escape route, emergency or alternative shelter, emergency contacts, and easy access to important documents and legal resources. Hoping for the best but preparing for the worst can offer you some reassurance and a sense of control during these unpredictable times.
8. Take it easy
The election and the accompanying feelings will take up a significant part, if not all, of your mental and emotional bandwidth. What little you may have to give is likely to go toward caring for yourself, your loved ones, and basic obligations. You’re carrying a lot, so go easy on yourself and postpone anything that isn’t completely necessary right now. Consider if things like difficult conversations, important presentations, or stressful events can be rescheduled. If you are able to, taking time off of work can help reduce the strain on your bandwidth and give you a chance to rest and engage in self-care.
Overall, it is important to remember that this election will be more of a marathon than a sprint due to all of the factors impacting the final tallying of the results. Consequently, the anxiety, fear, and uncertainty that you’re feeling might last beyond November 3rd, so remember to pace yourself and check in with yourself frequently. Your body is wise and it will tell you what it needs.
We need you to be well, whether this all lasts four days or four years.
This blog post from Restorative Counseling & Wellness, LLC is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical or psychological advice, and it is not a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have.