How To Emotionally Prepare For The 2020 Election
Today marks two months until the 2020 election.
It feels like we’re holding our breath. No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, it’s fair to say we’re all exhausted by the constant chatter and the daily, if not hourly, headlines. It seems impossible to keep up.
Yet we are asked to show up, to listen and learn, to check facts and scrutinize rhetoric, and then to make informed and educated decisions about the current and future direction of our country. We’re not only voting for the president, either; we’re voting for the leaders and laws that govern our cities and neighborhoods. There is so much at stake come November. Hear me when I say we must stay engaged and vote.
But there is something else that is essential during this season too, and that is our mental and emotional wellbeing. While there are many political issues on the table that must not be ignored, we cannot forget about our need for rest and energy conservation. Effective political engagement goes hand-in-hand with emotional self-care.
Below are a few suggestions for how to balance this, an offering if you will. You can mold these tips to fit your needs and lifestyle. Remember, this isn’t to say we shouldn’t get fiery and passionate about the election—by all means, get fired up. But there are practices we can embrace to help keep us calm in the wake of this season.
May we take our mental wellbeing as seriously as the election itself. In doing so, we will get through this. Together.
Leading Up to the Election
1. Create a daily news routine
If you think the news has been overwhelming thus far in 2020, welcome to election season. From political memes on social media to 24-hour candidate coverage, the news is sure to be more exhausting in the coming weeks, which is why a plan for consumption can be beneficial.
Rather than watching or listening to coverage at random throughout your day, create a time block for catching up. This can be in the morning as you prepare for the day or in the evening as you wind down—whatever works best for your schedule.
Select your news sources beforehand so that you’re not bouncing around on the TV or scrolling Twitter mindlessly. Find a few outlets you trust (these are the most reliable ones), and balance them with two or three sources that offer alternating opinions. And always fact-check.
Lastly, spend a few minutes checking the polls and candidates’ social media feeds to see what they’re up to. Then, turn it off. Absorbing constant news is not helpful, especially when the content is simply being regurgitated.
2. Have a self-care plan in place for difficult conversations
The more involved you are with this election, the more likely you will disagree with family members or friends. Difficult conversations are inevitable; the important thing is that we know how to take care of ourselves in the aftermath.
I recommend using a breathing app after engaging in these kinds of dialogues or getting outside for a walk and fresh air. Don’t bottle up your emotions or shame yourself for getting worked up—it’s okay to experience tears and anger. Rather than suppressing your feelings, nurture them. Breathe. Drink a glass of water. Allow yourself to rest.
Remember that these conversations are necessary, especially when we have privilege; the sidelines are not an option when it comes to politics. But yelling matches are hardly productive, and they can actually be harmful to our emotional health.
When having these conversations with others, know your points and practice active listening. If the conversation begins to feel combative, consider bowing out or stepping away so that everyone can regain composure. Healthy dialogue can definitely be passionate, but progress rarely stems from divisive arguments, which is why these boundaries are so important.
3. Set boundaries with social media
Dare I say it? Social media might be a bit of a dumpster fire over the next 60 days. Between political fatigue, screen burnout, and long-winded op-eds on Facebook, it’s not the best place for engagement or for nurturing our mental health.
Like with creating a daily news routine, consider setting some boundaries for social media during this season. Personally, I’ve deleted Twitter from my phone and instead check-in for a few minutes each morning from my desktop.
If you wish to engage with others, consider sharing useful facts and links to articles instead of opinion posts. While social media can serve us in many ways, our time may be better spent investing in real-life conversations and credible resources.
On Election Day
1. Start the day with self-care
On the day of the election, start it with a moment of gratitude and self-care. This may look like journaling, a short meditation, or a morning walk. Election Day can feel cumbersome and stressful, so it’s even more important to put a self-care plan in place.
2. Set boundaries with family & friends
When it comes to politics, I come from a divided family. I also have friends with varying political stances. While we all love each other dearly, it’s best to limit our communication on election day. Having these boundaries means offering one another the space to celebrate, mourn, and process feelings as needed.
There are numerous opportunities to dialogue with those who hold differing views before November 3, as noted above. But come election day, it’s best to channel that energy into your vote, your in-person circle, and your emotional wellbeing.
3. Allow yourself to feel what you feel
Woof. The results are in. As there are numerous politicians and propositions on the ballot, we can expect to feel many emotions, from joy to grief to exhaustion. It’s all to be expected, and these feelings are valid. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to embrace these emotions and then move them through and out of our bodies. Tears, exercise, creative projects, and fresh air can all help with this.
After the Election
1. Give yourself room to process
In the days post-election, we’re all going to have a lot to process. The news cycles won’t end; they might even ramp up as this presidential election is expected to be one of the most dividing in US history. We can’t go into November knowing what will happen, but we can control how we respond.
Be kind and carve out more space for self-care than usual. Consider taking time away from the news and social media. It is okay to take a break, to retreat to nature, and to spend a few days crying or celebrating virtually with friends. To avoid political fatigue and to keep fighting for the causes we care about, we must allow ourselves moments to step away and breathe.
In caring for yourself, also consider marginalized groups and how their feelings towards voting results may differ from your own, and think about the best ways to support them in their processing. May we be soft with ourselves and others in the days and weeks that follow November 3, remembering that while we are all humans and experiencing waves of emotions, politics and the outcome of elections affect people differently.
2. Get back to work
The most important thing we can do post-election is to stay engaged and to hold our leaders accountable. Even if your party won or the votes went the way you hoped, it’s up to us to ensure that legislation is passed and promised policies are fulfilled. Election day is not the ending, it’s the beginning.
May we embrace our self-care practices to keep us emotionally balanced—and then get back to work.
How are you preparing for the upcoming election? 🗳️ Share in the comments below!
Kayti Christian (she/her) is an Editor at The Good Trade. Growing up beneath the evergreens in the Sierra Nevadas, she returns to California after a decade split between states—including three years lived abroad. With an MA in Nonfiction Writing, she’s passionate about storytelling and fantastic content, especially as it relates to mental health, feminism, and sexuality. When not in-studio, she’s camping, reading memoir, or advocating for the Oxford comma.