By Janita Hendricks
Election stress is not uncommon and is something most Americans can relate to. However, this year is drastically different. We are officially 11 months into the year 2020 and roughly eight of those months have been spent surviving a worldwide pandemic. Give yourself a pat on the back – you’ve been tried in more ways than one, and yet, you’ve readjusted and kept going. That’s commendable.
While the particulars of each pandemic experience has and will continue to vary, we can all agree that as a collective, it has been challenging. Whether it’s working from home obstacles, virtual learning, not seeing loved ones, etc. Or more traumatic events like watching the graphic assaults and murders of black people and witnessing the steady destruction of the first amendment. Not to mention that this may be the first time many people have realized just how detrimental it can be living under subpar leadership, especially as it pertains to the handling of COVID-19. If you’re reading this, there’s a high chance that you or someone you care about has experienced the very worst of this virus – from the loss of possessions or income to the loss of loved ones.
While some may have the luxury of only being concerned with politics every four years, others are alway thinking of the different ways politics and the policies that are produced can be at the root of our oppression. Most cannot afford to ignore politics and not participate in some way, shape or form. The next few weeks will likely feel like uncharted territory and regardless of the outcome, this will be an emotionally taxing time for a plethora of reasons. Some want this election to be over simply because they’re sick of hearing and seeing posts about politics – there’s a certain dose of privilege riddled in that logic. For many people, the next few weeks could heighten very real threats to physical safety and mental security. It’s urgent to know where your Peace is. Know where you can retreat, physically or mentally, to stabilize and realign yourself. You have done your part and voted – it’s above you now.
Here are some tips to help you get through the post-election weeks.
Be Patient With Yourself
We are quickly approaching the winter months, which means seasonal depression is making a comeback. Seasonal affective depression (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. It’s getting dark before 5:30 P.M. and we’re still in the middle of a pandemic – it’s understandable that your moods may be up and down during this time and you may not be able to pinpoint the issue. This year has been unpredictable at best. Give yourself the same love and grace you so often extend to others.
Limit Social Media
While social media can be an extremely useful tool, it can be full of triggers. Triggers are external events or circumstances that may produce very uncomfortable emotional or psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety, panic, discouragement, despair, or negative self-talk. It’s up to you to acknowledge the type of media you consume on a daily basis and in what ways you may need to readjust. Acknowledge how certain pages, threads, or networks make you feel and then act accordingly. Turn off notifications and make an effort to be mindful of your interactions vs. mindless scrolling. Avoid topics you know are sure to get you worked up if you are not in the mental space to deal with it. In more extreme cases, you may need to delete apps until further notice. There’s no shame in shutting off the voices of the outside world and tapping into your own inner voice if that’s what you need. There’s beauty in the silence.
Connect With Friends
The anticipation of this election will manifest differently across groups. Check on your friends! A major revelation from this pandemic is just how important human interaction is. Don’t be afraid to call that friend you may need to catch up with or a loved one you simply enjoy talking to. If you’re more of a texter, it may be worth it to try out a Facetime this time around. As the great Kendrick Lamar once said: “Communication saves relations.”
Know your Coping Methods
Ask yourself what typically makes you feel better when you’re stressed or anxious. Some people find relief in a journal while others unwind with a funny movie. Self-care doesn’t look the same for everyone, but it is important to tap into the different sources of your peace and joy. If you’re not sure, take time to figure it out. Make a list of five things that bring you comfort and focus on prioritizing at least three things on your list. This list may contain mental or tangible items. Dig deep and put yourself first! Do not abandon yourself during this time.
Mental Health Day
Give yourself permission to take a day that’s dedicated to you! Run those errands you’ve been putting off for work. Curl up on your couch and finish that book you put back on the shelf last month. Go for a quick run around the neighborhood and take the kids! Or just throw away your checklists, rest, and go with the flow of your day. The best thing about a mental health day is you get to do whatever your heart desires – it’s about you.
This year hasn’t been easy and so much is still uncertain, but that doesn’t have to equal defeat. At some point, you have to pour energy into the things you can control – keeping your mental health at the forefront is one of those things. Regardless of the outcome of this election, there is still an immense amount of work that needs to be done and it’s a shared responsibility amongst us all. Get plugged into the community. Stay informed without overwhelming your senses, carve time out for you and your loved ones, and continue to find joy in the simple things.