5 ways to take care of yourself during a contentious election

Whether you live in the United States or not, you’re probably going to be holding your breath in the coming days and weeks to see how the national elections shake out. There is a lot at stake, particularly for anyone who isn’t a cisgender, heterosexual, abled, white man, or for anyone who doesn’t want to die in a pandemic.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s easy to be consumed by anxiety. It’s easy to lose hope.

This queer witch is here to help with some tips for the coming weeks. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the freedom to simply take the month off work and live in a blanket fort with a plentiful supply of pizza rolls and campy movies. But there are some things we can do to make our lives a bit easier.

1. Pace yourself

It’s important to stay informed and engaged. Try not to do it all at once. A burned-out activist isn’t as powerful as one who takes time to recharge. Budget your news and social media intake each day. Most phones let you set timers on daily use of specific apps. Take one action a day to make a difference, whether that’s calling or writing to an elected official, donating to a cause, or helping support someone having a rough time.

2. Take breaks

This is a marathon, not a sprint. Take breaks where you can: breaks from nonstop productivity, breaks from being indoors, breaks from your phone and the Internet. If you struggle to stop doomscrolling, try installing an app like Forest, which lets you set blocks of time where you can’t use certain apps (you can pick which ones), while a little virtual tree grows. Eventually, you can save up enough points to plant a real tree in the world.

You can also try meditating, if that isn’t already part of your regular practice. I recommend using an app to train in meditation techniques, like Headspace, Calm, or Insight Timer.

A drawing of a blue bird that says "I meditate mostly for a 15 minute break from this ongoing shitshow."
Credit: The Mincing Mockingbird.

I really get a lot of benefit from yin yoga, which is a meditative, very gentle yoga practice focused on gently releasing muscle tension. You can find lots of free routines on YouTube. I like Yoga by Kassandra’s videos in particular.

3. Get a check-in buddy

Find a friend you can do a quick check-in with every day. The check-in should consist of a brief, “How are you REALLY?” followed by three things you’re grateful for that day. I recommend using the app Marco Polo, so you can record this as a quick video and watch each other’s videos when you have time.

4. Plan some low-key, fun things to look forward to

Remember that blanket fort and pizza rolls idea? Even if you can’t do that for a month, can you set aside an evening for something like that? How about a hike somewhere you’ve wanted to go? Jackbox Games with friends on Zoom? Maybe a weekend at an isolated AirBnb that has good COVID protection protocols? Buy yourself a LEGO or DIY kit to build something fun? We may not know what the future holds, but having a couple of activities on the calendar can give you something positive to focus on.

5. Do benevolent mischief

Honestly, this is the kind of thing that’s been giving me a huge mental boost during the pandemic. I like plotting scheming surprising my friends with nice things. For Beltane, my partner and I made little candy baskets and ran around to some friends’ houses to drop them off and wave at them from a safe, masked distance. I randomly gifted a bottle of wine for a friend who spent a lot of time protesting for Black Lives Matter. This summer, I started buying fun postcards on Etsy and spending time each month mailing a bunch of them to various friends. I sent a big box of brownies to my niece who just went back to campus for school, and to a relative who had a rough breakup.

What’s something unexpected (yet safe, and consensual) you could do to make a friend smile? The holidays are coming up, of course, so gift money may be dedicated to that, but handwritten letters and postcards go a long way, as do text messages with kind words.

We’re going to get through this

No matter what happens, the fight isn’t over. There is much more work to do to expand access to healthcare, protect immigrants and refugees, secure trans rights, and end police brutality against Black people. Keep that fire in your belly and keep hope alive. A lot of magic is belief and Will. Believe in your power to make a difference, and exercise your Will to improve the world.

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