The US election just happened. And now, we sit in wait for the results.
Take a deep breath with me now.
Breathe in for 7 seconds.
Breathe out for 7 seconds.
Good, so what’s next?
This election was one of the closest watched in a long time. Maybe you were watching the news anxiously from home. Or maybe you were phone-banking, texting, going door-to-door in the days before. But the voting has happened now and you’re probably still feeling some left-over election anxiety and stress.
Experts have already given it a name, “Election Stress Syndrome.”
You had your voting plan, now let’s talk about your self-care plan:
1. Check-in with your body
With all the focus on the body politic, how is your individual, physical body doing? Step away from your phones, TVs, and computer screens to focus on yourself for a little bit. Have you been drinking water and staying hydrated? If you are a stress eater like me, maybe switch out that election night pizza for some veggies and fruits. Mental health is affected by how were are taking care of our physical body as well, so it’s important that the basics are covered.
Make those doctor appointments that you’ve been neglecting or go get your flu shot. Go for a walk or hike, and get some oxygen into your system. Throw a Zoom dance party with your friends to get the stress out. Studies have shown that exercise is an often neglected aspect of mental health. Aerobic exercises, such as walking, dancing, yoga, can help reduce anxiety and depression.
2. Do some simple tasks while listening to music
Reorganize your closet, wash the dishes, do your laundry—and listen to some music while you’re at it. Doing simple tasks in our lives can provide a sense of purposefulness and a sense of achievement in everyday living. It gives a sense of normalcy that is definitely needed when the last few weeks have been so hectic.
But listening to music on top of that is also good for your mental health. Overall, art and culture, have been shown to have improve mental health. Music, in particular, has shown to have positive effects on dopamine and oxytocin, the “happy” chemicals in your brain. So go ahead and step away from the news, listen to an album from your favorite musician for an hour or two. I promise, politics will still be there when you get back.
3. Reach out to people
It’s easy to want to isolate yourself after the barrage of media, news, and information thrown at you by people over the last several weeks, if not months. But loneliness can also become dangerous. For a lot of people who are feeling anxious or burned-out, it’s good to talk about your feelings.
Think about whose energy you want to be around. Maybe it’s your family members who can gather for some much-needed comfort and relaxation. Maybe it’s a group of friends who you know cared about this election just as much as you did and are already revving up for the next steps. Or maybe you just need an ear to talk to or counseling. There are also hotlines to speak with if you find yourself in a crisis.
4. Get involved
It’s easy to feel like your vote doesn’t really matter in the sea of millions of votes. (Trust me, I know the feeling—I’m from California.) But being politically active is a way to take some power for yourself and feel like the work you are doing is important. Getting involved in an organization, a political cause, or a volunteer group can help you feel like you are controlling some part of the process. It will also put you around people who are working toward change.
Or on a smaller scale, but equally important: Do an act of kindness each day. There have been studies that show acts of kindness can do wonders for our mental health. It helps us feel part of the community, tightens social bonds, and releases “happy” chemicals into our brains. So write a letter to your friends and let them know how much they matter to you. Write a review for a local business that is struggling with the pandemic. Help an elderly neighbor or friend do an errand. Volunteer at an animal shelter or organization.
Ultimately, remember that you can be a force for good and, in order to be that, you have to take care of yourself.
There is always more to keep fighting for. There always will be.
So take a breath, replenish yourself, and stay hopeful.
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