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Election self-care

We are finally here, just a few days away from Election Day. This campaign period has had both disheartening and inspiring moments. It has shown the worst of people (not just the candidates!) but it has also shown what collective action and a sense of community can do to uplift our nation. At this point in time, most people are fatigued from the mudslinging. A lot of us have been exhausted fighting our own family and friends, with some bridges permanently burned. Some, perhaps, have even grown jaded and gave in to despair and are lamenting the results before votes had been cast. Most are overcome by worry and fear about what living in this country would be like depending on the outcome of the election.

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On the other hand, some have found strength and hope in a galvanized youth, something we haven’t seen in a long time. We have seen citizens step away from their keyboards and onto the streets, engaging actively with their community as they go house-to-house. We have seen outreach programs spring up from citizens inspired by their candidates, making sure that campaign promises aren’t just made through words but also through good works.

In the final stretch of the campaign season, it is time to take care of ourselves. We have spent all this time and effort leading up to the elections; it would be a waste to go to the voting precinct burned out and bitter. It would also be a waste if we allow hopelessness and despair to overwhelm us before we vote. If we must grieve and mourn later, depending on the outcome, then so be it. There is no point in premature grief. What we can do, however, is to radically accept what we have control over—our vote and our own actions. If your words and actions during this campaign are something you can be proud of, then trust in the knowledge that you have done your best. Here are some suggestions on what you can do when faced with election anxiety:

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Focus on what you can do. With such a high-stakes election, it makes sense to feel helpless and powerless at times. You might also get easily distracted by what others are saying and doing. Don’t get distracted— focus on what you can do. If all you can do is vote, that is already more than enough. If you’re already engaging in productive conversations with others about who to vote for, continue doing that. Even the little things can make a difference.

Detox from social media. I’ve advised this to quite a number of clients and students who are experiencing election-related stress. If you are getting agitated by troll comments, you can simply stop reading. If you have family and friends in your social media feed who have been spreading disinformation and no amount of interaction will get them to stop or reflect on their actions, muting their posts can be a self-caring act. By this time, you should have gathered most of the information you need to make an informed choice. There is no need to keep up on the latest soundbite anymore. Remove outside noise so that your vote truly comes from you.

Talk to real people. Online interactions can give us a skewed sense of the world. Anonymous interactions can bring out extremes in our character—we can be more cruel, less caring, and more violent online. As we detox from social media, it’s about time we talk to real people, so we can get a different perspective. Having authentic conversations and interactions with real people allows for the possibility of growth and change for both persons. We increase our openness, our tolerance for differences, and develop more empathy. Only in such conversations can we see both differences and similarities in our views, unlike the silos we put ourselves in online.

Remind yourself that your vote is meaningful. The worst thing you can do is to not vote. Even if things feel predetermined or that your vote won’t matter, it is still a meaningful act. You are helping to decide the direction of our nation. It is an act that declares what values and principles you hold dear.

This election has been one of the most contentious and polarizing events we’ve had. Hard lines were drawn and campaigning for your candidate can be exhausting. You have done the difficult work of informing yourself of who are worthy of leading and serving the nation. In the last few days before May 9, prioritize your clarity and peace of mind so that you are at your wisest self when it is your turn to vote.

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