Living in a democracy during a presidential election year can be energizing, engaging and uplifting. This election year will hopefully give us moments of excitement, determination, inspiration and joy. However, given the current political climate in the United States, it is guaranteed that we are also going to witness some contentiousness, ugliness and discouragement along the way. Whether or not you decide to get directly involved with the elections, it’s going to be more important than ever to take good care of yourself. Here are 20 tips to get you started.
Stick with the basics.
1. Fiercely focus on your health. Get enough sleep. Eat well. Drink water. Relax. Rest. Exercise. Floss. Maintain your core health practices.
Make your life a priority.
2. Live your life. Sounds silly to have to say this, right? Well, it’s easy to forget when elections and political turmoil are all around us. Whether it’s school, family, work, friends, community involvement, volunteering, your health, a big goal, a little project or anything else, keep focused on what is most important to you.
3. Enjoy your life. Make time for fun, play, relaxation and joy.If you already have favorite ways to do that, great. If not, explore new possibilities. Sing, hike, read, swim, bake, kayak, take a walk, talk to a friend, learn something new, write, spend time with a pet, do puzzles, go to a class or do anything else that may help you enjoy your life.
Control your news intake.
4. Unplug. When it gets to be too much, stop watching or listening to the news for a while –an hour, a day, a week or longer. If the news is causing you anxiety or having a strong negative impact on you, give yourself a break. You have nothing to prove and “staying informed” at the expense of your mental or physical health is detrimental.
5. Set limits on social media. Is social media (or even email or texts) interfering with your sense of well-being? Then it’s time to set limits. For example, no screen time beginning an hour before bedtime. Quit reading comments about online articles. Stay off social media until after breakfast. Change Facebook settings. Limit visits to inflammatory websites. Turn off your phone. Find websites that uplift rather than wear you down.
6. Beware of bias, lies and misinformation. It creeps in and can influence us when we least expect it. It’s easy to get worn down or confused in the midst of a relentless stream of misinformation, distorted information or lies. Take bold steps to limit or end your exposure to it. If that’s impossible, at least name it, e.g. “lie from biased news source” or “fear mongering,” and then turn your attention and energy elsewhere as fast as possible.
Be aware of and manage your emotions.
7. Breathe. When emotionally triggered by what you are hearing, reading or feeling, use your breath to calm yourself and reduce stress. Take a few deep or slow breaths, learn other simple breathing techniques or practice a more formal kind of meditation.
8. Get support from trusted friends. Ask someone you trust to listen to you without interruption for a few minutes so you don’t have to be alone with your feelings. Or ask a trusted friend whether the two of you can take turns listening to each other.
9. Let yourself have feelings. What unfolds in 2020 is bound to bring up strong emotions in most of us. Sometimes the best thing to do is to set aside time to feel the sadness, anger, joy, grief, fear or whatever we are feeling at the time. Make sure you are in a private safe space when you do so. (Crying or raging in a shower can sometimes be useful, for example.)
10. Get professional help. Sometimes politics triggers deep and overwhelming feelings in us. Almost in the blink of an eye, something that’s happening hundreds or thousands of miles away can send millions of us into panic, fury, sadness, hopelessness or frustration. Often we can eventually pull ourselves out of intense feelings on our own but sometimes not. Some people may benefit from the help of a counselor, life coach or other professional. There’s no shame in reaching out for help. You deserve support.
Be kind and compassionate.
11. Be kind and compassionate to yourself and others. When there is tension, meanness or nastiness around us, one of the very best antidotes is kindness and compassion. Find ways to be kind and compassionate to yourself. Extend all the caring to yourself that you would give to your dearest of friends. Every single day we also have opportunities to be kind and compassionate to ourselves and others.
Set boundaries again and again.
12. Walk away if necessary. Whether it’s a political gathering or a one-on-one interaction, if it gets too tense or upsetting, excuse yourself and walk away. Recently I attended a political. Although I completely agreed with the event focus, I had an intense and scary physical reaction to something a speaker was saying and quickly moved away from the crowd to calm myself. It’s alright to get some distance.
13. Don’t take the bait. Candidates, causes and political parties are going to do everything they can to convince you to help them. Give freely of your time, money and energy when it’s what you truly want to do. However, one strategy of political campaigns may include appealing to your fear, desperation or guilt. You don’t have to swallow that bait. For example, learn to delete emails at a rapid rate, get off list serves, unsubscribe, unfriend, whatever it takes to take care of yourself. Remember that you can also take a pause – hours, days or longer – before you decide what you whether to give to a particular cause.
14. Set limits with others. Each of us has a different capacity to listen to others vent or talk about politics. Our tolerance for listening can change from day to day or moment to moment. When necessary, set boundaries with family and friends, even those with whom you usually agree. For example, you can say, “I’m happy to listen to you talk about this but only for 5 minutes” or “I know your thoughts and feelings are important but I’m having a difficult time with this myself and can’t listen to you right now.” Having a get-together with friends? You have the option of declaring your party a “politics-free zone.” Does your partner love to listen to news shows and you hate them? Negotiate household rules, e.g. wearing earphones, watching TV with the volume down in another room or whatever it takes to respect each person’s needs.
Get involved… or not.
15. Be an activist. Increase your sense of power and make a difference by being politically involved. Work in collaboration with others on behalf of a candidate or a cause. There are scores of ways to help including: make phone calls, write a letter, put up a flyer, forward an email, tweet, blog, donate, show up, organize, attend an event, bake brownies for other activists, create art, teach, encourage leaders, or talk with others about important issues. If you want to be a social activist, now is your time!
16. Don’t get involved. If you know it’s not going to be healthy for you, give yourself permission to keep your distance from political involvement and not feel guilty. However, make sure you vote! Self-care does not mean being an ostrich with one’s head in the sand when it comes to what is most important.
17. Volunteer. Get involved with some program, cause or organization that is completely unrelated to the election and politics. There are a million ways to make a difference in this world.
Nurture important relationships.
18. Put relationships first. Spend time with people who nourish you, encourage you or mean the most to you. Don’t take them for granted. Elections will come and go but important relationships with friends and family will endure way beyond 2020. Be intentional about staying close to the people who are most important to you.
19. Refuse to be enemies. Are there people on the other side of the political divide whom you care about? You have the option to let them know that, even though you disagree about some issues, you do not want 2020 politics to irreparably harm your relationship. Talk with them now about how to stay connected, challenging though it may be. Don’t wait until there’s a blow up.
20. The last idea for treating yourself with kindness and respect in 2020 is the one you will identify. You know yourself best and will discover what you need to remain mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy. Trust your own thinking and take great care of yourself!
© Judy Brodkey, Live Fully Coaching, Judy@livefullycoaching.com, www.livefullycoaching.com