As a mental health writer who’s also a depressed human in this world, I’ve been thinking a lot about all the ways I can mitigate the election’s impact on my ability to function. So far, I’ve written about making a self-care plan, managing your mental health on Election Day itself, and planning for a post-election hangover. The advice experts give me has been great. But I know a lot of people, myself included, have a hard time taking great mental health advice.
There are a ton of reasons for this (just ask my therapist!) but at the end of the day, it can just be…hard. Hard to do things even when I know they’re good for me. Hard to ask for help. Hard to feel deserving of the tenderness of self-care. Hard to expend effort and energy during a year when my clinical depression and pandemic depression and election anxiety and burnout and existential dread are all teaming up to form some sort of Suicide Squad from hell. Which is all to say, in all likelihood, I’ll probably spend election night stewing in my misery and stress, scrolling through social media, and largely dealing by myself.
But I’m still going to make an effort to practice some self-care on Election Day, mostly because I promised my therapist I would. I’m just setting the bar really low. Here are some things I’m doing, just in case you also feel overwhelmed with traditional Election Day mental health advice and need some self-care tips that feel more doable.
1. Giving myself permission to be super tuned in.
Listen. I know. I know experts are saying that spending Election Day with your eyes glued to social media will only stress you out more. Believe me, I interviewed them and heard it firsthand. But if I’m being honest with myself, I know I’m not going to be able to look away and I’d rather accept it now than spend all night in a battle of trying and failing with myself.
Luckily, I do have some classic mental health advice on my side here, which is that the word “should” is often a pretty good indicator of a behavior you shouldn’t force yourself to do. When we “should” ourselves—as in, telling ourselves what we think we should do or should feel—we’re often beating ourselves up with judgment, guilt, and unrealistic expectations. And truth be told, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks thinking, “I should cut back on social media for the election” or “I should spend the day doing fun, pleasurable activities that take my mind off things.” But if you know in your heart of hearts that it’s not happening, do yourself the kindness and just drop it from your inner monologue.
2. Going for a walk first thing in the morning.
I have a feeling that my will to make healthy decisions will decline throughout the day, so I figure I could knock out one thing I know is good for my mental health before I can change my mind. For me, that’s getting some fresh air.
For you, it might be something else—meditating, exercising, stretching, making a big nourishing breakfast, journaling, drinking water…you get it. The typical self-care tips. Just pick one thing. And maybe have a backup idea just in case. If I wake up and can’t rally myself to take a walk, I’ve decided that I’ll settle for bringing out the trash and taking my time coming back inside. And short of that, enjoying a whole mug of coffee before opening social media.
3. Half-assing some virtual social connection.
One tip that’s come up again and again from the mental health experts I’ve interviewed is the importance of social support. And, like, I get it. But I’m also gearing up to spend Election Day and whatever follows alone. For one, physically speaking, I live alone. And we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, so I can’t exactly plan to have an Election Day support group. But if I’m being entirely honest, even if that were possible, I’m not sure I would do it. Just like I’m pretty sure I won’t take the advice to connect with friends over Zoom or whatever.