Note: This piece is for anyone who is facing the prospect of a long, drawn out, and ugly election fight. I don’t care what country you’re in, or which party you support (or if you are a conscientious objector who supports no one). This isn’t about partisanship. It’s about surviving the coming misery with your sanity intact.
Election cycles are rough, and not just for the participants. Those of us on the sidelines are faced with months and months of nastiness, mudslinging, and outright cruelty on all sides. It will be the dominant topic of conversation, especially on social media. Family fights will break out and friendships can be destroyed when disagreements turn into grudge matches. It’s enough to make you want to dig a bunker in your backyard and wait it out.
Last night was the first Democratic debate. While I didn’t watch it live, catching up with it through the news this morning reminded me: The next year and a half is going to be hell and I need a plan to deal with it. Let me repeat that: We have a year and a half to put up with this crap. That’s a long exposure to a lot of negativity and I’m going to do all I can to dial it down. Way down. No one needs that much negativity and toxicity in their life. (And that’s on top of all the toxicity we’ve already been ingesting since the last election. It’s a wonder any of us are still sane.)
Since moving to another country (or outer space) isn’t an option, I’m coming up with other ideas. Hopefully some of them will help you keep your sanity, as well.
Don’t talk about it with anyone. Ever. I don’t care how much you want to rant and rave about politics, the best course of action is to shut up. Nothing good comes from talking about your political leanings with friends, family, or co-workers, particularly if you know they’re on the opposite side. It’s like talking about religion, sex, or money. Just don’t do it. Keep it all to yourself. Otherwise, you’re risking your relationships. My plan is to not utter one word about it until it’s over. And probably not even then.
Limit access to social media and the news. God knows I don’t need to know every detail of every debate. Neither do I need to know every move these people make, or every false accusation made. I should be able to glean enough information to remain informed by catching up on the news only once per week. That way, the exaggerations and untruths have a chance to settle out and I can stay off the roller coaster of lies. To some extent, anyway. And since I’m not much on social media to begin with, it’s easy for me to stay away from that cesspool, too.
Write more. I’m a writer, so this is my defense. Turtle down into my fictional worlds and live there for a while. If you’re not a writer, there are probably other creative worlds you can live in. Make music or art, build something, make your crafts, work on a car, or do whatever you have to do to create a sane space untouched by this nonsense.
Read more. I read a ton as it is, but I’ll read more. And while I normally read a lot of non-fiction, I plan to read more fiction for the duration. It’s the same principle as above. I’m going to live in worlds untouched by the negativity of our election cycle.
Find some escapist television. I’m not a huge TV watcher, but I’m going to look into finding some engaging shows. It’s cheap entertainment for those days my brain isn’t up to much more. Plus, having pre-selected shows removes the temptation to mindlessly channel surf through the rage-o-vision of regular TV.
Engage in more hobbies. All those hobbies and activities I put off saying, “I’d like to try that someday?” Yeah, now is the time. No matter how bad I am at something, it can’t be worse than tuning into politics. Plus, I’m going to double down on my existing hobbies and put more time into board games and Lego.
Volunteer. It’s something I should have done long ago, but I’m going to volunteer for an organization I care deeply about. (Not related in any way to politics.) It will get me out of the house, away from the news, and surround me with some very cool people. And yes, I plan to keep it up after the election. Like I said, I should have done it long ago but entropy is a thing. At least the election serves one good purpose: Giving me the motivation to finally do it.
Get outside. There are no political candidates or talking heads outside. (Unless you’re going to protests, in which case, more power to you, I guess.) Outside there are birds and animals, insects, weather, and lovely vistas. I don’t get outside nearly enough (nature hates me), but this year I’m going to try harder. What’s the worst that can happen? Nature kills me and I miss the election? I’m not sure it’s a bad trade off, frankly.
(Photo by Elliott Stallion)