It’s election day 2020. The early voting numbers have shown record-breaking numbers of people voting early. However, you decided to wait for the last minute, good old fashion procrastinator. You are searching for the location where you are to vote. You found the precinct and place of where to vote. The most important question is not where, but how to vote. No, who to vote for, but how to survive election day and the morning after. It does not matter who you voted for; the morning after and the day of election can be a very stressful day. In such a polarizing political environment where tempers run high and empathy seem to be in short supply, we must look at how to go through election day in an emotionally healthy fashion.
What to do election day before voting? I suggest you make plans early and give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your polling place. Before you leave, you may want to look at the ballot you will be provided and the instructions. Reviewing the ballot will make the process faster for you and others. It is known that preparing for something in advance can reduced anxiety. If you are prone to anxiety, preparing ahead of time will be helpful. The best time to go to the polls with fewer people is not at peak times. Peak times are before work, lunchtime, and after work hours. Therefore, plan to go either between 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM or 1:00 to 5:00 PM. The earlier you go, the better.
What to do after you vote? You might be tempted to spend the day watching the headlines or have the TV on the news all day long. If you want to reduced stress, I suggest you minimize the time you spend watching the news. You may want to do all your work and essential tasks before you allow yourself time to see the election results.
Practice mindfulness: Today is a good day to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment, the here and now, with all your senses. Be grateful for today and the blessings you have. Focus on the moment at work or at home that has nothing to do with the election.
Prepare for either possibility: there is no doubt when all the votes are cast when everything is said and done, a significant number of people will be happy, and another significant number of people will not. It may be that the person you voted for did not win, and it can be disappointing if not heartbreaking depending on your investment in the candidate and how you see things. My advice for preparing is to know that it is a distinct possibility that your candidate may not win. When I say prepared for this is not to be dreading the results but to be open to the possibility, so it is not earth-shattering.
Acceptance is the way to go: Often, we struggle with the lack of acceptance of the things that are out of our control, ignoring those under our control. To have an accurate perception of our current reality, we must accept it for what it is. Awareness of our everyday experience by focusing on the present moment without judgment allows us to be fully present and engaged. Therefore, acceptance enables you to be open to whatever happens, opening yourself to the moment’s reality for what it is and not what you wish it were. The most significant barrier to this acceptance is our expectations. Our expectations have been shattered, and we believe that only negative can come from the opposite result of our expectations. Seldom in life, black and white thinking is correct. Regardless of who wins the election, both positive and negative impacts will come. Some things will be under their control; many others will be out of their control. We have the wrong notion that the one we vote for will have the best results for our lives and the other the worst. The reality is we have more control over our personal lives than whoever wins the election.
A word about control: The more control we need, the more afraid and distraught we will be with the election results if it is not what we expected. Allow yourself to feel your feelings. Feelings are just those feelings. You don’t need to anything about them. Thoughts are only that, thoughts, accept them for what they are, and let them past. Focus on what you can control.
Please don’t focus on the negative: It will be very tempting to wallow in pity and negativity but avoid it the best you can. Instead of gathering with other people to bask in the negativity, try to be around people who will focus on the silver lining of the situation and are able to keep perspective. Use thought-stopping techniques to keep you from spiraling into negativity. Look for a new outlook on the current situation that is positive to focus on it.
Those on the winning side: if you are on the winning side, be empathetic and compassionate. Focus on the positive things that unite you with those who have different political views on a personal level. Please resist the temptation to rub it in. Remember, they are friends and family that you love despite your differences.
Watch the results the day after, if you can. Instead, go to bed early and rest. When you are relaxed, the morning after the election, see what happened to the election—waiting to see the results may help you not be on pins and needles all day long.
Regardless of what happens this election, remember, Care for your mind!