Your Election Day Survival Guide
Three Strategies to Reduce Stress and Stay Positive Even When You’ve Simply Had Enough
Let’s be fully present today. Let’s share our election experience, not be stunned or outraged or indignant together, but unflinchingly face what happens, what it means about, and for our country.
One Ball For All
We are all feeling it, the stress and anxiety of today’s election. A little bit relieved that it’s finally here, but worried about the outcome and afraid to get our hopes up. We aren’t sure it will really be over today or anytime soon for that matter, or that a decision will resolve anything.
Last night, we watched David Attenborough’s documentary/witness statement on Netflix. It might not seem like an obvious choice for someone already stretched to her anxious edge, but I’ll tell you why I picked it: The U.S. is a big deal, but it’s not the biggest deal.
What happens here matters globally, but there are more pressing threats to our species than who becomes 46. It is a catastrophic time in history that goes way beyond the U.S. election. Sometimes, it helps to see our lives’ insignificance, step away from our entanglements, emotions, and struggles to embrace our humanity, and remember we are in it together.
There is only one world for us humans, one blue ball in space that contains all of us, all of our anxieties, fears, unrest, discontentment, injustice, and (political or otherwise) ambitions — One ball for all of us.
I should have shared these strategies weeks ago; I just didn’t have the heart to face it until I had to. But this morning, I woke up at 4 am and realized, better late than never.
I’ll cite my sources and inspiration from the get-go. They are the must-see and already mentioned David Attenborough documentary on Netflix, Medium writer John Gorman’s essay, Ash Ambirge’s plea, and an Instagram conversation between Oprah and Glennon Doyle.
Three strategies will help us manage today’s stress, the restlessness of the coming weeks, and the slog it will take to turn it all around. They are
Gratitude has saved me, and so many others, so many times. It offers the perspective to endure and instills hope to weather many storms. Life is never as bad as we think, sometimes it’s worse, but there is always something to appreciate even in the worst of times.
“I think we’re lucky to be living when we are, because things are going to get worse.”
— David Attenborough
Today, find a prayer of thanksgiving, a mantra, or a whispered wish that reminds you of how resilient and strong you are. If you are like me, and the 2016 election stunned you, the events that have unfolded since may have continuously and relentlessly triggered you.
When you layer on COVID and behavioral fatigue, it’s no wonder 80% of Americans are concerned about this country’s future.
It’s a weird thing to be living through history. We almost can’t reconcile having to do the things we’ve always done — order groceries, finish homework and feed the fish — with the tragic, terrifying, and unjust situations simultaneously unfolding around us.
Like Katrina, like Nazi Germany, or the wildfires throughout California, there’s an overly simplistic response — why didn’t they leave? — that doesn’t account for the complexities or subtleties of reality.
Glennon Doyle told Oprah a story about a man who protested the Vietnam War every day at the White House by lighting a candle. When a reporter finally asked him what he hoped to accomplish, he replied,
“Oh I don’t do this to change the country. I do this so the country won’t change me.”
— A.J. Muste
Don’t let politics get the best of you. Don’t focus on hate, divisiveness, grandstanding, or winning. We are all stuck in the same shit. Our futures depend on each other.
Whether your team wins or your team loses, it’s still a game. Yes, there are real consequences, yes it matters, yes some politicians are in it for the right reasons, but by and large, politics is sport, and win or lose, life goes on.
That said, 2016 was hard for some, and in 2017 — 2018, it kept getting harder for most, and in 2019 — 2020, there was a tipping point — it became too much for nearly all of us. 80% of Americans are concerned about this country’s future.
But we’re still here, still doing our best, raising our families, caring for our homes, trying to remain healthy, positive, and hopeful, working or pivoting, or making it work to carry on.
It’s hard. It’s so hard. But we can do hard things. That’s what we do. We carry on.
And the hard things aren’t just hard; they’re real; not hype or spin or fake news. They are examples of what it is to be alive. Trust what you know, not in what you are being fed. Be open-hearted and open-minded, honor what you value, and give thanks for being alive, getting another day, and another opportunity to improve the world.
Give others the benefit of the doubt, and give thanks for not being so jaded that you still care about other people.
“When women gather, great things will happen.”
— Leymah Gbowee
When women gather, great things happen. It may be true of some men too, but it’s undeniable for women. Oprah shared a poem about how we can meet the moment today. When women gather, we give what we hope to receive.
“We are called to comfort and strengthen others because the need to comfort and strengthen ourselves is inherent.”
Today, we give space and comfort for healing, coming together, mourning what was lost and what could have been, and we give thanks for what we have and what will be.
It’s killing me, too, not to host everyone I care about today. Not to cook for them all day and shower them with affection and pampering and love. But I can do that for my husband and our children and our dog, and that’s something. It’s not enough, but it’s not insignificant.
And even though we can’t get together with all of our people, we can reach out to our friends and loved ones and be fully present with them in a virtual way.
We can share our election experience, not to be stunned or outraged or indignant together, but take it all in, hold it for a minute, and let go of what we can’t control. We must unflinchingly face what happens today and what it means about and for our country.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
— Melody Beattie
Be grateful for your friends and family, safely gather if you can, keep the conversations and behaviors high-vibe and positive today (and tomorrow), give what you hope to receive, and please, be respectful no matter the outcome.
Looking for the good, seeing goodness in the world isn’t about pretending that things aren’t bad; choosing gratitude is not about ignoring how you feel, sticking your head in the sand, or surrendering. Gratitude is a practice for focusing on what is vital to stay positive, calm, centered, and balanced. It’s like meditation, and it works wonders.
Do what you must do to survive today, process your emotions, live your life, and love your people, but then have some discernment for what is happening in the world.
It’s a mess, and we all have a responsibility to pitch in and clean it up. There is beauty, love, and inspiration out there — the world is full of good people, and goodness abounds — but so much needs our urgent attention too.
Make critical choices. Do your part. Keep doing hard things. Keep rising. Make a difference.
“We are at a unique stage in our history. Never before have we had such an awareness of what we are doing to the planet, and never before have we had the power to do something about that. Surely we all have a responsibility to care for our Blue Planet. The future of humanity and indeed, all life on earth, now depends on us.”
— David Attenborough
Get really clear on your priorities and what you envision for the world. We don’t get the privilege of sitting on the sidelines anymore.
Can you imagine looking back throughout history to discover what was notable about each generation and realizing that our claim to fame was not reversing the planet’s disastrous course? Having more resources and abundance than any other generation and squandering all of our time and money on social media and stuff?
“We have a finite environment — the planet. Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth in a finite environment is either a madman or an economist.”
— David Attenborough
Kim Kardashian got hammered recently for taking her friends and family to a private island for her birthday celebration in which she spared no expense. While people are dying during a pandemic, she felt it appropriate to splurge on a lavish getaway.
I wasn’t surprised that she did it or that the backlash caught her off guard, but I was shocked by how many people came to her defense.
It’s a sign of the times. How many of you, especially entrepreneurs or executives, have noticed a trend in recent podcasts and blog posts defending capitalism or greed with such phrases as “our work is needed more than ever,” “our success fuels others success,” or “when we make money it stimulates the economy”?
I’m not a hater. I am all for empowerment, earning, investing, and innovation. However, when is enough enough? Have some discernment for what is happening in the world.
Is there no one in Kim K’s life that thought to say, hey sis, love you, want the best for you, but let’s postpone the big birthday bash and give a couple mill to the nurses who are fighting covid instead? Or the firefighters who are protecting our homes. Or the pro-bono lawyers still trying rather unsuccessfully to reunite the children that have been stolen from their families at the borders.
And for those of you who argue, she earned it; it’s hers to spend as she wishes. You’re right, but again, have some discernment for what is happening in the world. There are consequences to that pattern, acquiring wealth at all costs, and if you can’t see the link between consumption and excess and the health of our planet, you’re not trying hard enough.
I’m not a hater, but if you are an influencer posting messages each week like “I just had my biggest launch ever,” “I closed my biggest deal ever,” “I’m on target to earn more this year than I ever thought possible,” “What recession?” “What pandemic?” “I’m over here killing it — look at my house and beach house and balance statement” you’re part of the problem.
To you, I’d say, huzzah! Go on with your bad self. But don’t broadcast it when there are 22 million unemployed Americans right now. Read the freaking room. Do your part. Do what you can in proportion to what you have.
“I don’t think whole populations are villainous, but Americans are just extraordinarily unaware of all kinds of things. If you live in the middle of that vast continent, with apparently everything your heart could wish for just because you were born there, then why worry? […] If people lose knowledge, sympathy and understanding of the natural world, they’re going to mistreat it and will not ask their politicians to care for it.”
— David Attenborough
I am not blameless, and I take responsibility for that. I haven’t done my part because I selfishly believed the lie that I’m just one person.
Ash Ambirge explains the fallacy with a metaphor about freezing water and voting. She points out that water doesn’t freeze before 32 degrees, yet, the temperature has to drop each degree to get there, so the other temperatures matter too. If, for instance, 42 doesn’t turn into 41, then 41 can’t fall to 40, and so on. Each degree affects the outcome, even though 32 gets all the glory.
It’s the same for voting; you may be thinking, my vote will just cancel my neighbors, I don’t like either candidate, or whatever reason you rationalize your actions as optional.
“You might not be able to see the effect that your one little vote has, but we can’t get to the tipping point without your participation.”
— Ash Ambirge
We. Can’t. Get. to the tipping point without you. Without your participation, there won’t be change. You are forty-two degrees. We can’t get to 41 or 40 or 39 or 38 or 37 or 36 or 35 or 34 or 33 or freezing without you.
All of the challenges currently facing our planet must be resolved in this way, vote by vote by vote, degree by degree by degree, person by person by person. It’s easy to feel powerless, irrelevant even, when facing so many systemic overwhelming problems, but to deny our role in the chain reaction is unforgivable.
I know, sometimes it feels more straightforward, more productive even, to focus on the challenges at home. That’s denial.
I used to think that if society, government, and leaders weren’t on board, I couldn’t affect the outcome, so I waited for them to lead by example — also denial.
I thought, I have three babies and am building a business, and I’m in over my head, so if I raise great kids and contribute to the economy, it’s enough — still denial.
“The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?”
— David Attenborough
Here’s the litmus: If the thing you are most worried about in the world is if your school is going remote for the remainder of the year, you are in denial.
We can’t be in denial anymore. No matter the outcome today or what happens next, politically or otherwise, we must take personal responsibility to do our part to make the world better.
“I want you to pick a cause or two that’s close to your heart, take inventory of what gifts or skills you have, and then apply those gifts or skills to those causes. I want you to give till it hurts — because it’s going to hurt anyway.”
— John Gorman