Keep Calm and Vote On: How to Stay Sane on an Insane Election Day

Tips for dealing with election stress. Image via Shutterstock

By Page Leggett

November 2, 2020

No matter who your candidate of choice is, you’re likely to be anxious and preoccupied on Election Day. Here are several things you can do to help make it through Tuesday.

The summer solstice may be the longest day of the year, but in 2020, that distinction should go to Tuesday, Nov. 3. No matter who your candidate of choice is, you’re likely to be anxious and preoccupied on Election Day, simultaneously watching the news and trying to avoid the news while probably not being your most productive. 

Jeanne Safer, Ph.D., a New York-based psychotherapist, said this election feels do-or-die because politics has become central to our identities. “That’s why it feels so important to all of us for ‘our’ side to win,” she told COURIER. 

Safer—who wrote I Love You, But I Hate Your Politics, a book on maintaining relationships across a political divide—said it’s important to remember we are more than our politics. 

We’re already a nation divided. And a nation suffering through a plague. Our leaders may not always model civility, but each of us can.

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Still, there are those of us who can’t stop ruminating over a pandemic that has killed more than 231,000 of our fellow citizens because the president didn’t want to “alarm us.” 

With the president’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic hovering in the air, coupled with threats of voter suppression and intimidation at the polls, Election Day may be, to put it mildly, stressful. 

Here are several things you can do to help make it through Tuesday: 

  • Vote. The most important thing you can do on Nov. 3 is vote, if you haven’t already. The ups and downs of Election Day (and Night) will feel less bumpy if you’ve done your part. 
  • Try to make it a regular day. There’s no such thing as a normal day anymore. But attempt to make Tuesday seem like any other day in this manic, messed-up year. Maintain routines. Eat a good breakfast and stay hydrated. Exercise. Just as a watched pot never boils, a watched TV or phone doesn’t yield a faster final verdict. 
  • Remember that the other side isn’t all evil. “The idea that everyone on the other side is demonic is ridiculous. There are plenty of demonic people on our side, too,” Safer said with a laugh. I’m a moderate Democrat, and I recognize there are lots of Democrats who aren’t admirable. We have come to think of politics as defining moral character. It doesn’t.” 
  • Avoid arguments. “You can’t talk about everything with everybody,” Safer said. “Some things are going to be off-limits, even with those you love.” Nov. 3 is not the day to get into political disagreements with anyone and everyone. It’s OK—advisable, even—to keep your lips sealed that day in the interest of self-care. Even if you have to bite your tongue.
  • Meditate.  Ten Percent Happier—a mindfulness app—launched a 2020 Election Sanity Guide that includes free guided meditations to help ease anxiety.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises. JaNaé Taylor, a counselor in Virginia Beach, Virginia, recommends something called the “4-7-8 Breath”: Inhale for a count of four seconds, hold the breath for seven, and exhale for a count of eight seconds. “The idea is that that helps reoxygenate your blood, but it also takes you out of a fight-or-flight response, which is sometimes what we feel when we’re getting really anxious,’’ Taylor told USA Today. “It calms us down and slows us down. And people can do it in the (voting) line.’’
  • Steer clear of partisan news shows and websites. You know which ones they are. Make sure you stick with reputable news sources today— and every day, really—as partisan cable news networks and websites thrive off polarization rather than ensuring their audience is well-informed. As California psychologist Diana Concannon told Men’s Health: “Information is one proven antidote to anxiety.” 
  • Tune out for a while. Do something utterly mindless, and don’t feel guilty about it. Watch “Brady Bunch” reruns. Rearrange your underwear drawer. Read a magazine that won’t mention politics. Take a bubble bath. Bake. Your brain deserves a break today—give it one.
  • Let it go. The election is beyond your control. Remind yourself of that. Other people’s viewpoints are, too. You’re not going to change someone else’s mind, no matter how persuasive you think you are. (And certainly not on the last day of voting.) 

READ MORE: The Holidays Are Coming and Nothing Feels Normal. Here Are Six Tips to Cope.


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