Even in a year of huge stressors, where almost every day there’s a breaking news story that can make us feel awful, the arrival of Election Day is like a new level of anxiety. If you’re anything like me, you’re a bundle of nerves right now. It’s hard to think of anything else. Hard to get work done. Hard to sleep. And day by day, hour by hour, as we get closer to hearing the results, the anxiety gets more intense. I thought it would be a perfect moment to refamiliarize ourselves with ways we can lower our stress. Here are four ways to combat Election Day anxiety.
#1 Know What You’re Getting Into
Because of all the mail-in voting this year, it’s highly unlikely we’ll know the results from all the swing states on election night. We might know the results of a few states, but don’t expect CNN to declare the winner before you go to bed. If the election is close, it could take a week or longer to know the results. Plopping down on your couch as soon as you get off work for an evening of results binge-watching is a bad idea. Until real results come in, Election Day coverage is full of anecdotes about long lines and man-on-the-street interviews with voters, which can be interesting but won’t actually tell you much. Then, news anchors will start excitedly discussing results when only 2 percent of votes are counted. None of this will tell you who won, and none of it will help your anxiety.
#2 Plan Ahead
Decide in advance what you’re going to do on election night to avoid the emotional rollercoaster. You’ve got a few options: One, you could turn off the TV, turn off your phone, and have a nice long dinner and bubble bath, and tune out until Wednesday morning when we might have a better idea of how the vote count is going. Two, you could tune out until later in the night. Have dinner, take a long evening stroll, watch a movie, and then turn on the news after most of the polls have closed (9 p.m. Eastern). The third option, which will probably be the most realistic for heavy politics consumers, is to watch about 30 minutes of coverage when the first polls close (7 p.m. Eastern), then switch to a sitcom or fun reality show for 30 minutes. Repeat this process throughout the night. Keep news alerts on your phone turned on, so you’ll know if any major developments happen but otherwise, keep your eyes off your device when you’re in brain-off mode. And remember to choose in advance what fun show you’re going to watch. Picking what to watch can be stressful all on its own. Don’t add to your stress by leaving this decision until the last minute.
#3 Come Prepared
Surround yourself on election night with activities and items that soothe you. If you enjoy cooking, prepare a three-course meal for yourself, or if you’re not much of a cook, order in from your favorite restaurant. Pour yourself a glass of wine or make a fancy mocktail. Light a candle, throw a fluffy throw blanket over the couch, and cuddle up with a warm body (a partner, pet, or best pal will do). Mute the TV during commercials and listen to music. Do whatever you can for your space to feel warm and relaxing.
#4 Get Some Sleep
As I said before, it’s unlikely we’ll have definitive results on Tuesday night, so most likely, you’re going to go to bed feeling a little anxious. There is no better time to practice sleep hygiene than on election night. Thirty minutes to an hour before bed, turn off your TV, power down your phone (or, if that sounds impossible, turn off everything but breaking news alerts), prepare yourself a mug of warm milk or caffeine-free tea, and read a book or listen to music or podcast.
Election Day this year is a marathon, not a sprint. The goal for all of us is to avoid the emotional rollercoaster, not get overly excited about good results or too despondent about bad ones before we have the full picture. Whether you feel like celebrating or crying, you’ll want your loved ones close, even if “close” this year means via Zoom. Remember, whatever happens, you are loved, and you have love to give.