Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2016, but the message remains the same: Self-care is vital for government employees who serve our country. We’ve updated the story to more accurately reflect today’s circumstances.
It’s not just you. The American Psychological Association said that 68% of American adults are stressed out because of the 2020 election, up from 52% in 2016.
Election season is especially stressful for people who work in government. You’re working extra hard to prepare for a smooth transition of government, if it’s needed. You’re coping with the increased citizen involvement and media attention brought on by the election. If you’re a political appointee or working for one, you’re striving to do your job well, even though your world could change dramatically — regardless of who wins the election.
As a government worker, you’ve got to take care of yourself so you’re able to care for the country. How can you practice self-care to reduce stress during the election season?
A break from election news, rumors, and punditry may be just what you need. Log out of social media, put down the paper, delete the podcasts, silence your phone, and turn off the TV. Once you unplug, you’re likely to discover a refreshing freedom from all the election negativity.
Don’t let unplugging induce a fear of missing out (a psychological state nicknamed FOMO). Election news and updates from your friends and family will be there when you tune back in after your self-care break.
Follow the wise advice of Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle from Parks and Recreation: Treat yo self. Stress-reducing indulgence isn’t necessarily about desserts, drinks, shopping and giving in to your other vices. Besides, hedonistic indulgences chosen in times of stress may not make you feel better.
Instead, indulge in things that are good for you. Take a day off from work. Turn off the alarm and sleep in. See your therapist. Hang out with friends. Go on a trip. Have an experience that becomes a new, happy memory you can cherish through Election Day and beyond.
If you’ve reached your limit this election season, positive escapism can help you cope with stress. A little escapism goes a long way. Avoid destructive escapism like shirking your responsibilities, and don’t overdo escapism so much that you forget to vote.
Read a book that has nothing to do with current-day politics. Binge on a show that takes your mind off partisan bickering. Play video games. Watch sports. Dedicate time each day for meditation. Or, let your mind drift into daydreams.
Stress and creativity do not play well together. Cultivating your creativity can tamp down stress and take your mind off the election.
You don’t need to be an artist to tap into your creative side. Fill the pages of an adult coloring book. Take a dance class. Do a virtual museum tour. Build a fantasy world out of LEGO. Learn to cook a new recipe. Play Pictionary, Charades, Taboo, or other board games.
Cuddling releases hormones that deliver emotional and physical benefits. Human touch can also lessen existential fears, which this election seems to have become for many people. Although COVID-19 has made it challenging to embrace anyone outside of our home, a phone call or video chat can also go a long way.
Feeling powerless is a stressful state of mind. But, there’s great power in taking action. Being productive is an effective way to counteract election-induced burnout.
Maybe you’ve signed up to serve as a poll worker or you plan on volunteering to support elections in your community.
And, of course, the best way to feel better about the elections is to be a voter. If you didn’t vote early, make sure to look up your polling place and have a plan to vote on Election Day.
Lauren Girardin is a marketing and communications consultant, writer, and speaker based in San Francisco. She helps organizations and do-gooders engage their communities and tell their stories. Her website is laurengirardin.com and you can connect with her on Twitter at @girardinl.