The process of electing a president takes a toll on our emotional wellbeing, no doubt about it. We are constantly being spun; the illusion of objective reporting of the news is gone. Social media provide moment-to-moment updates on opinion polling in the swing states, the rhetoric is murky, and advocacy groups no longer seem to get any sleep at all. Our friends are getting testy, and eating habits are getting stranger. How to get through the next 6 weeks, with our wits intact? Please share.
Tuning it out does not seem to be an option. We might miss something. Somehow, our information addiction has grown to match the capability of our electronic devices. Pundits are skilled at creating a sense of urgency; the outcomes of elections do have serious consequences, after all.
In the midst of this, a little peace would be welcome, so that we are able to arrive at work with matching shoes on, and without succumbing to road rage; it would be great if we could maintain civil discourse on Facebook, and keep our desktop in some sort of order. We would rather not lose our minds over every provocative remark from now until election day.
How do we take care of this? Maintaining an oasis of sanity in the midst of a culture of frenzied competition requires discipline. We protect ourselves from emotional overload and provocation, by having good boundaries. Care of spirit requires an alternate source of nourishment than the newsfeed, compelling as it may be. The bigger challenge still, is to live peacefully while in the midst political turmoil, because realistically, if you are awake in America in an election year, it doesn’t go away.
Deeply invested in the outcome, it is easy to be hooked on breaking news. News is always breaking, though. Be aware of your anxiety level, and tend it as you go. Stress can be stimulating, even intoxicating. Notice your limit for consumption of political news, before it you drown in it. Know how to pause creatively.
Maintaining of politically discordant relationships during the season of political frenzy is challenging. The practice of separating our feelings for a person from our feelings about that person’s viewpoint, requires care, patience, and adult beverages. Hurtful words said in the heat of a political season can leave wounds. Be alert to intuitions that it is time to walk away. Honor people who matter to you, without accepting pressure to honor their views, or expecting it in return. That must be earned.
We must all find balance. We need a way to manage our own frustration with the unreasonable things people sometimes say, while not necessarily tolerating the foolishness itself. Mindfulness involves noticing your response to online banter: noticing when the ambience does not feel like respectful, if animated, sharing, and it has become toxic. Detoxify. Remember what is a reliable source of wisdom, or sensory pleasure, or humor. Have a cup of tea. Listen to Mozart. Take time out to care for your spirit, before deciding whether to respond. What is it that you hope for?
Political argument can be healthy. However, if it becomes unproductive, good boundaries are essential. We can calmly refuse to respond to deliberate provocation. People regress emotionally when they are upset. People who lack the resources to argue effectively for their positions, can become resentful and personal in their attack. Fixing their inner demons is not your responsibility. Withdrawing from incoherent rage is not a sign of weakness. Protect your peace.
The time of not knowing is always difficult, mixing hope and anxiety. Somebody always wins elections, and somebody loses. There is often little tolerance for ambiguity, for seeing any good in the views of political adversaries, and often, little grace. We struggle when good ideas are overlooked, and negative or misleading messages give delight to people who get on our nerves. People on opposing political sides somehow forget that they were once friends, and hopefully will be again. Political allies turn to one another for support and understanding that might never, under other circumstances, be offered. For a little while, like a hurricane, politics takes over, and we risk losing ourselves. The season of gradual healing, and restoring community, will hopefully follow.
Remain sane by remembering who you are, your passions and your commitments, your kindnesses and your quirks. Behind our partisan personas, our souls wait. We continue to crave nurture, and community. Take care of yourself, this election season.