Today is Election Day, and if you’re feeling stressed, worried, anxious, scared, I want you to know that those feelings are valid. I honestly have no perfect solutions for you. And when it comes to anxiety regarding news and the political realities we exist in, I think the solutions are complicated. It’s easy to tell someone to unplug, to look away, to distract. But that shouldn’t be conflated with pulling the wool over one’s eyes. Some people need to channel their anxiety into actionable work; a lot of people with specific privileges should be channeling their feelings productively. Who gets to look away and who doesn’t? Too often, it’s the people who are most negatively impacted by the results of electoral politics who feel like they can’t look away, while wealthy white liberal queers get to engage in uncomplicated “self-care” on tricky days like today.
So please know that when I write this short little post on Election Day anxiety coping mechanisms, I’m writing first and foremost for my personal community of queer people of color as well as the new community I exist in of queer folks who live in “red states” as well as other intersectionally marginalized communities who face voter suppression and who will not be saved by politicians. I am giving you permission to take small breaks for yourself, to take care of yourself, however that might look to you.
If you are wanting to channel your rage, fear, anxiety, or grief into something productive — or if you’re someone with enough privilege that this is what you should be doing — my advice to you would be to participate in something beneficial to your immediate community that exists outside of electoral politics. No matter who wins or loses today, there are mutual aid funds in your community that need money to keep providing services and goods to people who need it. Rather than donating money to big organizations or national movements, focus on the work you can do and support you can give in the actual community you live in. This might require some research, but you can start with Autostraddle’s mutual aid coverage. Worried specifically about how election results could impact access to abortion? Give to an abortion fund in or near your community or sign up to be a clinic escort. I find Instagram to be a good place to find out about local mutual aid movements. It’s also almost time for Trans Santa, the service that allows people to send holiday presents to trans youth anonymously and safely. Make a plan to sign up once applications go live (and maybe even pre-plan to budget for it) or make a cash donation now.
But again, I do think it’s valid if you feel a need to unplug to cope with anxiety — especially if you are anyone in the LGBTQ+ community who is not a wealthy white liberal queer person. It is okay to look away for a moment. If you don’t get a chance to recharge and take care of yourself, you won’t be able to fight anyway. And the ruling class depends on that exhaustion to maintain power.
So how about you take that Twitter app off your phone today? Twitter’s dying anyway. How about you make some rules with yourself about how much news you’re allowed to consume. Does watching the news or watching results come in on social media help or exacerbate your stress? Listen to your cues, and respond accordingly. If the temptation to doomscroll is too vast, then find an accountability partner who’s in a similar boat. Make a pact with a similarly anxious friend to text each other at certain times throughout the day to ask if you’ve logged off. When faced with logging off or lying to a friend, wouldn’t you rather log off?!
Leave your home if you’re able to do so. Maybe meet up with likeminded friends. Don’t be hard on yourself if the conversation starts veering toward the election. Again, totally disengaging is nearly impossible for a lot of people. But it helps to feel like you’re not alone in your feelings, to be able to talk freely about what it is that worries you the most.
It’s likely that many election results will be contested, which means your election-based anxiety could extend into Wednesday and beyond. Make a plan for your week. Plan at least one thing to do that will bring you joy. You shouldn’t feel guilty for that. Minimize screen time if you can. Try reading, which can be used for both functions: Escaping or engaging. You can read a great romance novel to escape or you can read work by revolutionaries, abolitionists, and queer activists. Both choices have their benefits. Figure out the right way forward for you.
I’m not saying I have perfect fixes. It’s possible that no matter what you might feel down today. But I hope you find at least one thing to do — or not do! — to ease the pressure valve. If you need a place to vent or to share the ways you’re coping, feel free to do so here. But also if unplugging really is the right choice for you, don’t make an exception for Autostraddle and actually log off and do what you gotta do!