As someone who has always been politically engaged and driven, I will never underestimate the importance of using our voices, bodies, and votes to stand up for our beliefs. But I confess, the 2016 U.S. election is the most vicious one I’ve experienced, and I have been on the campaign trail to get out the vote several times.
Even though I relish political discourse, I share in the fatigue so many people are experiencing. The around-the-clock news and social media cycle, offensive memes, and online harassment used to silence viewpoints have all felt overwhelming. That’s why I’ve created my own process to engage in a healthy way.
In order to avoid burnout during a time where the integrity of the Supreme Court, racial justice, women’s rights, immigration, economic justice, and so much more is at stake, I’m taking care of myself so I can show up and speak up when it counts. You can keep these tips in mind even if you’re not old enough to vote. Your opinions, volunteer efforts, and contributions to your community matter and your energy is worth preserving.
After spending a lot of time documenting what I’ve seen and heard during this election cycle, I realized that I hadn’t taken enough time to process my own feelings.
After I left the Democratic National Convention last week, I spent part of the train ride meditating. I reflected on how I’d experienced the election up to the convention, and how I wanted to experience it moving forward. By taking time to set my intentions about what kinds of engagement felt nourishing and identifying what felt draining, I was rejuvenated and more energized than ever.
No one is entitled to harass or condescend to you for your beliefs. Just because they may feel invigorated by projecting, ’splaining, or otherwise insulting you, doesn’t make them worthy of sucking up your time. It’s up to you of course, but when I feel disrespected, I block, unfollow, and unfriend haters with glee.
Here’s something my former therapist said to me a million times: “You don’t have to show up for every fight you’re invited to.” This is good advice, because it can give you peace of mind and serve as a reminder to conserve your energy for things that matter most to you. We only have so much life force to contribute, so treat your time like your bank account and be mindful of how you spend it.
Release the tension.
If you’re feeling the telltale signs of election-related stress starting to make an orchestral sound in your body, pay attention. Stop what you’re doing. Then breathe deeply and slowly. Make sure you take time to relax your jaw and other muscles throughout your body. And if you can, pet a kitty or pup, take a walk, run, do some yoga, or soak in a bath to release stress. Because no heated political debate on Insta or during your school lunch break is worth feeling like crap.
Staying informed and committing ourselves to civic duty and service is important, but it’s just as crucial to allow ourselves to turn off notifications on our devices to prevent exhaustion. If you’re like me, you might occasionally experience fear of missing out and want to be connected so you can stay well informed. The truth is, the news will still be there waiting for you if you take a break from technology for a while. If we don’t take the time to clear our heads and pause, we might miss out on the introspection quiet can bring. In the wake of contentious rhetoric and constant bullying, we need thoughtfulness more than ever to address the acrimonious behavior it can conjure up.
Remember the long game.
It hurts when the candidates we believe in lose, or do things that disappoint us. But it’s important to have perspective about how each action, and this election in general, fits into a larger narrative for our future. It helps me to remember that even if the worst happens, there will still be opportunities to collaborate with others; use lessons from the past to push for change; and to help make an impact on the local, community, and interpersonal level.
When I feel discouraged, I often think of the Iroquois nation’s model that encourages us to commit our lives to benefit seven generations into the future. When I think of making decisions with the big picture in mind, my perspective about what is possible shifts. Be proactive, and not reactive whenever possible. Sometimes we’re planting seeds that we won’t get to see the fruits of, but the legacy will remain. For example, I think of Harriet Tubman every time I head to the polls because she helped make it possible for my vote to be counted.
Run in your community.
Help transform your school, clubs, or local youth boards by running for elected office. Join organizations like Running Start, a nonpartisan movement that brings young women to politics and helps them access more political power. If you want your voice heard, it’s time to raise it—and there’s resources and a community out there to help support you along the way. I believe in you! ♦
Do you have a question for next month’s Club Thrive? Please email it to [email protected] and include your name/nickname/initials, location, and age.