11 Tips to Get Through Election Season with Your Sanity Intact

Heading into election season, determined to stay sane

Today I bring you a public service announcement due to the fact that election season is heating right up in the US.

Even if you’re more mindful than ever about what gets into your headspace, you can feel the pressure. It’s becoming harder to ignore and harder to avoid with each passing week and day and moment.

The bizarro, disappointing, and confusing candidates, new things to argue over, new scandals to distract us, new ways to blame fellow humans for things caused by our plentiful supply of greedy, power-focused “representatives,” and new problems to worry us… it’s always a shit show, and it always gets to us, no matter how much we brace ourself.

If we’re not pro-actively looking out for our health, you’ll be a pile of shaky nerves by the time any media feeding frenzy such as an election season wraps up… and then the media prepares for the next frenzy, of course.

SO!

Here are some things to remember and remind yourself often.

1: Decide what you’re not doing this time

Sure, it’s a good idea to be in an informed citizen, but remember that you’re not obliged to keep up with every damn little thing. Even if you did loads of election-y things differently in the past, you can change it up this time.

You can do a little or a lot or none of it this time.

It’s truly up to you.

And yeah, yeah, yeah, “everyone needs to step up and do their part!” But I don’t think that’s what we can call a universal truth.

Let it be known that instead, a universal truth that’s more helpful is that your sanity and all-around brain and body health are a helluva lot more useful than someone else’s idea of how you should spend your time politically.

[Click ​HERE​ to read “How to Decide What Not to Do.”]

So decide for yourself what you’re participating in this go-round.

2: Stay out of the drama

This one’s more specific than the first tip.

Just because others may be all up in the current situation doesn’t mean you have to go along with the topic at hand at any given moment.

• You can change the subject.

• Or divert the subject into a better direction.

• Or you can simply wander away if you see nothing fruitful coming out of whatever is being discussed.

Later on, when you’re home and able to talk to those who are closer to your wavelength, maybe then you can explore the subject.

The important thing is to focus on keeping your blood pressure down and your head cool. Because a corollary of the universal truth in Tip #1 is that you’re of little use to the world when you’re overheated and overreacting.

And yet there are beaucoups of people already doing just this: overheating and overreacting and then getting others to join them on that insanity machine bandwagon called election season.

Boiling blood pressures and flaming hot heads ramp up during every election season, and especially when it’s a presidential election in the US of A.

So know this.

Take care to avoid the blood boiling and fires in the head—and take care to avoid creating them in yourself.

3: Learn when someone’s playing “Squirrel!” with us

Develop the skill of recognizing distractions for what they are.

As a peaceful person, this will require an uncharacteristically large dose of skepticism.

Because we may be on the peace freak trail, but that doesn’t mean to be a pushover. So be on the look-out for what else is happening while some scandalous or even truly awful thing is going on.

It’s nearly always the “Squirrel!” technique you’re seeing—it’s designed to get us to look somewhere else instead of at what we might actually want to be paying attention to—at what someone is trying to get us not to look at.

This “Squirrel!” move is mighty effective in a culture full of easily distracted people, and boy-oh-boy is it used on us constantly. And sadly, it’s incredibly effective, so be constantly vigilant.

4: Don’t “punch down”

If some leader, politician, educated smarty pants, prettied-up newscaster, or TV person is telling us to blame the humans who walk alongside us on this journey, get into your “talk to the hand” position.

This stuff is always a diversion to get us to look away from the real root of whatever the problem is. Always.

In other words, your fellow regular ol’ human are not the source of all that’s wrong, even if or when you really don’t like them. The problems that our politicians and leaders tell us need fixing never come from next door. They never do.

In other, other words and for example, yes, the opioid crisis is a big, big problem, but it’s not the petty local dealers who caused the opioid crisis. That came (and still comes) from way, way up the ladder. (It’s just like all the drug and substance and intake issues we have, in fact!)

But getting us each inflamed at one another is how those who are causing and enabling our giant issues keep us from looking in their direction.

And that enables “them” to keep doing what they’re doing to make things worse instead of better, which is what we thought we elected them to do.

Hmmm.

5: Have no heros, put no one on a pedestal

I’m the first to admit that I held Bernie Sanders is high regard. I thought he could make a difference. I still do think he could have done some good.

But one person isn’t going to save us all.

This is because we ourselves have the power to do more good than we realize. In fact, we seem to have no idea of our capacity for good and our ability to be the good we want so badly. We keep turning to someone to do something.

But our politicians and leaders are just people, no matter how glossy or polished or accomplished or smart or well funded they are.

Yes, every now and again, someone extraordinary comes along.

But even being an extraordinary leader doesn’t mean that person is “more” than you and I are. It just means they have leadership skills. Probably some charisma. Maybe they have a vision that resonates with us. But they’re still a human like you and me.

No one is more super-human than you and I are.

Which we always find out when we make someone a hero or put someone on a pedestal. Eventually, always, we find out they’re so very human.

And equally important, by the way, don’t go knee-jerk-y and bandwagon-y vilifying someone. Form your own thoughts and arguments. Find stuff out. Look for the inevitable “Squirrel!” technique being used on us to get us freaking out about some bad guy, as in Tip #3—yes, even that bad guy). Much harder than hopping on a bandwagon, yes.

6: Meditate, if only for mere seconds at a time

You’re a lot more useful to yourself, your family, your community, and the entire human family when you’re taking care of your mind and spirit. These go together: mind and spirit.

Learn to meditate. Or just teach yourself. Or simply begin.

And note this! Meditation only means to sit in quietness, calm down the brain, and be present in the moment instead of off in the future or simmering in the past.

It’s not fancy. It’s not a mystery. It requires zero training and zero preparation and as little time as you want to spare.

Go ​HERE​ to download the mindfulness bell app (from Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastery) onto your phone. It’s free, and it’s lovely.

(And that’s pronounced “Tik Not Honn,” which I would have liked to know when I first heard of him.)

This lovely app, like Thich Nhat Hanh was, is gentle and soothing. It serves to remind you to relax. Or maybe you’d even like to use it to remind you to meditate for a minute or five if you choose.

7: In fact, make your mental health your top priority

No one else wakes up each day with you and your mental health on their agenda. You’re the one in charge of this.

And because our human brains are quick to try and protect us with projections and concerns and worries galore, we end up being very susceptible to whatever gives us something to worry and fret about, be afraid of, or lash out at.

Our brains really wanna jump on some fear, anger, blame, and worry in a red-hot second. So take charge and mind your mental health.

This means being ever-conscious of what we fill our brain with—the stuff we allow to get in there and marinate and fester and grow.

Get a grip on what your brain is up to! Because if you don’t, someone else will be more than delighted to do that for you.

And next thing we know, we’re anxious, afraid, angry, and wishing time away by saying things like, “I can’t wait for this to be over.”

And if it’s not election season, it’s the next thing.

Recognize this.

Mind your thoughts, because no matter what happens to us and around us, it’s our thoughts that stir up all the trouble. It’s our thoughts that start dragging stuff up about the past and stirring up shit for the future if we’re not in control of them.

Keep in mind what Buddha said: “Control your mind, or it will control you.”

(By the way, this is the basis of my coaching practice: minding our thoughts. Click ​HERE​ to learn more. I’d be honored to work with you.)

8: And make relaxation your next priority

Find ways to genuinely relax.

Having a glass of wine is nice, but have more than various substances in your bag of tricks.

Get back to reading books. Take up a soothing hobby. Pet your pets. Sit outdoors in the fresh air. Take walks. Loll about. Stare at the clouds. Play board games.

Just take up the art of relaxing not just escaping.

Election season produces all manner of unrelaxing circumstances for us to react to. The ability to deliberately settle our body and mind can keep us in good spirits, but dayum, it also keep us healthy.

9: Don’t worry so much

It’s is a trap.

We think worrying is the responsible thing to do, because after all, if we’re not worried, it means we don’t care. Or something like that.

But worry is a dead end. No good comes of it, it produces nothing, it fixes nothing, it changes nothing. It festers inside and only affects the person doing the worrying, and not even positively! It makes the worrier feel worse without changing anything for the better.

Yet we somehow feel productive doing it. We continue to wring our hands and knit our brows with worry. We feel that if there’s nothing we can do, at the very least we should worry.

Yes, yes, I know. The world is a fucking mess. We should at least worry about it!

The best thing we can do, though, is worry less, not more, because worry is misspent energy.

We never get flashes of inspiration or those middle-of-the-night answers when we’re mired in worry. Worry never inspires us or motivates is. It’s stagnant and it festers.

Worry is nothing but brain churning. It’s a way of shutting down the rest of the human body’s inner ability to handle things and solve problems.

It’s only when we back off of worry that our intuition and ​spidey sense​ and sense of peace and presence have a way in.

10: Be a good human to other humans

Election season is when we’re most encouraged to take sides more than ever. We’re supposed to find immense fault with other humans. We’re supposed to wall ourselves off and keep “the others” out.

Don’t fall for it.

Go out of your way to be kind. Decent. Loving. Peaceful. Gentle. Understanding. Sympathetic and empathetic. Generous. Respectful, even when you don’t like someone.

Oh sure, you’ll run across someone who’s hellbent on being angry with you and everything they think you stand for.

But that’s more about them than about you. Maybe they’re taking the bate the politicians and media are dishing out on the regular, but that doesn’t mean you have to do the same.

Maybe they really do think you’re to blame for whatever, but they don’t know you at all. Nor do we know those we’re encouraged to point our fingers at and lay blame on.

We can sidestep all this not-good-human-ing by reminding ourself to treat our fellow humans with dignity and respect, even if there’s something we assume (or “just know”) we don’t like about them.

Because news flash, until we know someone face to face, we’re only guessing at where they’re coming from, no matter how much we think we know.

We’re making assumptions that are based in things we’ve heard, “evidence” we’ve accumulated, and other societal thoughts we’ve adapted without even realizing it.

11: Think unity, not division

The media and our leaders and politicians want us to feel threatened.

I’m not saying there aren’t threats out there, but when we act out of feeling threatened, we’re not able to be rational.

We lash out, we “bite,” we freak out, we panic, we’re afraid, we’re anxious.

And we’re far more likely to divide rather than unite.

Nothing will ever go forward for us as a human community and family if we fall for the division-stirring. It’s not real. It’s a “fight amongst yourselves” tactic. And see Tip #3 above—it’s a “Squirrel!” tactic.

The alternative is to actually believe that most everyone is a decent human just like you and me. To assume the best of those around us.

And the alternative is to side-eye the hell out of our leaders, media, and politicians with their sugar-daddy-serving agendas, while giving the benefit of the doubt to the fellow humans we share everyday life with.

This is what I mean by unity, not division.

It’s not to say that nothing’s wrong.

It is to say that there’s more right than we’re encouraged to believe, and there are far more good humans than the bad ones we hear so much about.

Be aware, that’s all

It’s not that we have no control when any election season ramps up and is barreling at us.

We do have control because we can choose how we perceive everything we see and hear and read.

On the one hand we can get dragged along by default while doing our best to keep our head above water through it all, which is likely what we’ve done in the past and are used to doing.

Yet even better than that?

We can choose to be aware.

Election season is one of those times when we’re handed additional pressure from our media machine, our politicians, and our leaders. It’s as though we can’t turn it down or even turn it off, but we sure as hell can.

Our mind, body, and spirit are far more important to the human family than our blind participation in yet another reality show of an election season.

Because like all reality shows, “Election Season” is heavily edited, highly manipulated, and masterfully staged for maximum value in favor of the producers, not the consumers.

So be very aware, and be in charge of your own self in order to stay sane (and useful!) during any election season.

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