What Works for Distraction or Comfort With the Election Hanging Over You?

Nonelection activities for the people with political anxiety.

A woman holds a smartphone in front of her forehead as part of the game and smiles at her colleagues across a round table
Advancement Project staff play a game. Courtesy of Advancement Project

For voters, those who are getting out and protecting the vote, journalists, and others who work in politics, there’s only one thing to think about right now. And thinking about the same thing for 30 or 48 or 72 hours—on top of thinking about it for four years—is overwhelming. So, for the sake of giving those of us who are so deeply immersed in this world a minute to focus on something other than whether Democratic nominee Joe Biden or President Donald Trump will win, I asked my colleagues and sources: How are you taking care of yourself in the lead-up to Election Day?

Finding out how other people make themselves feel better makes me feel better, so I was glad to hear about how cleaning and reorganizing their homes, prepping food to have on hand during Tuesday’s rush, and spending time with their families is helping them brace for whatever this week’s news cycle may bring. The team at Advancement Project even sent along photos of the team game nights they use to decompress from fighting voter suppression in Florida.

Some folks who responded, due to the fact that they are working on campaigns or are in a relationship with someone who is in politics, asked that their names be withheld or to just use their first name.

I grew a novelty mustache, have been rewatching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (mercilessly skipping the bad episodes), and will probably bake lots of cornbread and cookies while doing work/nervously awaiting returns on Tuesday. Jonathan Fischer, Slate’s technology editor

This was not timed to the election, but it worked out: I ran a marathon on Saturday, the virtual version of the New York City marathon, which basically amounted to running 26.2 miles by myself, and now waiting for a medal to arrive in the mail at some future date. I was glad to have something to take up my weekend that wasn’t thinking about the election or COVID. It also involved a fair amount of grieving for the weekend that I had planned on having (being among crowds and crowds of people), which was nice, because grieving for small losses is important and I often just forget to. Now I am spending my time going through the post-race rotation of ibuprofen, putting ice on things that hurt, gingerly walking from one room to another, eating soft, highly caloric food at random times. … I feel like I am a baby I’m taking care of, which feels about right. —Shannon Palus, Slate staff writer

My family has been on a treetops ropes course kick for years now, and while I’m not exactly comfortable walking a tightrope 40 feet in the air, it’s nice to be mortally terrified about something else for a little while. Also: Breath of the Wild, and lots of it. —Sam Adams, Slate senior editor

A little too much pizza and Chipotle—my favorite comfort foods. And a lot of reading. I’ve been trying hard to stay off of social media, especially Twitter. At this point, there is so little new information to be gathered about the race between now and the polls closing that for me it’s a lot healthier for my sanity to avoid watching a bunch of partisans act out on the internet. Most of the things people get into heated online fights about in the final days of an election end up not mattering at all in the end. —Wesley Lowery, journalist at CBS News 

I’ve been trying to establish a nighttime routine so I can at least get some sleep, but every night is different. I try to do two or three of these things each night: pick up a book and put my phone down; a few simple stretches before getting into bed; use a lavender room spray and eye mask; listen to spa music or meditations on a free app; make the room cold so I can wrap up in blankets; or melatonin and other herbal remedies. I know other people who drink tea or take a warm bath—that’s just not my style. —Anonymous spouse of a director of federal strategies

Cooking so, so, so much it’s exasperating my husband and filling my fridge to bursting. The other day I woke up at 3:30, couldn’t get back to sleep, got out of bed at 5, and made butternut squash cider soup, dill feta dip, falafel, roasted broccoli, and toasted almonds, all before my daughter got up. I also started fermented hot sauce, which will be ready Nov. 3–5, at which point I desperately hope we’ll know more and I can stop this manic activity. It makes me feel like I have control over some aspect of my life, but is also, frankly, unsustainable! —Rebecca Onion, Slate staff writer

I’ve been watching The Sopranos all the way through for the first time in hopes that it would a) be absorbing and b) let me bury myself in passionate 10-year-old debates over the controversial ending. So far it’s working pretty well. (Next up: Six Feet Under.) Also: baths and beta blockers. —Lili Loofbourow, Slate staff writer

I’m doing a deep clean of my house. Taking inventory of my groceries, cleaning products, personal hygiene products, and medications. I’m making sure my car is full of gas. Since I live downtown and very close to where people usually protest, I plan to go to my mom’s house on election night to watch the local and national news. I’ll have a duffel bag with a week’s worth of clothes and everything I need for work just in case. I opened a new line of credit in case of emergency. I am getting my hair and feet done this weekend, and I am heavily stocked on journals—some are for prayers, some for goal setting, and others for general thoughts. —Erica Horton, communications specialist

Working out every day. Going to the beach at least twice between now and then. Very little cable news. And college football, ciders, and edibles all day Saturday. —Joel Anderson, Slate staff writer

I am cutting off all extracurricular news. If it is job-related, I will handle it and then immediately stop. I have also put a moratorium on political conversations outside of work. Your nuclear family in these moments is a safe zone for you. Now is the time to catch up on what you might have missed. —Kristoffer A., who works in politics

I’m avoiding politics on social media. I deal with the political process in day-to-day life. I also consume relevant political news. I do not engage in politics/political rhetoric on social platforms. —Alisha, who works in politics

I am basically letting myself do whatever I want to do. It is an exercise in figuring out how to make the time pass with the least possible angst. That involves actual exercise (good anxiety release, good way to exhaust myself), plenty of puzzling, and blaring a lot of music. I am probably going to bake something comforting tomorrow. I watched the new Borat movie on Friday night, and somehow that was very soothing. Probably the worst part of this is that I let myself look at my phone when I wake up at 3 a.m. and I can’t sleep—but I restrict myself to the New York Times. No FiveThirtyEight. —Susan Matthews, Slate’s news director

Staff from Advancement Project National Office are on the ground in Florida helping Black and Brown voters get to the polls! Our team intentionally takes time to kick it together, build with new team members, and play games so that our work to combat voter suppression is not all-consuming. We have to refresh our minds and our spirits because the work here in Florida has been very heavy. This year, we sued the state of Florida twice because of their failure to safely help voters cast a ballot AND the failure of their online voter registration system on the day of the voter registration deadline. Now we are seeing reports that young voters of color are having their vote-by-mail ballots flagged for rejection at disproportionately higher rates in Florida. In Palm Beach County, we saw voters exposed to coronavirus by poll workers because of the state’s failure to take COVID-19 seriously during the primaries. It is heart-wrenching because we already know there are many who are risking their lives to go out and participate in our democracy. We need each other, and taking small moments to laugh, chop it up together, and be in community with our partners is one of the best ways we can stay sane in this moment. —Jeralyn Cave, a senior communications associate with Advancement Project

I made it a point to demand photos of my friends’ and family members’ babies and small children in their Halloween costumes; they are all very good. I’m also listening to a lot of the music I’ve loved the most in life, just like a lot of my all-time favorites from different periods of my life, and poorly playing music on my guitar and keyboard. I’m meditating, daily if possible, and trying hard to get outside and move my legs (masked, of course) despite the colder and rainier weather. And I have been inflicting my political-anxiety-and-outrage rants on a couple of group chats with less hesitation. (If we can’t vent that out to each other in these times, when else and to whom else can we?) I have been trying to keep my apartment as clean as possible too, which just puts me at ease. Before Tuesday, I’m also taking steps that will ensure I won’t need to worry about stupid things that day: making a couple meals that will stretch a few days (a vegetarian chili and a mac and cheese with chicken sausage and some veggies), stocking up on my key stress-eating snacks like chips and salsa and cheese and crackers, and shaving and doing laundry—the two worst hygiene necessities—on Sunday so I don’t have to again until after Doomsday. And OK, I am dulling my mind a bit as necessary in the evenings with beer and/or whiskey. I have an edible reserved for Monday night. How else is anyone supposed to sleep? —Seth Maxon, Slate associate editor