For the last few months, one question has been on my mind: “What happens if we lose?” (“We” being the people with at least a scrap of empathy who voted for Joe Biden, even if we didn’t want to, in a desperate attempt to end the American nightmare we’ve suffered through for the last 3.5 years.)
Normally a person who enjoys inspiring action in others, I’m trying to be realistic with myself about the presidential election. I know that if Biden loses, I will not immediately have the energy or hope necessary to mobilize or motivate; if we’re being honest, I’m not even sure what I’d attempt to motivate people to do. And as someone who deals with depression, my emotional reserves during a time of national instability are low to begin with. If we lose, I will be all but a pile of dust and despair sitting on the center of my couch.
I imagine I’m not alone in that.
To prepare for the worst (I always prefer to be pleasantly surprised than let down), I’ve devised a post-election self care plan to bust open like a fire extinguisher behind a sheet of glass, should the situation call for it. I invite anyone else with high emotional stakes in this election to do the same.
Buy groceries in advance. When I brought up the need for a post-election self care plan, my best friend brilliantly suggested grabbing at least a week’s worth of groceries the day before Election Day. And she’s right—nothing makes your day worse than it already was like bumping into other people’s carts in a crowded, potentially COVID-infested aisle, waiting in line, and not walking out with the specific flavor of ice cream you wanted. Which brings us to . . .
Stock up on nourishing foods. Hint: Contextually, this can mean body-nourishing or soul-nourishing. Pack your fridge and pantry with snacks and ingredients for meals that make your body feel good, but also get the sweet and salty treats you crave, because we’ll have bigger fish to fry than a little bit of cholesterol if Trump’s in the White House for another four years. It’s okay if you get through a week or so following the end of the election by looking forward to your morning coffee or your evening glass of wine. Whatever helps, man.
Delete your social media apps. Your profiles will still be there waiting for you when you return! For now, doom-scrolling through countless tweets and Instagram posts mourning what could’ve been a helpful election won’t be productive; it’ll only pin you to your despair. Delete the apps from your phone, log out on your web browser, and commit to staying off of social media for at least a few days.
Create a list of time-occupiers. The worst thing you can feed a bout of depression or disappointment is empty time. Prior to Election Day, create a list of things to do to occupy your time in the event of a loss. My list includes baking this pumpkin pan dulce, watching the final season of Schitt’s Creek, editing my novel, and crafting. (I’ll be trying my hand at soap making and these adorable beaded daisy chains.) Other ideas include reading, organizing your closet, starting a new video game, deep-cleaning your home or car, or engaging in outdoor activities.
Celebrate the small wins. It’s extremely unrealistic that none of the candidates I voted for, from the White House and the Senate to the county sheriff’s office and the high school district governing board (yawn), will win their respective elections. The same goes for you. The small changes in your state or community add up to form the things we strive for, like criminal justice reform, social equity, and education access. Your corporate commissioner may not be making the news every week, but they are busy maintaining or breaking the status quo.
Form a circle of like-minded friends and family. If you care deeply about this election and have already needed to gripe a couple times, you may already have one of these. Build a mental list—or even a group chat—consisting of people to whom you know you can vent when emotions run high. Similarly, don’t stop responding to friendly calls and messages when you’re feeling down. It’s crucial to have normal, positive conversations to help keep your head above water, even if they seem frivolous at the time.
It’s my hope that none of us will need this emergency toolkit. It’s my absolute dream to toss it out the window on November 4, or whenever they finish tabulating ballots. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from years of looking after my mental health, it’s that preparation can be a blessing when you end up needing it.
As a final bonus tip, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re taking the election results too seriously. It’s okay and normal to acknowledge that things like human rights, healthcare, and immigration have profound effects on people’s lives. Anyone claiming otherwise is either in denial or has never had to wrestle those topics personally.
Finally, I’d like to answer a question asked by my partner, ever the optimist: “What about a plan for if we do win?” That one’s simple. We party.