The 2020 U.S. presidential election is among the most divisive elections in recent history. And more than two-thirds of adults say it’s a significant source of stress in their life, according to a survey conducted on behalf of the American Psychological Association. Add the stress of a potential long line at the polls, counting down the minutes until you can vote, and you’ve got yourself a good reason to need a mental timeout.
One quick note: if you’re still in line and the polls are closing soon, don’t leave. As long as you’re in line by 8 p.m., you should be allowed to vote.
If you’re planning to vote in person today and get stuck in a long polling line, we’ve rounded up a bunch of ways to keep your brain busy, and hopefully release some of that Election Day anxiety.
Donate to an organization you care about.
What are you really voting for this year? What issues matter to you most? If there’s a candidate out there campaigning to bring change on a topic you care about, it’s guaranteed that there are countless other organizations working on it, too. Show your support by contributing to their efforts. Use this time in line to do the research that perhaps you’ve been putting off. Which grassroots organizations can you get behind? Are there other ways you can volunteer in the future? Make a plan to keep the momentum of Election Day going beyond November 3.
Meditate with an app.
Studies show meditation is a helpful way to reduce anxiety and stress. If you’ve never tried it before, there are plenty of smartphone apps that guide you through the process and make it easy to get started. One of the most popular is Headspace, which has curated an entire playlist focused on reducing election anxiety. And you don’t even need to download the app to access it, you can find 45-plus minutes of guided meditation, broken down into six themed segments just through your browser. Just be sure to keep your eyes open while meditating so you don’t lose your spot in line. headspace.com/articles/election-anxiety
We’ve also made this video to help you relax today:
Try box breathing.
You don’t need the Internet or an app to practice mindfulness. If you prefer to disconnect and keep your phone in your pocket, try practicing some breathing techniques instead, like the ones shared by my colleague Cassie Owens here. Beyond simple deep breathing, one of the easier techniques to try while standing up is box breathing. Start by taking a long breath for four seconds. Hold that breath for four seconds. Exhale it out for four seconds. Hold for four seconds. And repeat. As you continue, drawing your entire focus to your breath, you should start to feel your mind calm down. inquirer.com/health/wellness/breathing-exercises-coronavirus-covid19-20200507.html
Use this animation to help you box breathe:
Order a free pizza delivery.
There are few better distractions than free pizza. And if you’re voting in Philadelphia, you can get it delivered straight to you without ever losing your spot in line. Thanks to nonpartisan nonprofit Pizza to the Polls, all you need to do is fill out an online submission form that shows you’re stuck in a significantly long polling line. You’ll need to provide a photo or link to a social media post that verifies the line, along with a delivery address, your phone number, and an estimate of the line’s wait time. (Most deliveries take at least 90 minutes). Once Pizza Polls vets the line, pizza (or snacks) will be heading your way. The food is free for everyone, including voters, their kids, polling staff, and anyone else hungry for a slice. polls.pizza
Pick up your phone and catch up with family and/or old friends.
Never have time to call mom or dad? Now’s your chance. A call to a family member or friend not only helps pass the time, but it’s likely to boost your happiness, too. Studies show that people who have social support are happier, healthier, and live longer. And with a pandemic making in-person hangouts more challenging than ever, picking up the phone and making an effort to maintain relationships is crucial. Perhaps another bonus: When you reach your turn to vote, you’ll have a valid excuse to tell mom it’s time to go.
Rev up your endorphins with jumping jacks (or a full on dance party).
Long lines can easily lead to bad moods. But exercise? It’s a natural mood booster, in part thanks to chemicals it releases in the body called endorphins.
Yes, we know you might feel silly working out in line. But you might be surprised at how many other people end up joining you. Take, for example, this Cha Cha Slide dance party that broke out among early voters at a polling station in Southwest Philadelphia.
Put on your favorite tunes and start grooving. Keep it simple with a few jumping jacks. Or lead a full on boot camp with fellow voters, dropping into bodyweight lunges, jump squats, and standing core exercises, like marching with a twist. At the very least, it’ll kill some time and make you stronger, and work up an appetite for when that pizza arrives.