We all know that today is election day. We all know everything that’s at stake. We’ve spent the past year discussing policy, ideology, and civil rights. But something we haven’t spent enough time discussing is the lasting mental impact this election season has had on us. It’s a conversation that needs to be had within our social circles to effectively care for our general mental health. 

It’s easy to overlook the effects that an election cycle can have on our mental health. Sometimes we can become so involved in the process that we push aside our own emotions for the sake of “composure” or “not losing the argument.” The more we do this, the harder it is to come to terms with the damage we’re inflicting upon ourselves. 

Having to constantly argue for your basic rights isn’t easy. We are asking the opposition to see us as humans and treat us as such. We’re interacting with people whose only goal is to dehumanize us. This can quickly become emotionally draining. 

Being emotionally drained can feel as if you have no more energy. Personally, I’ve found myself unbearably emotionally drained. For me, this looks like not completing simple course assignments, isolating myself, skipping meals, and frequently sleeping. Even though it was out of my control, I blamed myself for feeling this way. I thought that I wasn’t being strong enough. 

It took me a while to finally accept that I’m not at fault for this feeling. I shouldn’t feel guilty for being drained. I’ve done nothing wrong. Every 4 years, we’re forced to endure old white men dangling our rights above our heads. We are constantly reminded that there are people who see us as lesser beings. We are bombarded with hatred towards our identities. How could I possibly be at fault for growing tired of defending my humanity? 

I don’t know if this phenomenon will ever change or go away but there are ways to protect your mental health through it all. One of the most helpful things to do is talking about it. Find a friend, family member, counselor, or professional and share what you’re going through. It’s easy to forget that there are people in our lives who want to help us be okay. 

It’s also helpful to take care of your body (eating, showering, going for walks, exercising) and allowing yourself to take breaks. These are difficult times and it’s more than okay to take a step back and collect yourself. This could mean deleting your social media for short periods of time, going to a park to lay down and read, or engaging in one of your less stressful hobbies. 

It’s important for us to recognize that we have value. Nobody else is allowed to define you. We can argue with bigots and give them our perspectives but at the end of the day, we have to take care of ourselves. Take some time today to focus on yourself and check in on those closest to you.