Ugh An Election Year: How to Protect Your Peace of Mind

June 3, 2024

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Turning to the substance, we all know the election is this year. Before it consumes us whole, let’s talk about some practical things we can put in place to help us protect our peace of mind and sanity through it – while also being as involved as we want to be. 

I also share actionable bite-sized time management strategies on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/_kellynolan_/. Come hang out with me there!

Full Transcript

Ep 57. Protecting Our Peace of Mind During an Election Year

[Upbeat Intro Music]

Kelly Nolan: Welcome to The Bright Method Podcast where we’ll discuss practical time management strategies designed for the professional working woman. I’m Kelly Nolan, a former patent litigator who now works with women to set up The Bright Method in their lives. The Bright Method is a realistic time management system that helps you manage it all, personally and professionally. Let’s get you falling asleep proud of what you got done today and calm about what’s on tap tomorrow. All right, let’s dig in!


Hey hey! All right, so today is kind of a weird one, honestly. It’s one that, as soon as I say the word “election” I think a lot of people are like, “Ugh,” as I do as well. The reason I wanted to do this today is we’re all kind of being forced into an election year, and whether we want it to or not, it’s happening. And so, I want to talk about ways that we can protect our sanity and moreso our peace of mind as best we can over the next year as we live this out and talk about some ways that we can do that in a practical way.

So to set up my goal for this is the goal, at least for me, is not to have people entirely check out. That’s not my goal. I, as much as I probably guess you, want to be an engaged person who has an impact in the upcoming election. That said, you also don’t have to be highly engaged to do that, and by that I mean you don’t need to be plugged into the news cycles and all of that every minute of the day to accomplish that. I’m a huge advocate of taking action on the issues you care about and someone who wants all of us to enjoy our lives as much as we can no matter the circumstances. Really what it comes down to is I just believe that there is no glory in martyring our own happiness beyond anything that is constructive.

So today, I want to talk about five things that we can do, and while it’s only May or June when you’re listening to this and the election’s not ‘til November, we all know how it goes, and I think it’s really smart to kind of think about these things and take what you want, leave the rest. But for those things you take, start putting in some sort of structure in your calendar (you know me, but wherever you want to) to help you live these out in the way that works for you.

So there are five things I want to go over, and we’ll just dig right in!

#1: Decide If/How You Want to Take Action – 2:19

As with a lot of what I talk about, the first thing I want you to think about is just decide if and how you want to take action in relation to this upcoming election. The goal of doing this is partly to help you do that and help you do what you want to do. It’s also just as important to help you understand when you’re not doing something. By that I mean if you’re like, “I want to do X, Y, Z,” then the rest of the time I want you to have the realization and the freedom of, “Oh, right now I’m not doing those things, so I can relax and focus on other things.” Hopefully this will become more clear as we talk about it.

So just right now, or down the road, think about what do you want to do in relation to this upcoming election. Do you want to vote? Do you want to volunteer? Do you want to knock on doors? Do you want to have conversations with family and friends? Do you want to fundraise? Do you want to work on election day? Whatever it might be, no right or wrong. Even if it’s just vote, that’s great. A lot of people don’t, so whatever your plan is, what do you want to do in relation to that?

Also, I think we all go to the federal election, which makes a lot of sense, but there are local, state elections that you also want to just think about in relation to that as well. So federally, state, local, all of that, what do you want to do? And it doesn’t mean that this is carved in stone, and it can’t change, but I do think it’s very helpful to think about instead of the feeling of, “I need to do more, I need to do more, I should be doing more,” is, “What do I want to do? What would success look like for me given the season of life I’m in,” and all that kind of stuff. And really decide what you want to do in relation to this election.

Then I want you to block time to research anything that you need to. So just block time in your calendar to research, “How would I work on election day,” if that’s something you want to do. “How would I knock on doors if that’s something I want to do? Do I even need to look up what is going on on a state and local level for me and what the issues might be,” all that kind of stuff.

And then, in addition, even if you don’t know exactly what it’s gonna be, if you can think about, “I think it’s gonna look like this,” start blocking time that accounts for that. It can always change down the road, but it’s really helpful to block time now in your calendar for things that you want to do. One little thing is you can use kind of a naming convention here. You could call it, when you calendar something, the title could be: “Election: [whatever you want to do].” That way, if you drastically change your plans down the road, you can search your calendar for “election” and all the things you calendared will pop up, and you can change it from there.

I’m gonna come back to the actual voting day later but know that’s another thing that we’ll talk about calendaring.

#2: Take Steps to Help Future You Spend Time in Joy – 5:11

Okay, so once you’ve decided if and how you want to take action in relation to this election, the second point I want you to think about is, in light of that, take steps to help future you spend her time in a more joyful way, especially around social media and TV news and anything that can tend to bring you down. Let’s talk about this a little bit more.

So really focusing on what you want to do, understanding the scope of what success looks like for you. Understand what actions and information serve that and also what information coming at you and actions you might take do not serve that, they’re no longer constructive to get you to that success of what you want to do in relation to an election. A lot of us, including me, tend to doom scroll the news or social media. In addition, I don’t do this, but a lot of people leave the TV on a lot. Whether it’s on all the time or just for big chunks of your evenings, let’s say, have the TV on the news in the background so that even if you’re doing other things, you’re kind of consistently getting information blared at you about the election and other emotionally-charged topics.

I’m more of the Instagram person. I go on some news sites a little bit, but I’m very selective on which ones. But Instagram’s my main one that I can just go on there being like, “I’m gonna have this light break,” and then suddenly I’m doom scrolling 45 minutes later about some political or otherwise depressing topic. It’s just important to be aware of your natural tendencies and what you’re doing and not necessarily normalize them — or I should even say not necessarily about normalizing them but just accepting that’s what you do and maybe thinking about, “Do I want to do something else for the rest of this year that would serve me better, both in terms of serving me in the success of what I’ve decided I want to do in point one, but also to protect my peace of mind when I’m not doing those things, and maybe I don’t need to be bringing myself down. I could do something that would bring me joy,” and also still taking action in the ways that I’ve talked about in point one.

Because I want you to see that you can kind of think of it like a circle of, “These are the actions I want to take.” Any further Instagram information blaring at your brain, all that kind of stuff that falls outside of that circle is not constructive anymore, and it’s just hurting you. Again, there’s no honor in martyring yourself in that regard. We really want to take action but also protect our emotional and physical wellbeing. So let’s talk about real practical ways we can do that, like what does this mean.

The first thing I want you to analyze is notifications on your phone and also your computer if you do it. Phone is the main one that comes to mind for me. I am a big believer that unless you work in politics, you do not need real-time news alerts. Even the prospect of getting the alert will keep you glancing at your phone and fragmenting your focus and your day and all of that more than we need.

The news can be incredibly emotionally charged. You don’t need me to tell you that, and I don’t want you to let yourself be at the whim of that whenever a notification goes off, no matter what you’re doing. Whether you’re trying to focus at work, be around friends and family and focus and be present with them, you do not need notifications stealing that from you. So turn off your notifications, and you decide when you want to login to a news site and review the news at a time that works well for you and protect your focus and peace of mind the rest of the time.

Another thing you could use is an app called Opal, and you can use it to block your access to certain apps like Instagram or news apps for certain periods of time. Now, there are a lot of screentime things out there. The reason I like Opal a lot is that it actually really locks you out. You cannot override it. So I have it set up so that every evening from 8:00 PM to 5:00 AM, I cannot login to Instagram from my phone, even online. Even if I go to www.instagram.com on my Safari app, it will not let me in, and I can’t override it. It really helps save me from myself, so I just wanted to throw that out there for you because places like social media, even though they might not be designed for — you might not go into them with the idea of getting news, we all see it. People are gonna post things, and knowing that and just accepting that reality and working with it and deciding, “When do I want to go on it? When do I not? How can I help future me not go on it when I want,” can really, really help you.

I’ve shared it before, but I’ve heard someone else say that we go on social media to let others dictate what we think and feel, and that’s not a quote from me. It’s from someone else who I’m not sure. But it’s so true, and just be aware of when am I going to give that power over, and let me not do it when I’m trying to actually be present or I’m trying to actually get some sleep and things like that.

Another thing that I’ve raised in another episode on social media is unfollowing or muting people on social media who really get you down. I really am not for creating an echo chamber, but I do think that we need to be wary that there are some people who can raise topics and issues that you don’t necessarily agree with but make you think and challenge your views. The problem is a lot of people don’t do that well and particularly well on social media. [Laughs]

So I just throw that out there that while I think it’s very good to be exposed to other voices, social media is sometimes a difficult place to do that in a constructive way. So again, embrace that reality and consider unfollowing or muting people on social media.

In relation to this, there are people I actually very much enjoy on social media, like news sources, people that I really respect, but I just know that during certain periods of time it’s just the content of what they share. Even though they share it well, it is so emotionally exhausting and riling up at the same time, in a weird way, that I just need to be aware of, “You know, I need to not be exposed to that right now.” Again, I want to be engaged and involved, but I want to do that when I’m ready to do it on my terms and not just when it happens to come at me on my phone.

Another point here is to really plan on what you want to do that brings you joy. This is particularly true if you tend to scroll and scram in the evenings or watch TV, like the news, in the evenings and you would like to scale back on that, don’t just go cold turkey — or do cold turkey. What I mean more to say is fill the void with something exciting. Don’t just say, “I’m not gonna scroll social media and then be like, “I don’t know what else to do right now.” Really think about, “What do I want to be doing? What do I want to use that time for?” It might be calling friends. It might be puttering around your house listening to a fun audiobook. It could be picking up some books from the library, scheduling some time to go get books from the library and then having them at home to be able to read. It could be a whole lot of different things. More to the point, figure out a couple things and then you have options that you want. Use your calendar to calendar time to do it. Give yourself that menu of things during that time when you normally would sit down and scroll or things like that.

Here are two other really random points. [Laughs] One is if you get in bed and your brain races with potentially very depressing or anxiety-inducing thoughts, which I speak from experience with, to consider a meditation app. I really love — I think I listen to Insight Timer right now. I have for years. I’ve gone back and forth with some others, but I really like it, and I like listening, right now, just to their sleep sounds, their sleep music. It’s just like noise. There’s no — I don’t even know if you would call it instrumental. But it helps my brain latch onto something else other than thoughts in a really great way. I often find an earbud in my bed the next morning because I passed out listening to that type of music.

The other point I’ll just throw out there, and I’ve shared this in past episodes before, is that I’ve really cut back on drinking alcohol, and I will just point that the reason I’m raising this now is that I really do notice the depressive effect of it. I find that the next day, even if I only had one drink, there is a depressive element. I’m just more prickly than I normally am. I can have more anxiety around things that I normally do, and I also am less motivated to do other things, so I can just kind of sit in my thoughts a little bit more.

And so, I just throw that out there if you feel yourself kind of, at any point, getting really down about the election, the state of the world, any of it, it really is a nice thing to cut back on alcohol. Not even fully all the time, but if there’s a week or two that you anticipate it being tough, really scale back. It really does help in a weird way. So I just wanted to share it.

My aim of sharing all of these little things and doing this is it not only protects you from that kind of harmful, not constructive consumption of information and scrolling and all of that kind of stuff. It also frees up time and energy to focus on things that do bring you joy. And so, I hope that is something that you can work into your life over the next months, year, all of the fun things we’re going into. We really do have to intentionally claim and protect our time for the things that bring us joy and really keep out the things that are very much aimed at and designed to make us doom scroll and keep watching the news because they’re talking about things that scare us, so we feel like we have to listen and all this kind of stuff. There’s a lot coming for our attention, and I do think that part of this is intentionally thinking, “Okay, we’re in May or June as we listen to this. What are the things I want to put in place to keep those types of things at bay and really fill my time with stuff that will bring me joy?”

#3: Block Time to Research When, Where and How You Want to Vote – 15:14

Okay, the third point is actually about voting day. I shouldn’t even say voting day because you might decide to vote early. So that’s something that you could actually block some time to research, I don’t know, whenever you want, whether it’s next month or in a couple of months. But block time to research and think through, “What are my voting options, and what do I want to do? Am I gonna vote early? Am I gonna do a mail in? Am I gonna go in person and vote early?” It all depends on your state and your local area and what feels safest to you to get your vote counted, all that kind of stuff. Really thinking about, “When am I going to vote? What do I want that to look like,” making that decision and then plotting out your game plan to make that happen.

I’ll share, if you decide to vote on voting day, you really want to think about — and this would, for whatever approach you take, think about this for all these things. First, when do you want to research all of the candidates and the issues? Because, again, we kind of go to the federal thought, but there are a lot, as I said, at the state and local level. And so, really understanding what are the issues. You might want to wait until the ballot is finalized for your area and then do that research but really blocking time to do the research on who do you want to vote for, what issues do you want to vote on, or what do you want to vote on for certain issues before you and things like that. That goes for no matter how you’re voting. Having that sit down of, “What am I doing,” so that you don’t walk in and you’re like, “I don’t know what 90% of these options are.” You want to have that information at your fingertips.

If you are voting on the day of, you want to think about timing. Do you want to bring kids, if you have them, or not. That might affect when you go, that kind of stuff. Really block time for the driving to and from, thinking about hours, what the lines might be like, giving yourself maybe an extra hour of time to just keep the stress off for that day. Also think about the state of mind you will have after, and this can vary by person. So just kind of think about how you tend to handle these situations, how you’ve handled them in the past.

But for the rest of the day after you vote, how will you feel? Do you want to block some time in light of that? Same for the next day. As election results come in, that kind of stuff, if you know you’re going to be distracted and wanting to pay attention to the news, things like that, then block that day from meetings. You could still plan on working, perhaps. Or do the flip. If you’re like, “I know I’m not gonna be able to do focused work, but I can sit in on a meeting,” do that. Other people might fully want to bury themselves in work and not have to watch the news, which I totally get as well. So really just thinking about for the rest of election day, the day after election day, “How will I feel, and how do I want to plan my work and life around that?”

I’d also think about this as you set deadlines and meetings now. So what you might want to do, even right now, is for the rest of that week, put in your calendar as full-day events, “Do not agree to deadlines during this week.” Just knowing that, again, even if you’re not totally sure how you’re gonna feel, chances are we’re all gonna be a little bit more distracted than normal during those days and really thinking about, “Hey, maybe trying to hit a big deadline that week probably isn’t the best idea.” So blocking that in your calendar now to really help future you spare yourself from a bit more of a scramble when your brain’s not fully engaged and working.

All right? I’m sure I might have seen some other things, but really just taking the time to think about, “When am I gonna vote? When am I gonna research? What does all of this look like? When will the ballots be out? What are my voting options,” all that kind of stuff, thinking about it now, spending even 15 minutes on it and blocking that time in the future to do those things, to play it out will really, really save you a lot of hassle down the road.

#4: Consider How You’ll Approach Voting Conversations – 19:05

The fourth point is a little bit less time management related but I think useful, is thinking about how you want to approach conversations because people are gonna bring it up. You might decide, “I will not proactively bring up politics.” You might decide you want to bring up politics. You might decide you don’t want to but other people are going to bring it up with you. Really just kind of getting some clarity in your own mind, even though we can’t control everything, of what do you want to do. Is having those conversations part of what you want to do for the election? If it’s not, do you want to not have those conversations as much? Do you only want to have those conversations with certain people? Do you definitely not want to have those conversations with other people? Again, there’s no right or wrong but thinking this through intentionally can be very helpful because then you can also think about how you want to freeze however you’re handling it.

So if you have decided, let’s say you’re not having these conversations or you’re not having them with certain people, having a couple phrases and ways to maintain that boundary can be really beneficial. So things like, “You know what? It’s really hard for me to talk about this,” or “I’m having a really tough day right now. I think I need to not talk about this today,” anything like that. I find being a little vulnerable and saying, “This is too hard for me to talk about emotionally. Can we talk about something else,” is really a great way to go. People understand that, and how are they gonna necessarily fight you on that? So I think just being clear on how do you want to handle those conversations can be really, really valuable.

If you know you’re going to see family on or around the election, you know these conversations are gonna come up, this sounds crazy, I know, but maybe calendar some time to practice what you’re gonna say before you go. That’s the kind of stuff that we’re always like, “Oh, yeah. I’ll practice before I go,” or we think of these things that we’re like, “Oh, yeah, I’ll do that later,” but then we get there, and we never did it because we forgot. And so, use that calendar to lighten that mental load. Use the calendar to carry the burden of remembering to do that so you don’t have to all the time.

#5: It’s Okay For Voting and the Election to Stop at Your Doorstep – 21:15

The fifth and final point I want to say is very, very short and sweet. I saw this on Instagram. As much as I’m kind of railing on Instagram a little bit this episode, I do really enjoy being there. There was a quote, and I can’t remember who it’s from, but they said something along the lines of, “It is okay for the world to stop at your doorstep.” I just want to share that as a departing thought process to have that I think blends in nicely with this topic is we want to be engaged, we want to be active, we’ve decided what this looks like, and it is okay for the world, the election, the politics, all of it to stop at your doorstep and not come in your home. I think that’s a beautiful, important (like mental health important) image to have in our heads as we go into this so that we can protect our peace of mind.

All right, so the five points are, first, decide if and how you want to take action.

Two, in light of that, figure out how you’re gonna take steps to help future you spend her time doing that, and then also not doing that, and really bringing in joy and maintaining joy over the next months, even despite this whole election season.

Point three is really think through voting . When are you researching how you’re going to vote and then also when are you voting? What does that look like? And then blocking the time to bring that plan to life. I will also say one thing I forgot to mention on that point is, if you oversee a team or even if you’re on a team, really encouraging everybody blocking availability that day from meetings so that everybody else also has the freedom and the flexibility to go vote.

Point four is coming up with your general approach to conversations around politics for the next months. Do you want to have them? Do you not want to have them? Who do you want to have them with? And if you have set boundaries you want to establish and maintain there, really thinking through, “What phrases will I say in those moments? If they ignore them, how will I maintain that boundary?” And if you want to calendar time to practice before certain events, it can be really valuable for people like me.

And the final point is it is okay for the world to stop at your doorstep.

All right, I hope this helps! I know it’s gonna be a weird rest of the year in some regards because of this election, so let’s intentionally just make some decisions and calls now so that we can be both the involved people we want to be while also maintaining our peace of mind. And if you have anything else you’re doing to help you on this front, let me know. I love to hear about this stuff, and I would love to hear what you’re doing. All right? Thank you for being here, and I’ll catch you in the next episode!

[Upbeat Outro Music]

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