Self-care for when politics make you sad
I'm a bleeding-heart lefty liberal American living in the Britain of Brexit and Boris Johnson. Politics makes me sad an awful lot of the time, so I've developed a regimen of self-care tips for when the news makes my brain hurt. Obviously the below work for me and won't necessarily work for everyone else - but if you've got your own to share or you like these, tweet at me to let me know. Or something.
1. Step away from it all.
Obviously it is important, in this day and age, to be an informed citizen and to keep abreast of what's happening as much as you can. But, when the news seems kind of unrelentingly shitty, there's no shame in taking a step back from it to stop your brain from melting in despair. Take a day where you don't check Twitter. Don't watch the news before going to bed for a couple of nights. Stay away from the radio, or news-heavy podcasts. Plus, I can usually trust my coworkers and friends to filter the news and talk to me about the stuff they safely assume we both consider important - so if I turn it off for a few days while my tolerance for sad trickles back up to normal, it's not the end of the world. And I find that I can engage much more critically with the information after a few days away from it and not thinking about it.
2. Drink - but only a little, and only socially.
I've got quite a few people around me who have either completely given up drinking or are seriously considering it. I'm not quite ready to make that leap, as I quite like alcohol and being a bit tipsy, but I respect people who want to do that and I myself flirt with dry periods - Lent, September, the period between Christmas and New Year's. Now, I'm not advocating drinking your sorrows about Brexit away. We'd all be drunk from sunup to sundown and that would not be conducive to needing to work or otherwise be a productive member of society. But, when I'm really upset about something, I like meeting up with a couple of close friends, splitting a bottle of wine, and relentlessly taking the piss out of each other. It's the comradeship more than the alcohol that does it for me - so if you've got that in a way that doesn't require the 'bottle of wine' thing, more power to you.
3. Watch something familiar but funny.
For me, it's old John Oliver and Daily Show episodes, American Vandal or The Good Place or Parks and Rec. Anything that makes me laugh but still feels comfortable and familiar and doesn't require the brain work, energy or commitment that a new funny show would. Laughing is good for you - it actually tricks your brain into thinking things are better than they are!
4. Read something.
Yeah, you knew this would be on here at some point, didn't you?
Whenever the state of the world has me depressed, I reach for a book. Something very unrelated to the current situation that's got me down - so, since right now I'm sad about politics, I'd go for high fantasy or some very historical fiction or a good, ridiculous mystery/thriller. Something that grabs me, and pulls me in, and moves me to an entirely different universe than the one I'm living in. When I'm in a bad mental health space, whether politics-related or otherwise, I usually stay away from nonfiction or contemporary fiction as I find that those can sometimes feel a bit too close for comfort to the situation I'm trying to get away from thinking about - grisly murders, early Medieval-era historical fiction, or plotlines involving genies and wizards and prophecies are always good value for that. Some favorites are Les Rois maudits (available in translation in English as The Accursed Kings here); The Alienist by Caleb Carr (grisly early-Industrial Age murders in New York!); the Daevabad trilogy; a hefty classic; or, recent discovery, the House of Niccolò series. I just snuggle one of my stuffed frends, open a book, and disappear into it, far, far away from what's hurting.
So, there you have it, folks. The steps that help me face the world when the world seems like a sad, scary, overwhelming place.