What are you doing to deal with political stress? What should I do?
August 29, 2017 6:54 AM   Subscribe

Like everyone else, political stress is getting to me - I've been sick a bunch since the election and I'm having some other problems. I'm having trouble managing stress and this is compounded by the fact that I do political activism - I can't just unplug. Details and specific questions inside.

1. How do you manage staying politically active while still unplugging from the news? I feel like I'm constantly checking Facebook to see if I need to go to a demo, I have both activist and union stuff to do regularly and the resulting constant political awareness is just tearing me up. Your specific experiences would be great.

2. I need techniques for stopping with screens. It's all screens, all the time, and I have terrible, terrible trouble putting them down. I don't have the willpower, and of course we all need the internet for routine stuff all the time anyway.

3. All the science fiction is depressing. Like, this is a weird question, but what do you do when your hobby is also depressing? The Hugos this year? OMG. Keeping up with, discussing and teaching SF is a big part of my life. In the past couple of weeks, I've read three depressing and upsetting novellas and still need to tackle The Stone Sky. I don't want to leave the real world and internet SF communities I frequent, but seriously, it's messing with my head.

4. Willpower. Like, I have zero. I'm eating well content-wise, but should be eating less. I'm going to the gym, but not enough. I think probably longer, more frequent exercise would help, but I have no willpower - doing what I'm doing is maxing me out.

5. What else can I do to stay healthier? I used to rarely get sick and now I'm sick - like, go-to-the-doctor sick - all the time.

I just look at the next three years (or, god forbid, the next seven) and I know I can't get through it like this. I mean literally, I will break my health if I can't get out of this cycle.
posted by Frowner to Health & Fitness (46 answers total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
I'll be following this question really closely because this is my struggle too.

The only thing that has worked for me at all is the "box trick" that a therapist taught me. This is mostly so I can sleep when I have, "OH GOD CLIMATE CHANGE NORTH KOREA I'M GOING TO END UP A HANDMAID POLICE STATE WILL I HAVE TO HIDE REFUGEES IN MY CLOSET OH GOD AM I FAILING AS A RESISTOR WHY IS EVERYTHING ALWAYS THE WORST" running through my head. And that's where you take the thing (or THINGS) that are upsetting you and put them in a box in your head. You picture the box (mine is a pirate chest wrapped in barbed wire like the Necronomicon) and slam the box shut. Now you can't think about that thing anymore because, sorry! It's in the box. Can't get to it. If you brain tries to be all, "But what about North K-" NOPE. It's in the box. It actually works and helps me when I bolt awake at 4am.

And also, I try to mostly consumer positive or funny pop culture. I made exceptions for The Handmaid's Tale (HA HA, possibly a mistake. See above) and Game of Thrones. But other than that? It's all sitcoms or cartoons that I know I like (Brooklyn Nine Nine, Parks and Rec, Bob's Burgers, old school The Simpsons, Steven Universe) or standup comedy. Maybe just take a BREAK from depressing SF? Like, for a a week. You don't actually HAVE to read that book. It will still be there.

I'm sorry. I'm right there with you.
posted by Aquifer at 7:07 AM on August 29, 2017 [11 favorites]

Find a buddy. Is there someone in your local activist circles that you like and who agrees with you on pretty near everything? Ask that person if they're also feeling overloaded. If they are, arrange a rotation: "Okay, I'll keep up on Facebook and the news and suchlike this week, and you can unplug. If anything really big comes up -- some demo, some call-your-Senator thing -- I'll let you know; otherwise, just chill out this week. Next week, it'll be your turn to keep me updated if anything really big comes up."
posted by Etrigan at 7:13 AM on August 29, 2017 [18 favorites]

Things that I'm doing that are helpful for me, that may or may not be helpful for others:

1. Really really realizing that grinding myself down into an exhausted mass of goo is not helpful for anyone, especially for the people I'm trying to help with my actions. It's not.
2. Closely related: Realizing that most of the people I see online who are seemingly doing all activism, all the time, are also doing things like taking weekends off and going out on dates and otherwise trying to live somewhat balanced lives, even while lecturing others on how marginalized people can't put down the struggle, yadda yadda. It is true that they cannot, but that doesn't mean every single person should be a total martyr every single moment of every single day. That's not the society I'm fighting for, so I shouldn't be encouraging it now. I want art and amazing creative food and happy people and that needs to continue being cultivated, too.
3. Meditating. I try for 20 minutes a day, some days I miss. This has been the single most helpful thing I've been doing. I know it's not as helpful for everyone, but for me, it flips a switch in my head (not immediately, but over the longer term) that increases my resilience to external stressors. I especially like loving-kindness meditations.
4. Forgiving myself when I skip the gym (like right now!).
posted by lazuli at 7:18 AM on August 29, 2017 [11 favorites]

Get a hobby that causes you to need to concentrate on something other than politics. I do fancy woodworking and there is nothing that can flow through your brain when needing to make wood cuts with only millimeters to spare.

Also at night when I have trouble sleeping I put on a boring audiobook or a youtube of a radio show. I am partial to Art Bell which may scribe with your interest in SF. This keeps me from thinking of that witty retort I should have said to something 8 years ago etc etc.
posted by lstanley at 7:21 AM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

I've been focusing a lot this year on providing depth of service to my community vs. spreading myself thin knowing and resisting all things. Everything happening is important but so are you, your job security, your family and your health. Without those things, you are no help to anyone.

So instead of feeling like I have to go to every march, write my people for every thing that's wrong and post on every social media post, I have focused my efforts on specific things - women's and indigenous rights. Because I know the people involved, their issues, and have some capacity - I can really help them with things they need vs. just showing up, yelling, and reposting things. Further, I actually think I get more engagement on the stuff I share because it's not drowned in a sea of resisting everything.

There are important groups and causes that I really believe are important but don't get into - LGBTQ+ and BLM in particular. I do read some of those things, but don't feel the need to be an expert. If I have extra capacity, I will help, but I know that I am of better service to this world if I do deep, focused work - so I accept that I can only do that for so many people.

Think of your ability to serve and resist as a bank account - emptying it out every single time you make a deposit (such as - a healthy meal, a day at the gym, a therapeutic talk with a friend, etc.) is a surefire way to end up in debt. Look at every financial post here - people suggest having a few months of savings so you have resilience in the face of unexpected strain. If you are emptying your emotional account our every time there's a post that needs a long comment, then when it comes time to make an investment in yourself (something that involves willpower), you'll have nothing left. Without those investments, there are no deposits and you're suddenly living in debt. That can only go on so long before you can't even borrow anymore.

Remind yourself that resistance is not a 3- or 7- year thing - many of the themes that came up in the election have existed for decades, and there's no break coming from having to fight. No matter how hard you work these 3- years, hatred and fascism will exist in the world. We must be there to resist then too. Burning out is not an option.
posted by notorious medium at 7:23 AM on August 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

Sitcoms and cartoons like Bob's Burgers got me through the winter. I needed something bright in the darker months. I'm eating wayyy too much and am online a shit ton, so I need to take the advice here. Am trying to have maybe one day a week or two hours for bedtime away from political news, but my resolve has been squishy.

I've got mostly feeble ideas: pet a dog, hug your friends, drink herb tea while being meditative? Sing so loud that you're screaming? Punch a punching bag. Find someone you agree with to hike and vent with?

If I catch myself beating myself up emotionally, I try to stop. Dread is harder to divert.

I firmly but speculatively deny the possibility that Trump can be re-elected. He's going to be darned old and tired (as we all will be), he won't have delivered on his overblown salesman promises, and he will have alienated a lot of groups with his rude-ass insults. If the economy doesn't shower the white working class with extra cash I think a lot of swing voters will wise up.
posted by puddledork at 7:27 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I hear you. If you do find things that work for you, please let us know. In the meantime, I hope some of the answers here are useful, I really do.

For me, I find listening to news a less intense way to keep abreast than blasting the misery directly into my eyeballs. Just a few of the short bulletins on BBC music radio stations a day is enough for me.

But I found I've had to find things to look at to replace the news sites I'd go to almost without thinking about. For me, that's things like word games, chess, cultural and arts news sites, McSweeney's, reading about photography. In fact, this is probably the main reason I'm poking my nose back into MeFi today for the first time in ages.

As for getting away from screens, I can only suggest the obvious: walks, books, a pint with the locals. Cryptic crosswords and writing poems make me really happy — it slows my brain right down but fills it up and keeps it working in a totally different way. I go to a very different place doing these things.

Good luck!
posted by nthdegx at 7:28 AM on August 29, 2017

2. I need techniques for stopping with screens. It's all screens, all the time, and I have terrible, terrible trouble putting them down.

This is only a small thing--in general I am not doing super great with this--but I have had some luck recently with leaving my phone inside and taking a folding chair outside with a book for awhile periodically, and I think getting some sun is also helping with my mood.
posted by Sequence at 7:32 AM on August 29, 2017 [10 favorites]

I think probably longer, more frequent exercise would help, but I have no willpower - doing what I'm doing is maxing me out.

If possible, build some bike riding into your routine. Ride to work sometimes or to a march or other political meeting. Unlike going to the gym, it becomes something you just do in order to do other things versus having your brain convince you that "NOW IS THE TIME WE GO TO THE EXERCISE PLACE AND EXERCISE."
posted by mikepop at 7:34 AM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

I had to quit federal political news cold turkey back in the GWB / Katrina era. Sorry that's not the answer you're wanting, but I was starting to head toward serious depression. Maybe you can motivate yourself to take care of yourself as a way to preserve your effectiveness over the long haul?
posted by salvia at 7:38 AM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

2. I need techniques for stopping with screens. It's all screens, all the time, and I have terrible, terrible trouble putting them down.

Walk a dog! Doesn't need to be your dog. You can walk my dog!
posted by furnace.heart at 7:39 AM on August 29, 2017 [9 favorites]

Some ideas specific to how to put down the screens, something I have trouble with, too:

Around 8 pm, I put on my glasses that block blue light (like these that fit over my glasses). This helps me feel sleepy despite the light of the screen.

For any and all sites that are likely to trigger news-stress (news sources and social media), I don't download their app. I only access them using Chrome. And I have Chrome Nanny set to only allow me to access the sites listed during certain hours, maximum 2 hours per day. It's more than enough time for me to become aware and spread the word, but doesn't let me dive down rabbit holes.

I have turned off notifications from everything except texting/Signal/WhatsApp.

Most of the activists I'm working with feel the same. We're organizing more over email and text than Facebook now, because it's hard to remember who's on break from Facebook, and it seems there's always someone needing a break from it.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 7:43 AM on August 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

Heavy, heavy deployment of LeechBlock, Chrome Nanny, and similar plugins. I can't trust myself not to constantly refresh news sites, so I remove my ability to do so. This saves willpower for other stuff.

You can even block sites at your router if you are willing to get your hands a little dirty.
posted by radicalawyer at 7:50 AM on August 29, 2017

I curate my screens. I have my main computer for when I want to be updated on all the things even the bad things. Then I have separate set up on my tablet (or you could on your phone) that is my happy fun time feed. I follow reddit a lot, but can also work with Facebook etc. One source of information is heavily filtered & edited & keep your activism source completely separate. After a certain time each night you check out. Much like you would from work. Between these hours I'm all about the activism. After 7pm, it's kitties & Slime Ranching (it's a game not a euphemism) if I am online.

You might find websites etc that discuss ways to separate work & home life when working from home useful. Have a space where you do your activism work, then after knock off time walk away & close that door.

Set a time every day to go for a walk outside, hell have your screens beep at you to remind you. Arrange a weekly meetup with friends where you refuse to discuss politics (I play D&D but go get drunk, eat tacos, all just go for a walk together). Go volunteer somewhere that isn't political. Walk dogs for the local shelter, cut trails in national parks. Something a little physical, where your brain can still go hey I'm helping but without the politics tied up in it.

Make your activism smaller. Seriously. You cannot be angry about all the things all the time. The human brain doesn't work like that. Pick an area or 2 that really upset you & focus on those. Work locally. Make the activism actual physical offline work. Being angry & doing something physical is so much more mentally satisfying than getting caught up in the online feedback circles of anger Online there is no end, no sense of conclusion, no sense of I did this thing & it got done. Because it's like a fire hose of information coming at you and you're over there with your bucket scooping like mad & seeing no results.

It's OK to not read every tweet or facebook post. To not get angry about every single thing. They're dumping so much shit so fast on purpose to try & normalize it. Sitting there letting it break you is what they want. Keep living your best life.

Being happy is a win. They want "Liberal tears" remember that if you ever feel guilty about having fun or being happy. Being happy and living your life well & with kindness is the ultimate resistance.
posted by wwax at 7:53 AM on August 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

I started a queer garden collective this year and it helps SO MUCH to have a group of good folks doing physical work together for a positive cause. It doesn't have to be gardening, it could be art, or building things, or any other activity that uses your body and brain and heart and is largely disconnected from the tragedy of the world at large. Good luck. This shit is hard.
posted by libraritarian at 8:13 AM on August 29, 2017 [6 favorites]

Not having internet access at home is the thing that works best for me.
posted by aniola at 8:19 AM on August 29, 2017

And also, I try to mostly consumer positive or funny pop culture. I made exceptions for The Handmaid's Tale (HA HA, possibly a mistake. See above) and Game of Thrones. But other than that? It's all sitcoms or cartoons that I know I like (Brooklyn Nine Nine, Parks and Rec, Bob's Burgers, old school The Simpsons, Steven Universe) or standup comedy.

This is super key, for me. I initially picked up It Can't Happen Here, Handmaid's Tale, 1984 etc etc and then was like, "What the FUCK am I doing?" Why would I want that all to play out in my head right now?

If you can't stay away from SF, can you re-read and re-consume some of your favorites? Turn to the media that makes you feel hopeful and comforted?
posted by knownassociate at 8:37 AM on August 29, 2017

Get an old fashioned stupidphone so you're not looking at screens all the time. Is there anything you really really need on your smartphone? Apologies if you don't have one. Take a long walk every day in nature; do it alone or with a friend who enjoys silence. Don't listen to music or anything else through headphones while you walk.

I don't know how old you are but I am most likely a lot older. My oldest kid is 47. I've been involved in activism since I was 13, back in the 1960s. Frenetic periods of activism have segued time and time again into temporary periods of withdrawal, of reflection and renewal.

I saw too many people burn out, brilliantly shining stars who shattered, who fell into madness, into addiction, into cults.

Take care of your health. The revolution will not happen overnight. You're in this for the long haul. Take a vacation from it all, give yourself permission.
posted by mareli at 8:44 AM on August 29, 2017 [9 favorites]

the main weird advice: get out under the sky on a regular basis. look at the sky. observe how it changes.

answers to each point below:
1. How do you manage staying politically active while still unplugging from the news?

news consumption has become strategic for me. based on what i am trying to get done, some stuff is helpful to know; some stuff i don't need to know in real time. i trust my friends to hip me up if something terrible has happened and i have been doing other things.

3. All the science fiction is depressing. Like, this is a weird question, but what do you do when your hobby is also depressing? The Hugos this year? OMG. Keeping up with, discussing and teaching SF is a big part of my life. In the past couple of weeks, I've read three depressing and upsetting novellas and still need to tackle The Stone Sky. I don't want to leave the real world and internet SF communities I frequent, but seriously, it's messing with my head.

be real about the fact that one of your hobbies is emotionally draining and budget for it and make decisions based on that?

4. Willpower. Like, I have zero. I'm eating well content-wise, but should be eating less. I'm going to the gym, but not enough. I think probably longer, more frequent exercise would help, but I have no willpower - doing what I'm doing is maxing me out.

i do not know you personally but this sounds like you need to rest for a couple days, like actually rest not halfassed "rest until i am exactly good enough to drag myself off the couch and keep doing shit"

5. What else can I do to stay healthier? I used to rarely get sick and now I'm sick - like, go-to-the-doctor sick - all the time.

care about yourself with the same energy you use to care about the fuckery of the world. if it's hard to care about yourself, it might help reflecting that if you are a tool to do righteousness you have to love and care for that tool else it breaks. the cadence of fuckery going on right now combined with the 24hr news cycle means despair overload is a click away.
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 8:50 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have found watching trash paranormal media meant for teens to be very therapeutic. I'm talking like, "Vampire Academy" levels of trash - stuff that is full of high drama about pointless and clearly completely unreal things. It acts almost like a brain cleanser, and if I put my phone down before I watch it I can often get up and do stuff.

Similarly, if I watch Netflix on my phone I can't check the news.
posted by corb at 9:01 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is it at all feasible for you to cut back on the amount of activism you are doing? Sometimes reducing the volume helps improve your mental health so you have the capacity to be more present for the select bits of activism that you choose to do. I think all the suggestions above are really good! But sometimes they need to be combined with, well, doing less activism work.

For many years I was heavily involved in community activism on top of a full time job and lots of social activities. Then I had a personal trauma that knocked me flat. I resigned immediately from ALL the boards and committees I was on, except for one women's group that only met a few times a year and organized only three major annual events.

It gave me the space to recover while still allowing me to participate in activism in a meaningful way and maintain connections. I had to get over the feelings of guilt about "not doing enough" but I literally was not capable of my former levels of activity. With some time and distance, I could see I had actually been burning myself out; the traumatic event was completely unrelated but had forced me to just STOP and prioritize my mental and physical health.

It's been three years. I'm happier with the level of participation I'm at now. I've had to realize it will not all fall apart if I step away; in fact, it did not all fall apart when I did. I just had to get better at saying no (which was really, really hard). Good luck--I know from reading your comments here that you do a lot for your community. It's ok to take a break!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:08 AM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

Nthing that I'm glad you're asking this question, though I'm sorry that you're feeling this way. One suggestion I don't see here yet is to schedule in occasional trips away from your home, if your resources allow. These trips don't have to be long or exotic - the most ridiculous one my wife and I ever did was a one-night stay at a Super 8 in the middle of an utterly unremarkable Pittsburgh suburb, where we spent the entire day watching bad TV and reading cheesy books. The best trips are to more lovely places than that, but really, the goal is to be physically removed from the places that have become layered with all of your responsibilities and stresses.

Leave your screens at home, ban the news channels from the TV, and ideally pick a place where there are pretty hiking paths, beaches, lakes, mountains, or whatnot to enjoy. Try to feel how you are connected to something other than our current sociopolitical climate. I find that even just a short overnight works as a reasonable "reset button" for me, and in the best case even motivates me to keep my screens off more frequently once I get back home, at least for a little while.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:11 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

On my more productive weeks I've managed to hold off checking weekday news in real time at all with the knowledge that I'm signed up for Phire's TinyLetter and she's doing an amazing job distilling down all the shit into both breaking and long-term news items and action, plus one thing to laugh at a day. I'm having some of the same struggles though.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:23 AM on August 29, 2017 [6 favorites]

Hiking. It's a big, beautiful world out there—the real world. The natural world has been there long before us and will be there long after our civilization is gone. Staring at a 100,000,000-year-old mountain range helps put things in perspective and makes the struggles of the day seem less overwhelmingly huge. Also, I just find time spent in nature to be tremendously psychically nourishing. I started hiking regularly immediately after the election, and consider it the main reason why I am still sane. The physicality of it really helps burn away stress and anxiety, too; when I'm in the middle of a 1,000-foot climb, I'm not thinking about much beyond my body.

Also, I monitor my engagement with media and current events and try not to get invested in unhealthy ways, or at an intensity that I can't sustain. It's OK to take a break, put a moratorium on acrivism or even looking at the news, and come back to it when you've had a chance to recover and reassess. It may even be the best thing you can do in terms of long-term effectiveness; after all, you're no good to anyone if you let yourself burn out.

Mostly hiking, though. Just being out in the real world, away from all this human-created suffering for a while, is deeply grounding and nourishing in a way nothing else has ever been for me. You can start small and grow your hikes as you get more comfortable and experienced; you don't need to do anything extreme right away, though you may be pleasantly surprised how fast the seemingly impossible becomes totally doable.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:24 AM on August 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

I've been playing mandolin. I never had before, just found one online for $50 and thought, "Learning this will be better than shrieking at the heavens all day." And it is.

I've also given myself permission to tilt my reading from the weightier serious novels and issue-based non-fiction to fluffy page turners and books about hobbies and fun facts.

I do still watch a fair amount of serious films, but I've been focused mostly on Ken Loach movies because one of his recurring themes is the basic decency of people in the face of an awful world and I find that very reassuring.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:29 AM on August 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh, and you won't be checking the news on your phone if there's no reception. You'll want your phone on airplane mode anyway even if there is reception, to preserve your battery in case of emergency. And when I go hiking I get rid if my phone's news feed because otherwise I will automatically check it even if I'm in airplane mode and know it's not refreshing. I also turn off notifications for all social media apps, so that they aren't bugging me to look at them.

Hiking also adds some exercise to your life, of course. You say you want more of that, and hiking will definitely give it to you.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:31 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Take all that energy and volunteer at a soup kitchen or some other charity; helping other people can really bring perspective while also making the world a better place.
posted by jpe at 9:39 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

For me, the answer is

-podcasts about anything else
-a curated Tumblr experience that is all about cute animals, millennial neo-Dadaist memes, and sweet/positive pop culture things

Every other "feed" in my life is full of painful things-- the news, twitter, real life, conversations with people I love. But I use those two spaces as detox, when I don't have the willpower to just go pick up a book.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:47 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't do yoga or meditation or mindfulness, I have trouble quieting my mind so those things don't work for me. The best thing that I have found is to get out and go for a walk and get some sunshine on my face. Preferably in the morning, maybe at my first break.

I try to make home a sanctuary from unpleasantness. For me that means that I don't turn on the news at home, ever. News gets checked during the day, if at all. Sometimes I just rely on my hubby to relay anything important. At night I have taken to watching nature shows. There's an episode of the BBC Earth Life series that is about how plants grow which sounds dumb on paper but it's actually relaxing. We also watch Moving Art, and various YouTube relaxation channels. Right now we're getting a lot of mileage out of a channel of a campfire next to a river. We put it on during dinner and leave it on through bedtime stories. At that point hubby usually takes over the remote and I retire to a different room but it's a good two hours of peace.

We have a little vegetable garden that I like to fuss over in the morning hours on weekends. It's a productive hobby and I don't use everything I grow so I usually bring extras to share at work or when I go visiting. Sometimes with my kids I make a project where we make cookies or brownies specifically to have enough to share. The idea of sharing breeds good feelings for us, and I use some of that time talking to my kids about kindness.

In the Spring I was completely overwhelmed with the news and I completely signed out of FB on my phone. We are not allowed access to it on our work computers so that means if I really want to check it I have to make the effort to do so once I'm at home (I'm usually too busy or tired once I get home, and I try to connect with people via text if I'm wondering what they're up to. I've made a point to tell everyone I'm off FB so that no one gets offended that I've stopped liking their stuff). If I needed it to check events, etc, I would try to designate an appointed time each morning to check for upcoming events, and then I would sign out again. Alternatively, I would try to get email notices for events, either via mailing list or by asking a trusted friend to keep me in the loop with event details, but not with any hype or group gossip.

As mentioned upthread, I've cut way back on my activism. I'm focusing on smaller issues where I feel I can make a bigger impact. Sort a "think globally, act locally" model. I may be impacting fewer people for the moment, but I feel like support and activism ebbs and flows - if the things I impact take some of those issues off of someone else's plate, they may be free to tackle bigger issues. In a while, once I'm recharged and they are getting tired, we may switch roles.

You sound like you're getting into burnout mode. You might consider an unconnected vacation, like camping, or maybe even leaving the country and leaving your phone turned off for a few days.
posted by vignettist at 9:57 AM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I paid for the app Freedom to block Twitter from my phone and other devices for particular hours of the day (and on an ongoing basis as I need to), in order to keep myself from checking it right before bed, which is when I'm most prone to see something horrifying that sends me into a spiral of existential dread.
posted by dismas at 10:29 AM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Remember that stress is literally a killer. So the one demo you might possibly miss by unplugging for the night after dinner will be made up for in a longer life in which to do good.
posted by kapers at 10:30 AM on August 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've been able to stay away from constant news because I reframed it. I don't consider constantly subjecting myself to news "awareness" anymore. I consider it submission to an intentional campaign by this administration to shock, distract, overwhelm, outrage, confuse, divert, and ultimately weaken and defeat me.
posted by kapers at 10:35 AM on August 29, 2017 [20 favorites]

Allow yourself more than average stupidity. I've switched from NPR podcasts to comedy podcasts about video games and dick jokes. From The Americans to Law & Order, from literature to mysteries in my audio books. From Twitter to... well crap, nothing has suggested itself yet (none of my blogs and other frolics are fun anymore), so just a lot less Twitter. You need to have escapism, and let some of the usual ways you access content become protective rather than rubbing more salt in the wound.
posted by acm at 12:13 PM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Whenever I am relaxing without a screen and without anything distracting me, I get antsy to reach for my phone. What helps keep me away from screens and focused on other stuff is listening to podcasts. It doesn't need to be something I am intently listening to, but just something in the background so I can do chores or hang out while still feeling like my mind is occupied so I don't need to reach for my phone and check Twitter. A silly, non-activist podcast would work. For instance, there's a podcast I listen to where every episode, the guest talks about the worst birthday they ever had. An audio book might do the trick as well.

Also, I think it's important to have cut off hours. If I am checking Twitter right before bed, there's a good chance I will see some news that will get me fired up or I will get roped into some conversation that is frustrating for me. Then, I can't sleep because I'm thinking about it. So a few hours before bed time, shut off and wait until the morning before checking your socials. Unsync your email before bed if you must (I used to do that with my work email in a high-stress job). In the hours before bed, stick to books (I recommend an e-ink reader, not a tablet that is another backlit screen), podcasts and funny sitcoms before bed. I recommend the Office and Parks & Rec. (I will say, The Office episode "Performance Review" was one of my all-time favorites, but it includes an extremely brief reference to The Apprentice and Trump, and that ruins it now. Weird how things turn out.)

You'll be no use to the cause if you are a burned out zombie. One person can only do so much. You should feel good about what you've been able and are able to accomplish already.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:33 PM on August 29, 2017

Seconding hiking (thanks Anticipation of a New Lover's Arrival, The!) There's a great hiking thread on MetaTalk at the moment.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:45 PM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

One thing that helps me cut down on screen time is simply logging out of my social media accounts. It sounds dumb, but it's a small barrier between me and the mindless browsing I do so frequently throughout the day when I'm waiting for the elevator or whatever. If I was just going to take a quick look, the nuisance of signing in sometimes stops me from looking at all.

Nthing doing social things that aren't about politics or activism. I'd say the majority of my IRL friends are not very political or non-political, so we end up doing things that take my mind of politics and it does wonders for my mood.

Walking my dogs also helps. Dogs are just so happy in general and they're even happier when they're taking walks, so, easy win! If you don't have dogs, you're welcome to walk mine anytime!

Also, I had to dig this article up again this week, because things have also been getting me down over the past two or three weeks. Maybe something in it will help: How To Stay Sane If Trump Is Driving You Insane: Advice From A Therapist.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:53 PM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I'm battling this, too. It's all about planning for me. In the moment, it's too easy to slip into bad habits. So in moments of cogence, I set up more positive alternatives. This AskMe is a good example of that, so bravo.

A lot of this for me is the same as fighting any other episodes of depression (with a lot anger and constant spectacle thrown in to feed the cycle). So for me, the best way to force myself to unplug from the negativity is to take on projects that I can't work on while feeding the beast. Projects or just tasks that move me away from the TV and screens. As much as possible.

And then supplement with positivity to help wash away the bad taste. Listen to upbeat or beautiful music (nothing depressing). Make lists of shows/movies/podcasts/books that are not negative. Comedy is best, especially if it isn't political. Skip the dark S/F. Probably best to look for comic S/F for awhile.

Nature, sunshine. Vitamin D.

Like I said, though, it's all in the planning. Willpower is hard to find in the depths of depression, so it's best to just pick a day, start out fresh, make lists, build up your supplies of positivity, and then you'll have it at hand when you need it most.

Best wishes.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:54 PM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, and forgot to mention - I've been paying attention to reporting about Hurricane Harvey, because national news has been doing a ton of "human interest" stories on good Samaritans helping other people out. Like this morning (I think) they interviewed a guy who took his truck and his boat and a couple of jet skis and drove to Houston and just went around and rescued as many people as he could find, saying something like "I don't care who you are, if you need help, I'll help you."
posted by triggerfinger at 5:08 PM on August 29, 2017

Meditation is helping a bit. I don't think you have to quiet your mind as much as you learn to let thoughts go by without acting on them/going down a rabbit hole.

I avoid CNN/etc and only check in once a day for the news on Alexa (which is curated with feeds we really want to hear). If I hear a certain person speak whether it be a speech or a "campaign rally," I skip that story.
posted by getawaysticks at 5:13 PM on August 29, 2017

A therapist once told me that being worried about something was different than actively tackling an issue. That my brain confused worry/anxiety with productive activity but that was a lie. I mention this because I've been at my dad's in a different state for way longer than expected (turned out he needed surgery, outpatient, and he's fine). So I've been experiencing stress but not news-related stress because my net and TV access have been way limited.

In practical terms that means for 10 days:

I haven't been closely following the huge political threads here (which turns out to be a good thing).

I haven't been following Apple News on my iPhone religiously (which turns out to be a good thing).

I told everyone in my 12-step program who normally looks to me for emotional support that I was unavailable (which turns out to be a good thing).

I do faux yoga stretching every day if I can. In addition, after the hellhole that I'm staying in has cooled down, I go for a walk outside. If I can't wait that long, I go across the street to the Big Box store and just walk around until I'm tired.

I tell people thank you constantly for their service. From the disabled people who are greeters at the entrances to the Big Box store to the nurses and doctors and receptionists at the VA when I go there with my dad. Because I am grateful and also because it makes me feel good to acknowledge people who have jobs I could never do and who do them well and politely even in the middle of the night when they've been standing for hours.

When possible, I try to be kind in small ways. I let people go ahead of me in line, not in a martyr kind of way but in a, "Gee, that guy appears to be buying nothing but he's in line so he must need something so I'll see if he'd like to go ahead of me" kind of way. And man, that guy lit up with joy (turns out he was buying propane and was super glad to save some waiting time). Like, he said thanks 3 times, no kidding.

I unsubscribed to a bunch of political podcasts that were just feeding my depression and anger. Instead I doubled down on British not-serious podcasts as well as Savage Love (which usually features a political rant at the beginning but it's short and helps me feel like I'm up to date).

I say no to a lot more. Not to be mean, but simply as a matter of self-care. It feels good. I expect to do more of it.

YMMV but as a gregarious introvert, being around people is exhausting. This trip would be fine if it were just my dad, but it's my dad plus his housemate, plus his housemate's buddies, etc. So I flee as needed.

I use the SelfControl app on my Mac when I can feel myself getting pulled back into the MF political mega thread or similar things.

There is no possible way I personally can save the world. So as noted by another poster, I'm trying to narrow and focus my activism so I can make the biggest impact in an area I care about at the smallest cost to me. Because I also have rent to pay, people to love, walks to take, etc.

I want to be in this for the long haul, and that means staying healthy and being moderate in lots of areas, activism included. Also, I am not a poster gal for activism. I've only ever dabbled. But I want to stop dabbling and do it on a more consistent basis. And I can't if I drown in the depression I've been wrestling with for more than a year.

Finally, I try to make time for joyful things. Things that have no particular purpose other than to make me happy, however briefly. So for me that's going to movie theatres, responding to AskMF (for limited amounts of time), picking blackberries now that they are ripe, etc.

Also, if I could borrow a dog to pet I would totally borrow a dog. If anyone in the East Bay has a dog I could come visit, please let me know. Good luck, OP, and thanks for your service. No kidding, I truly appreciate the political work you've done thus far as well as the hard work of so many other MeFites. Please don't burn out!
posted by Bella Donna at 7:24 PM on August 29, 2017 [6 favorites]

I have the same question but one intervention I am trying is Screen Free Sundays. I arbitrarily chose a day to turn off all screens for the full day.

Hard to believe in the moment but I am just as engaged in the world and news, but have a day of rest. Sundays feel longer, I read more. I do nothing more. It's very, very good. Of course, it's only been a few weeks.

My daughter and I are doing it together which helps - I suggest finding an accountability buddy if you try something like this.
posted by latkes at 1:19 PM on August 30, 2017

I recently posted about Sunvault, the first English anthology to collect solarpunk writing, which I found via Projects. In the MeFi thread, there are other suggestions for eco-punk stories, which tend to be more positive, finding solutions to the world's current and future problems. It's a great collection of short stories, poems and artwork with optimism, generally speaking.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:45 AM on August 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I identify with this post so hard - I could've written it myself, so thank you for posting it. Judging by how many folks have marked it as a favorite, you're far from alone.

I'm struggling with this too, and a lot of suggestions people have offered above have helped me - especially strenuous outdoors activities, preferably around forests and/or wildflower meadows. I am a hammock camper, but even if camping isn't your thing, you can get a cheap ENO hammock or something. Nothing beats a hammock in the forest, it is absurdly relaxing.

I've really prioritized spending time with friends over the last year. I've been trying to host more dinners and movie nights at my house. My friends are pretty political activist types - that's how most of us found each other! - but sometimes it's nice to just turn off the FREAKING OUT!! parts of our brains and hang out. I've begun to feel doing this - caring for and literally feeding my friends - is actually a critical part of my activism. My friends are fighting the good fight too - sometimes more than I do. And giving them a night off from cooking dinner not only makes me feel like I'm helping them out, but also helps shore up our friendship. Win-win! (Movie night = you can pop a bag of popcorn, make some box-mix brownies, and tell folks to BYO. Total cost < $5).

I have become more demonstrative with my appreciation and affection for people, which is a little hard for a Midwesterner like me, but giving and receiving that really sustains me in a way I didn't expect. A lot of my profession hangs out on twitter, so sometimes it's hard to shut down the damn screen (which I have to do inevitably when someone retweets the latest "omg this fucking shit again?" of the day), so I try to find ways to connect with some of my favorite people through other means, even if it's just email or postcards or texting.

I started a garden and a compost bin because I think it's incredibly important to bear witness to things that GROW in a time of overwhelming destruction. Growing something, even if it's just like, a chia pet, is fucking awesome.

Most mornings my goal is "get to the gym." Then once I get there, I set goals like "run a mile." But honestly, just getting to the gym most mornings is a worthy goal. I track the booze I drink so I don't go overboard. When I go to the doctor I am honest with them about my health and ask them to be honest with me if they think I'm doing alright or need to dial it back.

Finally, gonna echo the call to seek out utopian narratives rather than dystopian ones. It's far too easy for us to dwell on dystopias, partly because we can all too easily see how we might arrive there given our current trajectories. But utopian stories are what keep me in the fight. Naomi Klein once said that you have to give terrified people a positive vision to run towards, not just things to run away from. Part of my research work involves climate change, and it's depressing AF. The solarpunk thread recently was one of the most beautiful and wonderful things to brighten my day, and I'm so hyped to learn more about it (seriously, thank you filthy light thief!)

This is long enough, but I've long admired your posts, and as an activist person plus a union member myself, I really identify with a lot of your post. MeFi mail me if you want to chat about trying to figure this out!
posted by mostly vowels at 5:04 PM on September 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

Another piece of advice (I apologize for forgetting the source) I followed and have found very helpful: On Facebook/Twitter/other social media, as well as, as much as you can, your news sources in general, follow and read stuff from activists, rather than just reporters. That is, look for people who give in information in the context of "Here's what's happening, here's what you should do about it" (e.g., Call your congress critters and tell them to vote No on this piece of legislation; show up at this march/rally; boycott this company; etc.); stop following, as much as you can, people who give information as "Here's what's happening! It's horrible!"

In areas where I am more activist-y and have enough background and context to provide that activist framework, I do read more report sources, because in my head (and if I share the piece on social media) I can do that reframing myself. "OK, here's the story, here's what I/you should do about it." And I've really pushed myself to share information on Facebook only in that framework. (And sometimes the "doing" I'm advocating is less tangible, like asking people to rethink how they're framing an issue. But I try to stay away from just "This is horrible and we should all feel bad about it" stories.)

In areas where I don't have that background and context, I make sure I'm seeking out at least a few people/sources who can provide it for me, and I make sure that I do what I can to support their causes, and I avoid avoid avoid too much straight news reporting about it, because it makes me feel overwhelmed and hopeless. I've also unfollowed several friends/acquaintances who tend to post exclusively in the "Here's another horrible thing" style.

It's really made a huge difference for me. It switches the narrative from "Horrible things are happening, we're doomed!" to "Horrible things are happening, and here's how a lot of wonderful people in the world are fighting to make things better."
posted by lazuli at 6:29 AM on September 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Speculative fiction (OK, alt-history, but falls under same big umbrella) that gave me a feeling of calm, relief and hope instead of despair: Fire on the Mountain by Terry Bisson.
posted by latkes at 1:36 PM on September 2, 2017

I really appreciate your comments, Frowner, so I hope this thread is helpful for you finding ways to keep healthy. I admire how much you're doing and your capacity for that. Thank you for your contributions.

If you can afford to, give people money directly. Tip well, unless you think the service is really subpar. You are directly making a person's life a little bit better, in exchange for them making your life easier. If you can be comfortable with the idea that someone might do something with the money you give them that you would not yourself do in their shoes, give money to people who are begging. The amount of gratitude people will show you for five or ten bucks, if you can spare that, can be heartwarming. (Also sometimes the reactions can be weird, which, yeah. I've never been there, I can't say how I'd react. Regardless) the point remains is you are directly helping someone.

On a similar but cheaper note, whenever you possibly be can, smile at service industry workers. Thank them cheerfully and try and be hasteful with your transaction with them (which will also be appreciated by the people behind you in line). People dump a lot of shit on service industry workers and being mindful of treating people well means you can feel good about yourself in that you're a person who treats other people well. (Maybe you always are like this, but this is something that I find it important to remind myself to do, otherwise I get wrapped up thinking about whatever it is I'm thinking about at the time and I default to being cold and curt.)

Find music that you love. Music that you connect to, or music that just makes you happy, or both/all. At home, when you're doing things like eat or dishes or cleaning the floor, just listen to music that you love. Music that fuels your righteousness, if that's your thing. Music that gives you energy. Same when you commute. Don't listen to the news, if you commute by public transit don't look at your screen. Just listen to music that you love and be in the world you're fighting for. (Or comedy podcasts, if you're a podcast person. Something that makes you smile.) On public transit, I like to people watch, as subtly as I can so that I'm not making people too uncomfortable, though who knows in a world how well I'm doing at that. I remember that I want to make the world better for everyone in the ways that I can, even when they feel insufficient.

I mostly avoid social media and news sites anymore, as I've been struggling with a lot of stress from my job and transportation and health issues on top of the fact that a monster is (ineffectually) in charge of our country. I literally use Metafilter as a filter, for the most part, and only skim the earliest bits of politics threads just to make sure I haven't missed anything too important. I try and read about things that I care about but not things that I am scared by, as much as possible. I have a more recurring donations set up to good organizations than I can afford, but I hope I'm funding the efforts of people like you.
posted by Caduceus at 7:36 PM on October 6, 2017

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