by Bonnie Vander Wal, Ph.D., CAPS Staff Counselor
This post is the first in a series of three planned posts leading up to Election Day, 2020. CAPS staff counselor Bonnie Vander Wal writes to help the Hope Community navigate the turbulent election season with an eye on maintaining mental health.
It’s that time again…
The incessant political ads –
this guy is wrong for these reasons, versus
this guy is wrong for those reasons, and
this guy is right because of this, versus
this guy is right because of that.
And oh yeah, they all approve their own messages.
There’s the social media arguments and outrage – did someone I’m related to really just post that? Would you dare say that in person to someone’s face? And yet another text message–at least daily–asking if it’s me, who I will support, and how I will cast that support. Ugh, maybe I will just go for a walk…
But wait! Unless I close my eyes or look straight down at the pavement, I can’t even get fresh air these days without knowing who my neighbors are rooting for now, on November 3rd, and beyond.
Each election season or cycle seems to get longer with shorter periods of rest in between. Is there really a “season” or do they just campaign continuously? And if 2020 wasn’t already the pinnacle of distress being in the midst of a pandemic, with on-going racial injustice, economic uncertainty, and a climate in turmoil!
Do we even have any energy left to
cast that vote,
have that conversation, and
spend time caring for ourselves?
Cast that vote!
If you are still here and haven’t exited this page yet you might be thinking, “Shouldn’t a blog post from CAPS aim to reduce my stress rather than elevate it?” Yes, you must be one of the brilliant students who call Hope College home. The answer indeed is YES! There is hope at Hope! If you can spare a few minutes, on three separate occasions, I promise you (oops, sorry, too political), rather, I will offer you some useful information on navigating through a turbulent election period.
The focus in this first part is going to be on actually choosing to vote. If you are registered and able to, this can empower you and I’ll discuss how.
The second part in this series will address difficult dialogues with some strategies to use, should you choose to engage in challenging conversations.
Finally, the third part in this series will bring in the most important aspect in any turbulent time – self compassion and self-care. So please tune in to each part of this series in our effort to bring you something helpful and HOPEful!
November 3, 2020 is Election Day in the United States. If you are able, will you vote? Why might this be important to participate in?
Would you believe for your mental health?
There are psychological benefits associated with casting your vote. The first is empowerment. When you vote, you give power to your position.
Your voice matters. There are many inequities that exist across the nation right now, and although problems exist related to voter access (which would be a different blog at another time), your actual vote is as equal to anyone else’s one vote. The president of Hope College gets one vote. The Dean of Students? Also just one vote. Your favorite professor? Still just one vote. So if you are able, what will you do with your one vote?
Another benefit to participating in the election process is a sense of social well-being. When we work collectively at something and engage in civic duty, we start to feel like we belong. When we feel like we belong, we feel connected to others and experience social consciousness.
Social consciousness makes us more aware of how interrelated we are and reduces isolation. This brings us closer in our communities where we can feel valued, respected, and loved.
Sense of Purpose
The last benefit discussed here is related to political or civic engagement overall. If you aren’t able to literally cast a vote this season, perhaps you are still able to exercise your voice, be present and active, and strengthen your mental health. How? By giving you a sense of purpose and asserting your rights.
When people get involved with what they feel passionate about, they experience joy and satisfaction, even if the work is discouraging at times. This is especially true for people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, and those disadvantaged economically. When people unite in support of common concerns, this boosts their stamina, gives them a sense of control, and builds resilience.
Taking action for what you support or oppose, whoever you are, enriches your identity and nurtures your spirit.
Stay tuned for the second part in this series where we’ll address some strategies to try when having difficult dialogues!