Health

23 Things to Do Instead of Spiraling Over the Election

An official election counter-programming guide, for anyone who wants to spend time being productive, laughing, or simply being soothed.
Hannah Smothers
Brooklyn, United States
November 2, 2020, 7:57pm
Woman decorating a cake at home
valentinrussanov via Getty

As election reporters have been saying for weeks, it’s highly likely that we won’t know the results of the election on election night. The record number of mail-in ballots cast this year will take extra time to count, and in states where ballots may arrive after Election Day, votes will continue to roll in past Nov. 3. Waiting is never fun, but when you’re waiting to find out if we get four more years of a white supremacist–sympathizer as president and whether this election will actually “break America,” as predicted, it’s unbearable and anxiety-inducing! What lies on the other side of all this? Haha, nobody knows! 

We know that one big challenge of redirecting your anxious energy worrying over something is convincing yourself that you’re not going to miss anything, or miss a chance to materially affect the outcome, if you turn away from it. So let’s all say it together: We are all going  to bed Nov. 3 having no clue who the new president is. In the vicious cycle of watching online needles, refreshing Twitter endlessly, or otherwise doomscrolling (a term we should retire after this year) your way through Election Day, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that there are other more fun, or at least productive, things to do that affect the outcome as much as minutely monitoring it (i.e., not at all). Why not do literally anything else instead—even just for a few hours? 

Whether you’re in the mood for distraction or in the mood to do something that helps other people, we’ve got you covered. Consider this VICE’s guide to 2020 election counter-programming. 

If you want to laugh:

  • Play Quiplash or Among Us with a bunch of friends. I know. I know!! It’s month 150 of this pandemic, and no one wants to play stupid Zoom games anymore. But listen. Both of these games demand the use of your entire computer screen (or TV, or phone), and both require actual constant attention, so you can’t possibly descend into a Twitter or news hole. Also, you know you’ll laugh. You just will!
  • Read all the replies to this tweet from Grace Spelman, asking about times people have laughed so hard they cried. Even though most of the stories are extremely esoteric, the effect of reading them is that you will likely laugh so hard that you cry. 

  • Watch a YouTube compilation of Vines (RIP Vine). There are endless options to choose from, and thank God. These two, literally called, “iconic vines that cured my anxiety” and “VINES THAT KEEP ME ALIVE” are a good place to start. But just searching “vine compilation” in YouTube will yield enough content to waste away an entire day, if you want.
  • Search for ugly/scary/kooky houses on Zillow. They’re out there! You could even gamify it by making a bingo board with friends: Who can find a house with carpeted bathrooms or an obvious sex den the fastest? 
  • Catch up on comedian and TV writer Ziwe Fumudoh’s interview series on Instagram. The series has provided comic relief (with a touch of impossible-to-look-away-from cringe) all year, and helped Fumudoh land a leading role on an upcoming Showtime variety show. 
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If you want to be helpful: 

  • It’s too late to sign up to be a poll worker, but you can still drive people to the polls. There are a handful of services out there through which to volunteer, like People Demanding Action and RideShare2Vote. Your best bet is to probably just look up voting carpools in your state or region.
  • Offer free childcare to voters in your area through a neighborhood listserv, or even through Facebook. With so many schools doing remote learning, childcare is a crucial component of the voting process for parents who don’t want to drag their kids to the polls for several hours. 
  • Spend a few hours finding a recurring volunteer opportunity you can stick with well after the election. Even with social distancing and COVID-19 precautions in place, there are a lot of virtual volunteer opportunities available, particularly around connecting with the elderly population who are especially isolated lately. Idealist.org has a hub for online volunteer opportunities, and Volunteer Match has an entire COVID-19 hub. Both are good places to start, or you can search around for local orgs that may need help. 
  • Sign up to be a national archives volunteer. (You don’t have to be in Washington D.C. for this!) This moment in the U.S. might suck, but finding ways to assist in preserving its history is not a terrible way to distract yourself from what many are calling “the most important election of all time.” Spending time digging around in the history of this country is a nice reminder that we have had important elections before and likely will again.

If you want to do something “productive”: 

  • With refrigerators on the brain lately… when was the last time you did a deep clean of your fridge? Jolie Kerr, cleaning expert and author of My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag . . . and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha, wrote a guide to cleaning your fridge for the New York Times in 2017, if you need a starting place. 
  • Or pick something else to deep clean. The election is unlikely to provide any sort of instant gratification, but scrubbing the shit out of your tub will. 
  • Organize your messiest drawer or cabinet. This is cool because it inevitably involves making a huge mess first, and also inevitably takes hours longer than you realize. 
  • Re-organize all the apps in your phone. Maybe a new folder system? Maybe putting all the apps that facilitate doomscrolling into one folder that’s hard to get to? This is a tactic people who try to break phone habits swear by, so, two birds. 
  • Write a bunch of thank you notes. Even if you haven’t received any gifts recently, you can send thank yous for immaterial things, like any recent advice, fielding all your complaints about work all the time, general friendship, et cetera. Keeps your hands busy and away from your phone, and it feels nice to express gratitude. 
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If you want to have fun and relax online:

  • Spend hours touring (and judging) sun-filled, luxe, and sometimes very ugly celeb homes. Architectural Digest has an entire YouTube playlist of these so you don’t even have to click around. Just start from the top and let the whole thing roll. 
  • Watch arbitrary yet impassioned rankings of inane, meaningless things, like influencer protein pancake recipes. There are no stakes here, but you can still get very excited by the prospect of a certain influencer coming out on top or getting rightfully dragged for their shitty pancakes.
  • Admire the thoughtful design of the very tiny apartments on Never Too Small. Something about seeing a home where everything has its place and the footprint is minimal is deeply relaxing and inspiring, even if you have no intent on living in a tiny apartment anytime soon. 
  • Learn how to compile an entire brunch at a 7-Eleven in Taiwan. Are you going to Taiwan anytime soon? No, because you can’t. But that’s not the point. The point is sitting back for nearly 17 peaceful minutes, and seeing how inventive of a meal can be created at a superior bodega. 
  • Stream hours of Fixer Upper, a show where nothing ever goes wrong, and everything is awesome. Literally, what more could you want? There’s always some drama, usually in the form of an unfortunately placed load-bearing wall or something, but never so much drama that anything bad happens. Perfect escapism. 

If you want something to soothe your weary soul:

  • Listen to this sweet, calming playlist Noisey made just for the occasion. As VICE staff writer Drew Schwartz writes, “research shows that listening to music can have a legitimate calming effect on your mind and body.” Honestly, ideal! 
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  • Get into Starbucks TikTok. I am the last person who should’ve gotten sucked into this vortex, but I cannot overstate how endlessly soothing it is to watch people order drinks from Starbucks that I have no intention of ever ordering. Not even sure why this is true but it is. And if that isn’t a big enough dopamine hit, may I recommend this TikTokker, who has made a following for herself by DIYing Starbucks drinks at home? 
  • Watch this falcon!!! The University of Texas, my alma mater, has a 24/7 camera on Tower Girl, or a peregrine falcon that lives in the top of the clock tower on campus. Sometimes she isn’t there. Sometimes she is. Right now, there are a couple of eggs! Nothing major ever happens. It rules!
  • Bake and decorate a whole-ass cake. Even if it’s an ugly cake. That’s fine! Make this soothing and not chaotic by stacking up loads of layers that require loving attention, taking your time with the frosting, and adding loads of decorations. No one has to see this cake but you. And even if it looks like shit, it’s very difficult to make a cake that tastes bad. 
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