“So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representative or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.” – Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
If you’re anything like me, those clever social media algorithms have got your feeds chock full of political posts. If you’re actually like me, whenever you’ve opened Facebook during the last couple of weeks, you have been barraged with the the crazy, unbelievable, shocking, mostly-true-but-sure-some-is-exaggerated, horrible things the new administration of the U.S. is doing. As well as all the counter actions being conducted within our government, by large companies and organizations and by people on the streets. And if you are me, you’ve found yourself overwhelmed by all of the information, but you keep reading, taking mental notes, checking sources, sharing, and before you know it, it’s time to make dinner and you’re so mentally exhausted that cooking something that doesn’t involve the microwave is just too much.
I’m thisclose to being burnt out on politics, but my inner voice, my inner liberal, feminist voice keeps urging me to stay vigilant, keep up the good fight, and for heaven’s sake DO SOMETHING! But…what do I do? How do I do it? Where do I start? What can I do? I could spend all of my time being politically active, how do I get anything else done?
If you’ve been asking yourself any of these questions, regardless of the side of the political aisle you are on, read on, because I’ve got some suggestions for you on how to stay informed and be an advocate for your social and political beliefs, without neglecting the entire rest of your life.
- Know your news sources.
Please do this. There is so much information out there, and it is so easy to read piece after piece that you get yourself in a tizzy and can’t even tell what is fact and what is opinion. There have been several charts in circulation that indicate where several news sources fall on the factual and political leanings spectrum. One such chart is depicted below. If you want unbiased and thorough news, you can see which sources are the strongest in that area. If you want to read stuff that reinforces your personal, completely biased and narrow worldview, then head all the way to the right or the left. Personally, I stick with the as thorough and unbiased as possible as my go-tos, as well as my verification sources for information I may read from sources outside that bubble.
- Be present.
This isn’t very difficult, but it also isn’t very difficult to NOT be present. I’ve done it. I’ve read an article that someone has shared, based solely on the headline, then the comments on the article, then the comments on my friend’s post, then I’ve had to comment, and then counter comment, and then…well, you get the idea. So, I’ve been putting the phone down more. Being 100% present for whatever task needs my attention, for my kids, for actual conversations with other human beings. Okay, maybe 95% present. I still can’t help but reserve a little bit of time, when my kid is going on and on and on and on and ON about some minute detail of their day, for daydreaming about having a nanny to listen to these inane one sided conversations while I’m sipping cocktails poolside. But shutting down the outside noise during family time has definitely helped all of us.
- Use your time wisely.
Instead of getting into a heated argument with a person who is on the complete opposite end of the social and political spectrum with you on someone else’s feed whom you barely know, do something that actually makes a difference, no matter how small. The number of people who have completely reversed their thinking in a comment thread probably hovers around zero. And for heaven’s sake, if you absolutely MUST comment, don’t call names and stick to facts. So what to do? Call your representatives and let them know how you feel about what is going on. Just do a quick internet search, and you will be able to quickly find information about contacting your politicians and where they stand on issues important to you. Also, seek out organizations that represent issues that are important to you, and contribute to their cause, be it through a monetary donation, signing a petition on their behalf, following any suggestions they may have to otherwise support them, or just be aware of what this administration may do to affect them and determine what you can do to help. These activities take minutes, and are much more productive than getting angry at a stranger or even a friend or family member. Another thing to look for are local social and/or political groups. I was led to one in my community, and one of their priorities is to connect people with the causes most important to them, not sending everyone everywhere to do everything. So I let them know, my top priorities are women’s reproductive rights and protection of the environment. And that’s where my energies with this group will be focused. Not all day, all the time, but a purposeful, focused effort.
- Seek out what amuses you.
For me, this is a big priority. If I go a day without laughing, it’s a really bad sign for those around me. I have a couple of friends with whom I exchange “punny” jokes with, another who sends me funny memes every day, and groups and individuals that I talk with in various forms who keep me grounded and make me giggle until I snort or cry or both.
- Do something that makes a difference.
I’m about to start coaching my second season of Girls on the Run in my community. I have written about this before, but I can say that besides passing my stellar genes along to my daughters, this might be the best thing I’ve ever done. Giving my time and attention to these kids has changed my life. Now, doing this is definitely a time investment, but there are other things you can do that cost minimally in time, expense, and effort, but that can make a difference. For example, my kids and I did what we called a “reverse advent calendar” in December. Every day, my kids would open their Lego advent calendar, and then go to the pantry and find a non-perishable food item to put in a basket. After the holidays, we brought the goods to the local food pantry. It took seconds out of our days, just a little money out of my wallet, and about 15 minutes to drive it to the food pantry to drop it off. In addition, my kids and I are planning a garden now, to be implemented in the spring, so that we can make a difference in our own lives by being more self-sufficient, eat healthy things, and hopefully gain an appreciation for the work involved and the reward of growing our own food.
- Take care of yourself.
You should do this all the time anyway, but in case your soul is feeling heavy from what feels like all the insanity around us, and your body is feeling heavy from binging over the holidays, eating comfort food because of colder temps, or just eating all of your emotions, give yourself a break. Take a yoga class, get outside when the sun is shining and the temperatures allow it, make sure you get enough sleep, keep in touch with people who make you feel comfortable, read good books, drink enough water, move your body and eat your veggies! Try this for one day, and see how you feel:
That’s pretty much what I’ve got at the moment. If you have any other suggestions or feedback, please leave them in the comments section! And if you like, then share!
Latest posts by Jennifer Helfrich (see all)
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- A Guide to Being Socially Aware and Politically Active Without Losing Your Sh*t - February 2, 2017