Stay alive until November 9! Tips for stress relief and self-care during election-pocalypse 2016

Traumatized and anxious from this brutal election? Can't stop refreshing FiveThirtyEight? We can help

By Erin Keane

Published November 4, 2016 10:58PM (EDT)

 (AP/Reuters/Brian Snyder/Charles Platiau/Shutterstock/Photo montage by Salon)
(AP/Reuters/Brian Snyder/Charles Platiau/Shutterstock/Photo montage by Salon)

It's been a long, hard slog through this presidential election season, which got real really fast on June 16, 2015, when Donald Trump formally declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination. First we had to make it through the primaries, with the Democrats' tedious in-fighting between the Bernie Bots and the Pantsuit Brigade and the total debasement of the GOP during those clown-car debates that devolved into belittling, baiting and barely-metaphorical dick-waving. Then came the pivots to the general election, with its cornucopia of October surprises for Hillary Clinton and Trump, not to mention Jill Stein trying really hard to get arrested and Gary Johnson occasionally saying something stupid and terrifying.

Even if you don't have to monitor the news for a living, the amount of vitriol and potentially triggering headlines and soundbites you've likely been exposed to, just by scrolling through your social media feeds or flipping through the channels at night, can be overwhelming. This election has felt like a never-ending trauma parade, and we still have four days left to go. Only the next four years and the very future of our country is at stake, and only two tracks have been released off the newly released "Hamilton" Mix Tape! No, you're a nervous self-medicating wreck.

Four. More. Days.

Here at Salon, we've mastered the arts of self-soothing — it's the only way we can get up in the morning and face our feeds without crumpling into sad, sobbing piles. We've found that generally speaking, self-care falls into three broad categories: distraction, mood alteration and creature comforts.

I watch a ton of TV (ahem, for professional purposes), but so many of the buzz-worthy shows aren't escapist at all. Prestige comedies about mental illness and grief might be cathartic, but I wouldn't call them a welcome distraction from the trauma of the news cycle. Ditto the ultra-violence of dramas like "Westworld" or "Game of Thrones." What I have found really soothing is the BBC Three mockumentary comedy "People Just Do Nothing," which is streaming on Netflix. The show follows two hapless would-be pirate radio kings, MC Grindah (Allan Mustafa) and DJ Beats (Hugo Chegwin), who run Kurupt FM, west London's preeminent boutique airwaves outlet for drum and bass and garage music, with help from their ridiculous sidekicks. What's enjoyable about this show is not necessarily the gulf between the protagonists' dreams and their abilities but the sheer lovability of their ambition. You know guys like this, who have big plans and bigger egos and are kings of the block, at least in their own minds. But even better are their long-suffering girlfriends, Miche and Roche, played with razor-sharp deadpan by Lily Brazier and Ruth Bratt, who deserve every award the UK can throw at them.

But really, if I want to be distracted, the last thing I need to do is watch TV. At home with Netflix, I can scroll through Twitter with my non-drinking hand, and what good does that do me? I'm still tense and pissed off at the end of the night. My advice: Leave your couch and go see some live theater. You don't have to wait to scrape up the cash to buy "Hamilton" tickets — although the Chicago production is divine — to partake. No matter how small of a community you live in, chances are there's a show of some sort up on stage this weekend, and you are basically forced to shut your phone off for the duration. Recently I saw Kentucky Shakespeare's production of "Titus Andronicus" — yep, the one with all the blood and revenge cannibalism — that felt like a cross between a Tarantino flick and "Saw." I'm looking forward to catching the Manhattan Theater Company production of Qui Nguyen's excellent play "Vietgone" next month (full disclosure: I was on the committee that awarded the play the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award this year). With its hip-hop/pop culture-infused treatment of the story of Vietnamese refugees resettling in America after the Vietnam War, it's not exactly the new "Hamilton," but it's not that far off. If you're in a rural area and there's no live show in driving distance, invite some friends over to read stories and play songs on the front porch.

When it comes to mood altering substances, I'm from Kentucky, and we take our bourbon seriously. You can spend a lot of time and money chasing down Pappy Van Winkle — or hell, just try to find a bottle of Elmer T. Lee on the shelf at the corner where it used to be before everyone got excited about it — or you can be a smart consumer and grab a bottle of Old Forester Signature, a 100 proof bourbon that packs a smooth, dark-chocolate flavor (and that 100 proof punch) for a relatively modest price tag. Drink it neat, maybe with a dash of bitters.

And when I can't distract or drink the news away, I like to take an hour in a salt cave. I have no idea if its healing powers are totally psychosomatic, but it's a pretty comfortable enforced nap-time either way. And I've started baking again. I'm determined to master a couple of showstoppers that would make Mary and Paul proud.

Salon's writers and editors have chipped in to inspire your weekend of self-care and soothing. Namaste. Peace be with you. Top me off, bartender.


Bust some ghosts
Ready to reaffirm that your crush on Kate McKinnon isn't just for when she's impersonating Hillary Clinton? Wouldn't you just like to watch Chris Hemsworth dance his heart out right about now? Watch "Ghostbusters" (2016). When the haters and the trolls insist that "Ain't no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts," just kick back and remember: You're with her. And her. And her. And her.  — Mary Elizabeth Williams, staff writer

Hide out in Cloud 9
I watch “Superstore” (NBC). Judge me as you will. — Alex Bhattacharji, executive editor

Serenity now
Dear fellow residents of Earth-that-was: Head on out into the black with 14 straight episodes of “Firefly” (streaming on Netflix and Hulu), one of the most underappreciated series on television. Follow Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his loyal crew as they scratch out a living smuggling goods and saving the common folk from time to time. Not only will a marathon of "Firefly" kill most of the day and the anxiety that comes with keeping your eyes open, it'll give you an idea of how to make the most of the dystopian adventure that lies ahead.

Good news: If you're reading this site, you'll probably end up being a Browncoat — just like Captain Mal and his first mate Zoe (Gina Torres)!

Bad news: That means we'll be on the losing side. Consolation prize: We'll all remain one step ahead of the intergalactic authorities in spaceship versions of muscle cars. Shiny! — Melanie McFarland, TV critic

Read a damn book
I recommend "The Sellout," by Paul Beatty. It just won the Man Booker Prize: a caustic racial satire that will change how you think about Clarence Thomas and urban farming. — Simon Maloy, staff writer

Choose life
I've been greatly enjoying de-stressing with two current TV shows: The first is "Atlanta" on FX, which is one of the most artful and subtle comedies in television history, and both is and is not a penetrating commentary on race in America. (Because it's also a spoof of a commentary on race in America.) The second is "Ash vs Evil Dead" on Starz, which I guess you couldn't call subtle, but offers a wonderfully splatterific return to a glorious horror franchise of my youth. Taken together, they suggest that life will go on after Donald Trump. With zombies! — Andrew O’Hehir, executive editor

Leave your house
This is not entertainment per se, but when I'm stressed I go outdoors — preferably into the woods to sit by a creek. If that's not possible, watching just about any film noir will do, as it doesn't require the effort of shifting out of a mood of hopelessness, misanthropy and despair. And my go-to anti-stress song is the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby." — Erfert Fenton, copy editor

Order the special
I wish I could say that I have a magic remedy for the common symptoms brought on by this nightmare of an election season: pulsating hallucinations, throbbing bodily and out-of-body pain, buzzing delirium. . . . The best I can do is to recommend binging on episodes of "Bob's Burgers," old and new. — Ben Wheelock, senior art director

“Archer” and chill
It may seem strange to relax with a show about espionage, a vain/obnoxious protagonist, and (in later seasons) a deadly cyborg, but the FX series "Archer" is so sleekly told and perfectly put together — it's nearly impossible to improve an episode by moving or altering a line or scene. It adds up to an effective mix of guilty pleasure, comfort food, retro-visual flair, and sheer narrative brilliance. You might come out of it disturbed by the plotline, but you will most likely have forgotten entirely about the election and whatshisname.

On the other side of things: Steve Reich's 1970s composition "Music for 18 Musicians" — first released as a recording by ECM in 1978 — is a shimmering, voice-and-marimba-and xylophone-driven, vaguely African-influenced cycle that is perfect for meditating or even slipping into sleep. For some (most?) listeners it will be too active and neurotic-sounding, but if you are the kind of person whose mind is always moving or revving, the combination of repetition and motion might help reorient the brain waves. And if you are not that kind of person, you don't need our help to begin with. David Bowie called the Reich one of his favorite albums and described it as "Balinese gamelan music cross-dressing as minimalism." — Scott Timberg, staff writer

Face your fears
Check out the new season of “Black Mirror” on Netflix. Escape our political apocalypse with the possibility of an impending technological apocalypse. — Matt Smith, associate video producer

Stare down death
I read true crime books. In the past month, I've gone through "Helter Skelter," "The Stranger Beside Me," "A Death in Belmont" and "People Who Eat Darkness." As absolutely terrifying as Donald Trump is, these real-life horror stories give me comfort that someone will bring Donald Trump to his end soon. NO, I'M NOT INCITING VIOLENCE. I'm just suggesting someone maybe scare him a little. — Tatiana Baez, social media coordinator

Find the fifth dimension
I'm a big fan of "The Twilight Zone" and I find them to be perfect escapism from this election, although some episodes, like "He's Alive" and "I am the Night—Color Me Black" really ring close to home when it comes to the news events of this year. — Matthew Rozsa, contributing writer

A simple, 3-step process to powering through

  1. Watch “Robotech”
  2. Drink a 34-oz can of Asahi beer
  3. Comfort is for the weak. — Chauncey DeVega, staff writer

Dangle and brawl
I watch WorldStarHipHop fight compilations and "Reno 911" on Hulu. — Brendan Gauthier, assistant editor

Go back in time
To distract myself from the ugliness of this election, I've been watching "Good Girls Revolt" on Amazon Prime. The show has its flaws, but is sweet and well-paced. More importantly, the female characters, who stand up against the men in their world who underestimate them, are treated like heroes. It's a nice reprieve, before having to re-enter the real world where women who stand up for Hillary Clinton and the right of all women to be treated with respect get the pleasure of being told, daily, that we're joy-killing harridans. — Amanda Marcotte, staff writer



Love yourself
Masturbate — it's free, it's easy, and admit it, if it were karate, you'd have already put in enough hours to be a tenth-level black belt. Even if this entire election cycle has strained your relationship or dampened your libido, you know in your heart that you'll always be there for… you. Buzz one out and take a nap. Repeat as needed. — MEW

Channel the Big Easy
Homemade Sazeracs. I go heavy on the absinthe (so I can believe Trump is just a hallucination). — AB

Treat yourself
Mezcal. Apply as needed. Get a halfway decent bottle, not the crap with the cactus worm. — SM

Taco shots
You might not automatically think that freshly made tacos on homemade corn tortillas — in my case, from an unbelievably delicious, authentic and cheap place down the street (try the carnitas!) — would go well with freezer-chilled Tito's vodka. But now that I've introduced the concept, you can see already that indeed they would. — AOH

The taste of home
My Pennsylvania tastes still compel me to love Yuengling beer, despite Dick Yuengling's recent endorsement of He Who Shall Not Be Named. — MR

Brown liquor, or something like it
Drink whiskey or "Mudder's Milk" (which, for our purposes, could be a Mudslide or a rich, dark porter). — MM

Live in L.A., or just drink like it
Okay, everybody knows about rosé by now, right? If you live in a warm climate, you can drink it virtually year-round, and it goes with just about everything. (Especially if you have a primarily Mediterranean diet.) Just avoid the White Zinfandel and rebooted wine coolers: Most pink liquids are best avoided entirely. — ST

Does eating count?
Eating is my go-to for everything and every emotion. Depressed? Seamless. Happy? Seamless. Angry? Seamless. There's no problem a heaping platter of cheesy nachos and warm brownies can't solve. (I say Seamless because I can't cook and, quite frankly, don't have the patience making food requires.) — TB

Chase a rabbit
A splash of Canadian Club in a watery beer, and pills. — BG

Bring back the Gin Craze
I recommend a gin and tonic. Or just drinking gin out of the bottle. I mean, who cares anymore? — EF



Raid the stash
Sure, on Monday night the kids did a scrupulous inventory of their Halloween candy haul that you adorably documented for Instagram. But children, as sloppy at accounting as they are, are skilled at leaving chocolate stains on the walls. And in a moment in American history in which very little seems just or fair, somehow, nothing else feels as good as a purloined Kit Kat tastes. — MEW

Snuggle down
No one should wear a single hoodie as much as I have worn my ancient Adidas pullover — which dates back to a time when Dave Grohl was in a band not named the Foo Fighters — to work, to sleep, pretty much all times except the 3 p.m. editorial meeting. — AB

Eat your feelings
Stock up on pints of Halo Top ice cream — lemon cake flavor, if you can believe it. You're going to need it to get you through to Tuesday. — BW

Stay hydrated
Drink lots of water. There are few things as refreshing as a tall, ice-cold glass of crystal-clear water. — MR

Brunch for dinner, or any time
Treat yourself to dim sum, via items available in the frozen food section of Trader Joe's or your local Asian grocery store. — MM

Drown yourself in comfort food
When I find myself in times of trouble, macaroni and cheese is my friend. Any soft food, really — mashed potatoes, pudding, oatmeal (these have the added benefit of not breaking the TV when thrown at it).  — EF

Biggie size it
Choco chip cookie pudding from Sugar Sweet Sunshine on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The bakery has a card minimum of $10. I never carry cash when I visit, so I'm forced to get the biggest size. I also read through Craigslist's Missed Connections when I need a pick-me-up and don't want to leave my bed. — TB

Stay warm
My space heater — any and all space heaters, for that matter. — BG

Play with fire
Grilling is also a great way to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. May or may not combine effectively with wine and Steve Reich.  — ST

Wake me when it’s over
Napping. The benefits of spending as much time as you can blissfully unconscious are self-evident. — SM

Wash it all away
I've gotten out of the luxurious-bath habit, and in theory I miss them. But an extended hot shower at 1 or 2 in the morning, when I feel I can barely stand up after a long day of processing horrifying campaign news, seems to accomplish a temporary sensory memory wipe — and it feels magnificent. Granted, when you're out of the water and toweling off, the mental demons start crawling back. You can't have everything. — AOH

Erin Keane

Erin Keane is Salon's Editor in Chief.

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