By Brit Heiring
It is finally here: Election Day.
For so many people, today brings with it a mix of anxiety, hope, fear, exhaustion, anticipation, and more. Each of us must move through the day in different ways, honoring our own individual needs. Even so, we can share our approach plans and tactics in hopes that they may help others. Once you vote, if you can, what is your election plan for centering your mental health needs today and into the next week (or more)?
My plan for moving through Election Day? Music and meditation. I’ve always found music to be healing, transformative, and mood-altering. With the encouragement of my therapist, I created an approach for moving through the day that includes limited screen and news time, moments for reflection and meditation, and music.
There is so much fear and pain in our country and this approach is not meant to trivialize the existence of these very real, difficult realities. For me, music enables me to hold these realities close and fuel my energy for more action and more engagement. It helps me tap into the very real and strong internal voice that knows my worth, understands the power of my joy and hope, and heals my wounds when anxiety and sadness overwhelm me. Music brings me back to my breathe, my voice, and my center.
Following are a variety of playlists that I have on rotation right now, ending in a breathing meditation that I’m engaging every hour. I hope you are able to find something that brings you some joy and calm throughout this uncertain day.
Election Day Playlist for Chill Breathing
Taraji P. Hensen’s Voting Playlist for Energy
Black Lives Matter Playlist for Empowerment
AARP Songs of Hope Playlist for Hope
My Own Playlist for Calm & Centering
Breathing Exercise Meditation
This is a simple, quick meditation that I use in between moments of my day.
Find a comfortable position, whether that be sitting in a chair, on the floor, or laying down. Wherever your body touches the floor, chair, or a surface, notice how it presses down. Feel the weight of your body against the static of the surface. Imagine your body rooting down into the surface supporting it, connecting and grounding into the stability. If you are comfortable, close your eyes, or softly focus your eyes on a spot slightly lower than eye-level.
Begin to notice your breath. Follow it as it moves in and out of your nose or mouth. If you are able, direct your inhale to move through your nose. Feel the cool or warm sensation as it passes through your nostrils and follow it down as it expands into your chest. As you exhale, direct the air through your nose at first and notice as your chest decompresses and the air flows back through your nose. Continue noticing the inhale and exhales and how they fill your body and begin evening the length of each. Counting helps keep focus on your breathing, quiet your thoughts, and can help you even out your inhales and exhales. Count out a pace that feels comfortable to you: Breathe in: 1. 2. 3. 4. Pause. Breathe out: 1. 2. 3. 4. Pause. Breathe in: 1. 2. 3. 4. Pause. Breathe out: 1. 2. 3. 4.
Continue breathing. As you find a comfortable rhythm, try exhaling out of your mouth.
If you are able to move a bit further in the meditation, begin layering on some intention to your breath. As you breathe in, name affirmations you need in as the counting pace to your breath. As you breathe out, name some things you need to be rid of. Imagine breathing in what you need, and releasing what you don’t.
Breathe in: Hope. Peace. Calm. Healing.
Breathe out: Anxiety. Fear. Worry. Despair.
As your mind wanders, which it most certainly will try to do, bring your thoughts back to the rhythm and pace of your breath, either through counting or through the affirmations and release pattern. Be kind to yourself if you struggle with this — there is a lot going on and it is natural to try and focus on these things. Gently remind yourself that taking time to breathe and momentarily pause these thoughts is okay and needed.
As you begin to end your meditation, imagine all of the affirmations that you named as you breathed in taking root in your body and mind. Hope, peace, calm, and healing have taken residence in your chest and your body and will be with you through the next moments of your life. Gently open your eyes, slowly move your body, and move on with your day. Come back to the meditation when you can or when you may need to refresh these calming affirmations.