I want to tune out. If I could, I’d cast my ballot for Biden and then immediately place myself within some cryogenic chamber until, I don’t know, February? I want to sleep right through the poll-tracking, the Twitter anxiety, the doubt, the QAnon civil war, not to mention the forthcoming tragedy of a wave of COVID cases worse than the ones prior — really, whatever the fuck happens, I’d like to skip it. But is that selfish or not ethical of me? Are we allowed to be disengaged right now, so long as we vote and wear a mask?
I’m going to say yes. You don’t have to watch the news, constantly check Twitter or refresh your New York Times app every three minutes. For the love of God, turn off your news-related push notifications. You’re making yourself miserable, and you might even make yourself sick.
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Stress literally weakens the body. Chronic stress causes the body to be flooded with cortisol, which in turn produces an immune response in the form of inflammation. This inflammation is bad for your health on numerous levels, impacting everything from digestion and sleep to cardiovascular disease. Perhaps most pertinent in this moment, though, is that this inflammation can make you more susceptible to viruses. When the immune system is managing a constant flow of cortisol from stress, it’s less able to detect and attack viruses when they enter the body. To put it bluntly, stress makes you more susceptible to COVID.
Considering the absolute hell year we’ve all had, it’s fine to say “fuck it” and unplug from the constant feed of stressful information for the next two weeks. If being engaged with what’s happening impacts your mental health, your physical health almost demands it. Instead of checking what some deranged kid you went to middle school with is posting on Facebook, maybe go for a jog. Instead of watching the nightly news, play a freaking board game. You’re unlikely to completely repair a weakened immune system before the election, but developing a regular practice of exercise, proper diet and stress-management will make a difference in how you get through what’s likely to be a dark winter.
I don’t mean to sound blasé about the need to be a critically-thinking and informed citizen. You do have to vote. You do have to encourage others in your life to do the same, to the extent that you can. But honestly, we’re down to the wire here. Watching the news and doom scrolling aren’t gonna make a difference. Why not just spend the next two weeks actually taking care of yourself?
Consider it doing your part to lessen the spread of COVID.