When it was first published a few days ago, the New York Times Election Distractor felt like exactly what it was intended to be: a welcome relief. Today, it feels like it’s mocking me, personally.
I watched the time-lapses of the growing mushrooms and the video of the swans. I did the thing where you type a stressor into a box and then watch the word get engulfed in digital flames. I did not feel better. I did not, for an instant, stop feeling like my lungs are filling up with raw stress instead of oxygen.
All of which is to say: You’re not alone if you find yourself indistractable right now. The self-care principle applies here: When distraction becomes something you feel like you’re failing at, it no longer serves its purpose. And maybe, instead of continuing to lose at this game, you can try something else.
On Forge, Allison Hirschlag has written about “radical acceptance,” a technique used in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to manage stress and anxiety:
Radical acceptance involves acknowledging your reality, no matter how uncomfortable it is, rather than fighting off your discomfort. Only then can you effectively solve problems that may make aspects of waiting a little easier. “We need to wholeheartedly accept what’s in front of us, because that’s the only thing we can do,” says [the psychologist Gillian] Galen, who implements DBT regularly with her teenage patients.
What’s in front of us now: a long, anxious night. If throwing yourself into an elaborate baking project helps take your mind off that anxiety, go ahead and bake like no one’s watching. If a delightfully mindless rom-com helps, by all means, hit play. If nothing helps, that’s okay.
And if that’s the case, try just sitting with your big feelings. Accept that they are there, and that they will be there at least through the night, and that they are not permanent. Know that this — the not knowing, the dread, the helpless waiting — will pass, and all you have to do now, all you can do, is wait for whatever comes next.