Five Ways to Survive Election Day

Walking through the aisles of the grocery store this weekend, I heard one woman proclaim to another, "If Wednesday were here yesterday, it wouldn't be soon enough." I'm not sure what party she supported, but it doesn't matter. Whether you think you're going to win or fear you're going to lose, the hours before the victors are declared are sure to be filled with the mixture of hope, dread, nerves and nausea that are symptoms of Pre-election Stress Disorder (PESD).

Having been through some close elections, I thought I'd share a few of the ways I've managed to maintain whatever crumbs of sanity remain after months of campaigning. Even if you're not involved with the day-to-day operations of a campaign, the intense 24-hour media focus makes many people feel the great pressure of election night. Below are five ways to keep the Election Day blues from ruining what will be a good night for at least half of you out there.

Use That Nervous Energy
Like a kindergartner the night before the first day of school, most of us will be so filled with nervous energy in the hours before the polls close that we'll be unable to sleep, eat or do much of anything. Sitting is not an option. For elections where I'm not working, I try and get hooked up with a local campaign to pass out push cards and fliers at a local precinct. That way I'm occupied while the polls are open and I feel like I'm making a difference.

If that's not your bag, it's also a good idea to channel that energy into positive activities such as exercising, sorting through the mail, writing a column (it's working!) or cleaning your house. I know that our home is rarely cleaner than on the day before an election.

Find Safety (And Sanity) in Numbers
One person on the verge of a nervous breakdown is a problem; 100 people on the verge of a nervous breakdown is an election-night party! There are going to be a lot of parties this Tuesday night, both inside and outside the Beltway. Non-presidential election-night parties are rarely, if ever, invite-only and most of them have open bars. Put on a button and a decent pair of clothes and enjoy the festivities with others.

If that sounds like no fun, host a party of your own. A friend of mine has taken to emulating MSNBC's Chuck Todd and is setting up his own race-tracking map using a digital projector for the ultimate party. He's also requiring everyone invited to bring a whiteboard with their side dish. Having lost most of the races I've worked on, I can attest to the fact that friends multiply your joys and divide your sorrows in these situations.

If you do go to an election-night party for a candidate, make sure to keep a few other addresses in your back pocket. If you're at the party for a state representative and that person is losing, there's nothing wrong with finishing your spinach dip and gracefully slipping off to an event for a councilman who's doing much better and has a live band.

Eat and Drink Responsibly
The prevalence of open bars at campaign events and the abandonment of restraint that comes with winning can be an unfortunate combination. There's nothing wrong with a little food and drink, but close elections often mean that the party goes on for longer than many expect.

After a gut-wrenching loss in a gubernatorial race a few years ago, a friend made an alcohol-fueled and none-too-polite call to the cell phone of one of the third-party candidates blamed for the loss. Thankfully, that person only managed to get the voice message of the candidate. I'm also grateful I didn't let the person use my cell phone.

Be smart. Be safe. Be conscious of the existence of caller ID.

Remember: The Sun Will Rise Tomorrow
It may be cliché, but the peaceful transition from one government to another is truly a precious and wonderful thing — which is something you may want to reflect on if you lose tomorrow. If you've lost, meditate on the fact that you'll have another chance in two years. Remember that no matter who wins or loses, you still live in a free country and will be allowed to write angry blog posts and tweets about everyone you don't like without fear of reprisal.

If you did happen to be on the winning side, try not to rub it in the faces of your vanquished foes. I'm still optimistic enough to believe that most people are involved in the political process not out of a sense of vanity or greed but out of a commitment to making their country, county or city better — and you'll win no new supporters by acting like a jerk. As mentioned, I've lost more than I've won and sore winners have only motivated me to make sure they fill my shoes at some future date.

Conclusion
These are just five ways I've developed to cope with PESD, and I invite others to share any strategies with the rest of us. It may seem like the election will never be over, but I can promise you that the anxiety you may feel before the votes are tallied isn't as bad as the anxiety some of those who won will feel when they realize they're now supposed to live up to all of those campaign promises they made.

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