7 Expert-Backed Tips For Spending A Long Time In The Poll Lines
Election Day is just over a week away, and early in-person voting started across the nation this past week—bringing with it tales of long (and I mean, really long) lines. Sure, queuing up to enter our local grocery store since March has prepared us to some extent. But reports of people waiting hours to vote suggests we should update our voting plan to include more detail than when, where, and how we're going to cast our ballots.
To help make the wait a bit more bearable, we've got some expert-backed tips for taking care of your body and mind while standing in the poll lines this week and next:
1. Pick the right shoes and clothing.
"Everyone wants to wear cute shoes and to take their voting picture, but you have to be smart," says family medicine physician and certified personal trainer Michele Reed, D.O.
It might sound strange, but gear up for your trip to the polls in a similar way you would for a long walk. If you're expecting to stand for a long time, this means even your shoes should ideally have plenty of support (think your favorite running shoes or supportive sneakers.) As for wardrobe, we recommend opting for your favorite comfortable athleisure look while participating in democracy.
Depending on where you're living, it may also be the time of year when the temperature changes drastically over the course of the day, or you may live somewhere where cold temperatures have arrived. Since the majority of your time in line will be spent outside, you'll want to plan for the elements—whatever that means in your city.
2. Practice COVID-19 protocols.
This may seem obvious, but voting in person does involve being around other people, which means you must practice the necessary COVID-19 protocols while at your polling place. These include the simple things that have been shown to slow the spread:
3. Think about how you're standing.
It can be easy to fall into a posture that feels comfortable in that moment, but standing too long in a poor position can lead to pain later in the day—or even just later in line.
"Always make sure your center of gravity is the balls of your feet," Reed says. "As far as your chest, just make sure you're not hunched over." Just like when you're optimally sitting for work, try to keep your head aligned on your neck, and your shoulders relaxed. If you notice you're really starting to hunch, this one stretch might be able to help (and it's easy to do while standing in line).
4. Don't forget to stay hydrated.
This isn't limited to the voting line! Cooler temperatures may mean you don't feel as noticeably thirsty, but you still need to stay hydrated. If you're in a public space like a polling location, be mindful of taking a quick, respectful sip before returning your mask to its proper position.
But you should also keep in mind that once you're in line, you pretty much have to stay there: Bathroom breaks might not be readily available: "If you have a weak bladder, make sure that there's a fine balance that you're not drinking too much—try not to overhydrate," shares Reed.
5. Wear your SPF, even if it's not sunny.
Another bad habit we sometimes fall into as the sun rounds into fall? Being less diligent about SPF. Regardless of what sunscreen you opt for, consider this your reminder that it should be a year-round part of your skin care routine.
For the day you plan to vote, those long outdoor lines mean prolonged sun exposure, so you definitely don't want to skip the SPF. If you live in a particularly sunny environment, "You may want to bring an umbrella for shade or a hat," Reed suggests.
6. Bring something that will offer joy.
Be it your favorite headphones and a killer playlist, your current read, a captivating podcast (maybe even the mindbodygreen podcast, perhaps?), or a guided meditation: You may as well find a way to enjoy this still time as much as possible. Finding a way to cultivate a moment for yourself may be challenging (especially amid what has been a stressful year), but the reality is there's no better way to make the line move faster.
Given the many feelings voting in 2020 may bring up, you should also try to focus on your breathing while waiting to vote, particularly if you start to feel stressed. "Remember to breathe," Reed says. "Just the anxiety of what's going on can cause chest discomfort and trouble breathing. Make sure you're taking those deep belly breaths. When you breathe in, your belly should go out and to breathe out your belly should go in." It may be the perfect time to brush up on your breathwork practice.
7. After you get home, decompress and stretch if you can.
Standing for an extended period can become uncomfortable, and if you find yourself starting to stiffen up (especially in chilly weather), you'll want to focus on two things: small movements that you can do without leaving line, and maybe plan to stretch out fully after you cast your vote.
"Try to stretch your upper back, chest, arms, and hips," says Reed, as those are the areas that might take the most stress while you're standing. This is also a great time to reach for a foam roller, for everything from your lower back to your feet. You may even want to try a restorative yoga sequence to provide the emotional, physical, and mental relaxation your body and mind might need.
Voting this year may seem daunting, but it's still a crucial part of being an active member of a democracy. So when the time comes to head to the polls, keep these tips in mind—we hope it helps you feel empowered to exercise your right to vote.