Air Force Space Command concluded its fourth iteration of the Department of Defense’s premier space exercise December 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Space Flag 19-1 took place over the course of two weeks, testing airmen from the 50th Space Wing and the 460th SW. SF 19-1 also included airmen from the 27th and 26th Space Aggressors squadrons, which are tenant units of Air Combat Command located at Schriever Air Force Base, Louisiana.
The goal of the exercise is to enable forces to achieve and maintain space superiority in a contested, degraded, and operationally limited environment.
“The intent of Space Flag is to allow tactical operators the ability to learn how to fight and defend their systems as an enterprise with other tactical operators in an arena we currently do not have,” said Col. Devin Pepper, 21st Operations Group commander and SF 19-1 space boss.
To prepare airmen for any conflict, space operators are thrown a dynamic range of scenarios.
“We train the way we fight,” said Capt. Josh Thogode, 27th SAS flight commander and SF 19-1 space aggressor. “My goal as an aggressor is to make blue (United States) lose in any scenario. If they lose during the exercise, then we can win when it matters. At the end of the day, we are all on the same team. The aggressors can add value to our techniques, tactics and procedures moving forward – that’s what we bring to the fight.”
The training space operators see is diverse and comes from several perspectives. In addition to aggressors testing space operators, senior space operators, referred to as tactical mentors, also provide training. The mentors observe and counsel airmen throughout the exercise and look for opportunities to give feedback to the space operators on how to improve their response to the threat.
“Space Flag really brings out the creativity in our space operations crew force,” said Maj. Justin Roberts, 50th SW weapons officer and SF 19-1 tactical mentor. “This exercise is an excellent opportunity for our space operators to think and test out new ideas. I, alongside other mentors, am there to gauge and guide their ideas. I have now been a tactical mentor for SF three times and I have seen a huge increase in the quality and capabilities of the operators coming to the exercise.”
Before Space Flag, facing an adversary in a space training environment was a rare thing.
“Space had always been benign,” Pepper said. “Back in our lieutenant days, we didn’t expect to have to defend our assets on orbit. We weren’t actively training against those threats. The war-fight is shifting though, so we have to be ready to encounter anything against our land-based and terrestrial systems. Having living, thinking aggressors acting as adversaries in the training environment prepares us for that day, if it ever comes.”
During calendar year 2017 and 2018, Space Flag occurred twice a year. During fiscal year 2019, Space Flag will increase to three times a year.
“Our adversaries have made tremendous strides in contesting us in the space domain,” said Pepper. “We have transitioned our culture and our way of thinking from just providing a service to the warfighter to actually being a space warfighter. We are a part of the fight, and the fight is on today.”
President Donald Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, infuriated North Korea with a strange and threatening comment about denuclearization in May 2018, and now he seems excluded from the countries’ talks.
The reason most likely goes back to Bolton’s comment in May 2018, that the US was looking at a “Libya model” for denuclearizing North Korea.
The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed by rebels in 2011 during a conflict in which the US intervened a few years after Libya dismantled its nuclear program. Bolton’s comment was widely understood to imply that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un too would soon meet his end.
For five years, Muqtada al-Sadr’s personal insurgent army fought American troops during the Iraq War and commited heinous crimes against Iraq Sunni minorities. Now, a decade later, the Shia cleric’s Sairoon Alliance is leading Iraq’s parliamentary elections. His populist candidacy upset the U.S. favorite, incumbent Haider al-Abadi, and al-Sadr is set to be the kingmaker in Iraq.
In the years following his two uprisings against American forces, the “radical cleric” (as he was often called in Western media) continued his fight against the Baghdad government and against Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq. He eventually withdrew from public life until 2012, when he made a comeback, rebranding himself as a leader intent on bringing Sunnis and Shia together.
With the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, al-Sadr also rebranded his Mahdi Army, forming the “Peace Companies,” intended to protect Shia believers from the strict form of Sunni Islam and personal violence inflicted upon Iraqis by ISIS. He continued his rebranding to become an anti-poverty, anti-corruption populist who rejects the outside influence of both Iran and the United States.
Al-Sadr’s stated purpose for Sairoon was clearing corruption, rejecting the sectarian quotas, and putting skilled thought leaders (aka technocrats) in key ministerial positions.
“The ascendancy of the list sponsored by al-Sadr shows that anti-establishment sentiment and anti-corruption have driven the choice of most voters,” said Rend al-Rahim, a former Iraqi ambassador to the United States. “None of the lists had an electoral program that outlined priorities and a plan of action. All used vague terms to lure voters. Many of the lists also used populist and demagogic tactics that played on the emotions of voters.”
Understandably, no one who fought the Mahdi Army or lost a friend in Sadr City wants him to wield legitimate political power in Iraq. But Al-Sadr didn’t launch a revolt in Iraq. He didn’t put a gun to Haider al-Abadi’s head to force him to step down. The cleric’s bloc was elected in a legitimate Iraqi election by the people of Iraq, none of whom were punished for not voting for Sairoon. The democracy we fought to establish in Iraq is functioning.
Sometimes the candidate you want to win doesn’t win, no matter who they might be running against.
The peaceful transfer of power is another hallmark of democracy, and we should credit Prime Minister al-Abadi when he implored the people of Iraq to accept this change.
“I call on Iraqis to respect the results of the elections,” he said.
Iraq has bigger things to worry about than the United States’ opinion on their domestic politics. This was the first election held since ISIS was pushed out of Iraq — after decimating Iraqi infrastructure. The country also faces rampant unemployment, one of the main triggers of domestic terrorism in the region.
American veterans of the Iraq War should see this as a major victory. In the first post-Saddam election of 2005, with the start of the Mahdi Army’s rise to power, did we ever believe we would see the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr with purple ink on his finger?
The biggest issue for the anti-Iran cleric will be integrating Iraq’s militia’s into its official armed forces and security structure — especially since most of those are backed by Iran. Iran has publicly stated it will not allow al-Sadr’s coalition to lead the government. Al-Sadr has made moves to align himself with the king of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional adversary, to push back against the Islamic Republic.
Al-Sadr’s fight for power is far from over. Despite having ties to Iran, the Islamic Republic is no fan of the cleric, who has resisted Iranian influence in Iraq since the days of the Iraq War. And al-Sadr will no longer be able to criticize the government from the sidelines. Instead, it will be on him and his Sairoon bloc to guide Iraq to the future he promised to desperate Iraqi voters.
The US has been able to greatly improve its use of intelligence over the 600-day fight against ISIS, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Business Insider on Tuesday.
“If you want to talk about lessons learned, I‘ll tell you, I’m probably relearning lessons over the last couple of years, and No. 1 is intelligence,” Gen. Joseph Dunford said in response to a question from Business Insider during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“If you want to know why our operation’s quantifiably more effective today than they were a year and a half ago, it’s because our intelligence is getting much better,” Dunford continued.
Dunford had stressed in recent congressional testimony that with nearly 100 nations and approximately 30,000 foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, the US military needed more cooperation from other nations’ intelligence operations.
“I won’t go into great detail right now, but in terms of how you fully harness the intelligence community, getting the right people in the right places to do target development — has been something that’s frustrating to me,” Dunford said Tuesday.
“I think we’ve made some improvements that result in the progress that we have made,” he added.
Dunford’s comments came days after the Pentagon announced the US-led coalition, Operation Inherent Resolve, killed Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, the top financier for ISIS (aka Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh). It was a sign of the progress to which Dunford referred.
“We’re systematically eliminating ISIL’s cabinet,” US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said during a briefing last Friday.
As of March 15, the US-led coalition has conducted a total of 10,962 strikes throughout the region, with 7,336 strikes in Iraq and 3,626 strikes being conducted in Syria.
The Department of Defense puts the total cost of anti-ISIS operations at $6.5 billion as of February 29, 2016. And the average daily cost stands at about $11.4 million for 571 days of operations.
On June 20th, at the Paris Air Show, executives with Lockheed Martin Corp. presented the C-130JSOF, a variant of the C-130J Super Hercules built for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, armed overwatch, and on-demand forward aerial refueling, among other features.
Painted a stealthy black, the aircraft is depicted in promotional materials targeting tanks from the air, dropping parajumpers, and swooping low for exfiltration operations.
Tony Frese, vice president of business development for Air Mobility and Maritime Missions for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said the concept for the aircraft variant is built on experience and feedback from customers on how they use the Super Hercules.
“It is in the world of special operations and special missions the true versatility of the C-130J is on display, accrued day after day in life and death situations,” he said. “In more than 50 years, the C-130 has been synonymous with special operations and special missions.”
The United States already uses the C-130 for special operations, with purpose-built American configurations including the MC-130E/H Combat Talon, flown by the Air Force and used for airdrop, special ops helicopter in-flight refueling, and psychological operations, and the MC-130J Commando II, flown by Air Force Special Operations Command.
The new SOF aircraft is the first time a purpose-built configuration has been made available for the international market, Frese said.
Lockheed expects interest from nations in the Pacific and Middle East, he said, and anticipates building 100 to 200 of the aircraft for international buyers. As is standard practice, all international sales of the aircraft would have to be approved by the US government.
While standard configurations of the C-130J sell for roughly $70 million, Frese said this aircraft would likely start in the mid-$80 million range, with more for additional modifications.
“We understand the world we live in today is increasingly unpredictable,” he said. “Our operators, current and potential, tell us they need to support their special ops forces with a solution that is reliable, affordable and effective and, in this case, proven to support special operations in the sky and on the ground.”
Earlier this month, police in Argentina raided the home of an art collector and found a door leading to a room full of Nazi knives, sculptures, medical devices, magnifying glasses, and a large bust portrait of Adolf Hitler.
“There are no precedents for a find like this,” Nestor Roncaglia, the head of Argentina’s federal police, told The Associated Press. “Pieces are stolen or are imitations. But this is original, and we have to get to the bottom of it.”
Patricia Bullrich, Argentina’s security minister, told the AP: “There are objects to measure heads that was the logic of the Aryan race.”
Investigators are trying to figure out how such an extensive collection of Nazi memorabilia made it into the South American country, where several Nazi officials fled at the end of World War II.
After finding some illicit paintings at an art gallery, Argentinian police raided a Buenos Aires art collector’s home and found close to 75 items of old Nazi memorabilia that the man kept hidden by a bookcase that led to his secret shrine.
Members of the federal police carry a Nazi statue at the Interpol headquarters in Buenos Aires. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge)
A Hitler photo negative, Nazi sculptures, knives, head-measuring medical devices, and children’s toys with swastikas on them were among some of the items found.
A knife with Nazi markings was found in the man’s home. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge).
This device was used to measure the size of a person’s head.
A World War II German army mortar aiming device, right, is shown at the Interpol headquarters in Buenos Aires. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge)
The police handed over the items to investigators and historians, who are trying to figure out how such a large collection made it into the home of one South American man.
A box with swastikas containing harmonicas for children. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge).
After World War II, many high-ranking Nazi leaders fled to Argentina to escape trial. “Finding 75 original pieces is historic and could offer irrefutable proof of the presence of top leaders who escaped from Nazi Germany,” Ariel Cohen Sabban, the president of a political umbrella for Argentina’s Jewish institutes, told the AP.
An hourglass with Nazi markings. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge).
American military officials say U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have pushed within three kilometers of Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria, and that the major battle for control of Raqqa “could begin in the coming days.”
Speaking to reporters from Baghdad, Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the U.S.-led counter ISIS coalition, said the SDF was “poised around Raqqa” after gaining 350 square kilometers from IS in Syria in the last week.
The forces are within three kilometers of Raqqa to the north and east and within about 10 kilometers of the city to the west, Dillon said.
“The fight for the city could begin in the coming days, “a U.S. military official separately told Voice of America on the condition of anonymity. “The encirclement of Raqqa is almost complete.”
That move has placed the United States at odds with NATO ally Turkey, which contends the SDF’s Syrian Kurdish militia is a terrorist group affiliated with the outlawed PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a terror group that has been battling the Turkish state for many years.
Dillon said the SDF had instructed Raqqa citizens to leave the city ahead of the fighting, with nearly 200,000 people already displaced. Camps for displaced citizens have been established around the Syrian city, Dillon added, with SDF screening sites in place to prevent IS militants from escaping among the fleeing civilian population.
Meanwhile, U.S. military officials said Iranian-backed pro-regime forces were continuing to violate a deconfliction zone set up around the al-Tanf army base, where special forces are training Syrian militias.
Dillon said the coalition had communicated to the “small element” of forces that they were considered a threat and needed to leave the zone.
“We want them out of there,” he told reporters June 1 from Baghdad.
Dillon said the forces violating the deconfliction zone had stopped establishing defensive positions after coalition airstrikes targeted their tanks and equipment two weeks ago, but had remained a little more than halfway into the established zone, which has a radius of 55 kilometers from the al-Tanf base.
“It’s not like they’ve dipped their toe into the deconfliction zone. They’re well inside it,” said Dillon.
Additional pro-regime reinforcements have not entered the deconfliction zone, Dillon said, but forces just outside the zone at al-Tanf are reinforcing their positions and bringing in combat-type assets, including tanks and artillery systems.
“All these things put together present a threat to the coalition forces,” he said.
Imagine being a German soldier in the lines of World War I. You know that your government and rival nations are developing new weapons that will either give you a sudden advantage or spell your doom. Then, a rumble comes across No Man’s Land, and the hulking forms of the world’s first tanks break through the mist and smoke as they bear down on you. The die has been cast, and you are doomed.
You know what I wouldn’t have wanted to face with no warning or historical precedent. This. This would be scary.
Alexander Kott has discovered a law-like trend in the development of weapons from early footsoldiers and archers to horsemen and towed artillery to modern tanks. Understanding how this progression has functioned and how it will continue might allow the Army to predict the future weapons it will have to fight against.
Kott’s findings are straight-forward, even if the math that backs it up is super complicated. Basically, the development of military technology follows a steady, exponential growth. It’s similar to Moore’s Law, where the number of transistors per chip doubles about every two years.
Just like how Moore’s Law allows programmers to write software for future computer chips, Kott’s research into weapon progression may allow weapon designers to prepare for new weapons even before they debut.
The math is complicated, but Kott’s general contention is that multiple variables of infantry and armored vehicles, especially the firepower and system weight, rise at a predictable, exponential rate. And Kott did everyone the favor of predicting what a tank and infantryman would look like in 2050, according to his model.
First, the infantryman.
Alexander Kott used the T-72 tank as part of his data set. This heavy behemoth as part of a trend in weapon design.
(Vivek Patankar, CC-BY 2.0)
The heavy infantryman of 2050 is expected to have an exoskeleton that weighs 55 pounds. That may sound heavy, but the exoskeleton is powered and can carry up to 297 pounds of equipment. That includes armor, a weapon much heavier than the rifles of today, a large combat load of ammunition, and more. Add in the 200-pound soldier, and the heavy infantry of 2050 is a 500-pound, walking weapon.
But the firepower goes up as well. Kott envisions a maximum rate of fire of 700 rounds per minute at a range of up to 1.25 miles. The energy of each shot will likely be about 15,490 joules. That’s roughly similar to the M2 .50-caliber machine gun that has to be mounted on vehicles, ships, or tripods today. Imagine carrying a weapon that powerful everywhere.
But tanks will go through a similar transformation.
Kott predicts a two-person tank crew will ride in a vehicle weighing 55 tons. It will fire up to 10 rounds per minute with an effective range stretching out to over 3 miles. And these rounds will be huge and/or powerful. The expected kinetic energy of each shot is up to 20.9 megajoules. That’s a fast-flying round of something like 135mm.
But as Kott points out in his own writing, there is a possible major change coming to weapons development. As directed energy weapons come into maturity and get deployed, they could change how the model works. Historically, infantrymen and artillery have generated more firepower by firing larger rounds with more explosive energy. But lasers and plasma cannons project relatively little mass.
But Kott still expects future tanks to deliver the equivalent 20.9 megajoules of damage, they may just be able to save a little weight on weapons (weight they may use for power generation within the tank).
So, what’s the value of the research? Kott’s not even releasing sweet designs of what this infantryman and tank will look like.
Well, these trends exist across the world, not just in the U.S. So a tank designer of today knows that they need to design their vehicle to survive hits from a 20.9-megajoule attack. And rifle designers can start thinking about how to deliver a .50-cal’s power in something an exoskeleton-equipped infantryman can get through a door frame.
Troops stationed around the world don’t have very many options when it comes time to grab a quick bite to eat. Either they’re entirely at the whim of the dining facility (if they live in the barracks), they’ll grab something from one of the handful of fast-food chains (which aren’t the healthiest options), or they’ll go off-post (which could take a while).
Since cooking from home is almost always out of the question during short lunch breaks, most troops opt for the less-than-healthy options to save on more-than-limited time.
Chick-fil-A already has a working relationship with the military community, so this petition could make it official.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger)
The petition is geared towards convincing AAFES, which is privately-owned and operated, to include the chicken sandwich chain in their list of Name-Brand Fast Food (NBFF) Direct partners. Troops are drawn to the restaurant’s customer-first attitude, healthy food options, and generally positive reviews.
A Name-Brand Fast Food Direct partnership would allow Chick-fil-A to open franchises on military installations at no cost to the installation itself while allowing the franchise access to an entirely new demographic. Chick-fil-A’s just off-base tend to be packed during rush hour, so adding one on-base would mean wasting less time for troops. Additionally, the healthier options provided by Chick-fil-A would be an excellent alternative to fried foods. Gone would be the days of waiting thirty minutes for a greasy burger.
There’s no doubt that the demand is there. In just 5 days, the petition has reached 19,885 supporters, the poll on Military Times is at a whopping 98%, and comment sections throughout the veteran sphere have been overflowing with support.
Petitions are nice, but it’s all up to the all-mighty dollar to really make things like this move.
(Photo by Mike Mozart)
In all reality, there are countless other things that could (and probably should) be addressed before adding another fast-food restaurant to a military installation, as Military Times half-sarcastically pointed out. Any new restaurant on an installation would be swarmed by chicken-hungry troops, leaving everyone unwilling to wait to go to other on-base fast-food chains, like Subway, Burger King, or Popeyes (direct competitors of Chick-fil-A).
Also, as awesome as it is that almost 20,000 people have signed an online petition for something that they’re passionate about, that’s just not how government contracts work. Change.org is nice for getting a rough headcount, but the website’s track record for enacting actual change has been iffy.
It would be phenomenal if, by some miracle, Chick-fil-A does start opening up shops on military installations — just don’t get your hopes up too high.
A total of 259 Veterans registered to compete, including 81 women Veterans. The Veterans represented 36 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and 61 VA medical centers. Veterans received a total of 100 gold, 75 silver and 69 bronze medals across eight age categories
Veterans competed in gender, wheelchair, visually impaired and recumbent cycling categories.
VA’s Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events provides Veterans with opportunities for health and healing through adaptive sports and therapeutic art programs. These specialized rehabilitation events aim to optimize Veterans’ independence, community engagement, well-being and quality of life. The programs are built on clinical expertise within VA, with essential support from Veteran Service Organizations, corporate sponsors, individual donors and community partners.
Pictured above with her bicycle is OEF/OIF Veteran, Air Force Veteran and nurse Therese Kern. Kern represented the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. She is also a nurse practitioner at VA.
Here’s a great video about the games including the opening and a terrific slide show of previous participants from all the states. (Montage photos and videos are from 2019: pre-COVID, pre-masks.)
Welcome to the opening ceremonies of the 2020 National Veterans Golden Age Games at HOME
Feedback from Veterans has been overwhelmingly positive and many expressed their gratitude. Here are some comments:
“Though we were all at home in 2020, I can truly say I had the time of my life and enjoyed every day of the fitness challenge and 20k cycling event. I would love to be able to participate in 2021 alongside all the other cyclists in the 20k cycling event,” said David Warren. He was a first-time participant who represented the Phoenix VA Health Care System.
“Thanks to the national staff for finding a way to allow us to compete this year. Can’t wait to see my medals in person, and to get my T-shirt. Congrats to all the athletes that medaled and to those who competed! I had a blast. On top of getting in better shape after having to walk or ride bike every day for 30 days!! I also lost some weight,” said Coast Guard Veteran Nadine Lewis. She represented the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System.
“I wanted to say thanks for putting the at-home competition together and for giving us an opportunity to compete in the virtual challenge,” said Lenny McNair. He is an Army Veteran who represented the VA Maryland Health Care System.
Competition and reflection
Korean War and Army Veteran Phillip Joseph Dimenno, 88, served as a rifleman with the 24th Infantry Division, 34th Regiment. Joseph represented the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. He took gold in the powerwalk and wastebasket basketball and silver in javelin, discus and shot put.
Here’s a video interview of Joseph from several years ago as he returned to Korea.
New reports have emerged that a Royal Saudi navy frigate has been attacked off the coast of Yemen by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, killing two Saudi sailors.
According to a report by TheDrive.com, the Houthi rebels released a video showing an al Madinah-class frigate’s stern being enveloped by an explosion. According to Reuters, Saudi state media reported that three small boats attacked the frigate — one of which was a suicide boat that rammed the frigate’s stern.
Iran claimed that an anti-ship missile was used. A report by the Saudi Press Agency indicated the unnamed frigate was continuing its patrol operations despite the attack.
A line drawing of the al Madinah-class frigates in the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World shows that it has four 533mm torpedo tubes in the stern. Each tube carries a French F17P wire-guided torpedo. According to navweaps.com, the F17P has a range of just over 18 miles and can carry a 551-pound high-explosive warhead.
A similar attack with small boats targeted the former HSV-2 Swift in October using RPGs to cause a fire and serious damage to the vessel. The Yemeni coast is also where a series of anti-ship missile attacks on the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) took place.
The destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) fired Tomahawk cruise missiles at radar stations in Houthi territory in response to the failed attacks on the Mason. The guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) was severely damaged by a suicide boat in the port of Aden in 2000, killing 17 sailors and wounding 39, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command website.
Video of the attack shows the explosion hitting roughly where the stern torpedo tubes would be. Combat Fleets of the World notes that the stern section also houses a pad and hangar used for a SA-365F Dauphin helicopter, equipped with AS-15TT anti-ship missiles and anti-submarine torpedoes.
Several apparent secondary explosions – smaller than the initial blast – indicate some of those may have cooked off after the initial explosion and fire.
Check out the video of the explosion on the Saudi frigate below:
Election anxiety is real. More than two-thirds of Americans surveyed said that the upcoming presidential election on November 3rd is a source of significant stress. This is no surprise, as this election season has, for numerous reasons, been the most polarizing and contentious in recent history. Add this to the COVID-related stress we’re all feeling and it’s a lot to handle.
With Election Day quickly approaching, it’s very understandable to find yourself more anxious, more on edge. It’s also easy for those feelings to manifest as shortness or anger aimed at the people we love. Of course, that is the last thing our families need or that we want to provide them. So how do you keep yourself healthy and present? Take some deep breaths and follow the suggestions laid out below. Because, as with everything in 2020, the election will drag on for a lot longer than we anticipate.
1. Maintain the Foundational Four
In times of high stress and anxiety, the fundamentals are more important than ever. According to Vaile Wright, Ph.D., Senior Director of Health Care Innovation with the American Psychological Association, it’s critical, then, to focus on the “Foundational Four”: getting sufficient sleep, eating healthy, staying active, and keeping connected socially. Interrogate yourself: Am I sleeping enough hours? Am I reaching out to friends? Is my diet helping me feel energized? Wright adds that, on top of these, you should also add activities and routines that fill you back up when you’re feeling burnt out. You know yourself better than anyone else. Now’s the time to really make sure you’re giving yourself what you need.
2. Identify What’s in Your Control — and What’s Not
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of uncertainties in the world today. But uncertainty is always a constant and we must all learn to focus on only what we can actually control. So ask yourself: What do I have control over? What don’t I? Write them down as you do so. “Make two lists on a piece of paper,” says Wright. “On the left, write down the things that are out of your control. On the right, write out what things you can control — including the things that can distract you from what’s stressing you and can engage you, like listening to music or watching a movie.” This list can form the basis of your self-care toolkit. “In a moment of anxiety, you don’t have to think about what you need to do to feel better,” Wright says. “Pick something from your list.”
3. Do the Things that Are in Your Control — Like Voting
When you made your lists, did you include “Vote” in the right-hand column? “Voting is you exerting your agency and control over something you do have control over — your vote,” says Wright. “After you vote, you’ll feel less stressed. You’ll have permission to take a step back so there won’t be that pressure to be so connected.” You’re not going to ignore what’s happening, of course, but doing your part can help you moderate how much attention you’re giving the election.
4. Understand How You Cope
Do you know how you cope? It’s smart to really think about the things that help you destress and be your best self. Coping skills, per Wright, fall into three buckets: cognitive, physical, and sense-based.
Cognitive: Puzzles. Reading. Card and board games “These all require you to use your noggin,” Wright says. “A family activity like a scavenger hunt with clues to figure out combines mental and physical.”
Physical: These are activities that get your heart pumping. Yep. General exercise falls into this area. But don’t box yourself in if that’s not your style. “My favorite physical stress-buster is impromptu dance parties in the kitchen when we’re cooking,” Wright says. “Find opportunities to try something new.”
Sense-based: These are activities that have you focusing on touch, taste, smell, and sound. Think: taking a hot shower. Lighting a scented candle. Drinking a cup of coffee or tea. Squeezing a stress ball. “For some people having a rubber band around their wrist and snapping it is a way to distract themselves as they focus on their body,” Wright says.
Understand which category — or combination of categories — helps you the most and carve out time to make them a part of your day.
4. Limit Your Media Consumption
News, news everywhere. But not a moment to think. Doomscrolling, or the act of constantly scrolling through one soul withering news story after another, contributes to anxiety. Now is the time to be very aware of your social media and news viewing habits. Reduce your stress by limiting how much time you’re spending on social media and news sites. “Stay informed, especially at the local level, but be mindful of your time online,” Wright says. “That means being mindful of when, how much, and what type of information you’re consuming.”
For starters, turn off your phone’s push notifications. “Most of us don’t need to know late-breaking news,” Wright says. “You don’t realize how often you’re getting distracted all day long.” Instead, set aside time to get caught up on the news — like lunch.
Another good tactic: Use your phone’s settings to set limits that cut you off when you’ve reached your fill of social media or news sites.
And, while this is easier said than done, avoid what you know stresses you out. “If pundits on TV get your blood boiling, try reading your news online instead of watching it,” Wright says. “With the 24-hour news cycle, you’re exposed to negative images and hear the same things over and over — most of it conjecture. Go with what works best for you.”
Remember the Foundational Four? That’s why it’s smart to avoid scrolling before bed. “You need at least an hour away from your phone before going to sleep,” Wright says.
5. Step Away From Your Phone
Disabling push notifications is one thing. But it’s crucial to schedule phone-free. As hard as it may be to go offline, you’ll feel better if you do so. Do what it takes to disconnect for stretches of time. “Don’t rely on willpower,” Wright says. “Leave your phone in another room.”
“If you prioritize quality time for you and your family, being on the phone is not quality time,” Wright says. “Set some rules for device use as a family. And if you don’t let your kids use theirs at dinnertime, you shouldn’t use yours, either.”
6. Set Your Expectations for Election Night
With this particular election, we might not have results for days or even weeks after November 3rd. Your mindset should account for this likelihood.
“Go in with the expectation of not knowing who the president will be the day after the election,” Wright says. “With that established, it’ll be easier to weather the period of time when we’re waiting and things are uncertain.”
“It comes back to focusing on the basics: taking care of yourself, taking care of your family, using your coping skills, and focusing on the things that are in your control,’ Wright says. “There’s not much we can do about it if it goes to the courts. Maintain your stability.”
7. Model Self-Care for Your Kids
Kids are intuitive — they’ll notice if you’re stressed — so when you are taking measures for your own self care, tell your kids what you’re doing and why. “Explain why you’re turning off the news, why you’re sitting down to do a puzzle together, how taking care of yourself is important,” Wright says. “You’re going to get stressed in life. If you’re overwhelmed, tag out and have your partner take over. Demonstrate emotional well-being and ask for help when you need it.”