I’m going to let you behind the curtain: I just got off a four-day weekend and, boy, did I need it. By the looks of my social media, many of my friends did the same and had fun with family and friends for some much-needed rest and relaxation. I cannot remember a year when I needed rest and relaxation more than I have after this first half of 2024 — it has been a struggle. I’m not the only one feeling this way, and I think it’s a responsibility of those of us who have a platform to every so often speak truth to our situation, and the truth is this: 2024 has been really hard.

Now, don’t take this a cry for help — that’s not it at all. From the outside, I can see how many people would think that running two chambers of commerce while being the dad of two boys under 4 has me coming and going in five different directions — all of that is true. But what really has me worn out is the political weight of 2024 and trying to continue working daily while not being paralyzed by thinking about what our world will look like six months from now. The rhetoric has gotten extreme, and that’s harmful for everyone’s mental health. I see that, and I feel that, too.

Many people have chosen their mental health when faced with this choice, and simply ignore politics. Good for them. I wouldn’t try to convince anyone to “do what I do” in terms of taking in hours of political content each day. Unplug. Disengage for a bit. Recharge your battery.

However, this will be the most important election of our lifetimes, and we can’t stay disengaged all year. On the local, state and federal levels, the consequences of this election season are too important for us to sit out. It’s also our obligation to get informed about the topics and choices we have prior to Election Day in November. We are about 120 days away, which gives us time to make a plan.

To that end, below is a checklist I’ve created for the second half of the year. It is a mix of fun activities for the rest of this year and some political advice as we head towards November.

Here’s a potential checklist for the rest of 2024:

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• Buy a cake or bake one you have never made before, for no reason at all — everybody loves a cake, especially in moderation.

• Attend an outdoor concert (or an indoor one). As I stated last week, we’re now into six days a week of live music in our region, so find the concerts in Bath, Brunswick, Harpswell, Wiscasset or Bowdoinham, and grab a blanket to sit on the grass with or use as a dance floor. Or see music indoors at the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra or Bowdoin International Music Festival or the dozens of indoor stages at local pubs and breweries.

• Engage with local candidates when you see them at events or search them out to discuss the topics that are important to you. Most town offices can tell you who your candidates are, and a full list will be published soon on the State of Maine website.

• Start planning your Halloween costume early, as too many people wait until the last minute (this might just be a reminder for me, to be honest).

• Check out the MARC (Midcoast Athletic and Recreational Complex) in Brunswick. Even if you don’t like pickleball or skateboarding, still swing by to see what the first phase of this multi-phase project is, and be proud of a community working together to do great things. It’s located right beside the Brunswick Parks & Rec building on Brunswick Landing. Take a walk on the perimeter trail, at the very least.

• Listen to what the candidates say throughout this process and focus less on how they say it. The two major party candidates for president are 78 and 81 years old, and shockingly, they won’t always use the right words. They will stumble and gaffe, and you know what? I’m 45 years old, and I stumble and gaffe and forget words all the time. Pay less attention to how articulate their phrasing is and concentrate on the context of what they are saying.

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• Volunteer! It’s a great way to be a part of something bigger than yourself and the feeling of accomplishment afterwards will make you feel great (just ask the Main Street Bath volunteers how they feel today after a hugely successful 50th Heritage Days celebration). If events aren’t your thing, volunteer at the library, the food bank or at the polls — or a clam festival.

• See theater before the year is out. Maine State Music Theatre is the obvious summer choice, but The Theater Project, the Chocolate Church Arts Center and Orion Performing Arts Center are great spots, too. Or make sure you see a high school or junior high production this fall; youth theater is an overwhelming community celebration that will fill you up.

• Shameless plug: the Midcoast Tree Festival is Nov. 22-24 and Nov. 29 through Dec. 1.

• Two more local issues for businesses to brush up on: Online privacy legislation narrowly got defeated last session and will be back in January; talk to your legislators about this. Secondly, Paid Family Medical Leave starts next year. We will have some workshops on it this fall, but also talk to your legislators about that program, too, so you are up to speed.

• Sit around a campfire with neighbors, preferably in someone’s back yard.

• Put your feet in salty water.

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• Hang too many lights in December.

• Call a relative or old friend on a whim.

• Make a crock pot chili during the first snowstorm.

• Don’t despair. Reboot, recharge and come September, reengage.

Cory King is executive director of the Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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