Elections and Mental health

In the months leading up to the election, a 2019 survey of 3,617 participants showed that 45% of U.S. adults identified the 2020 presidential election as a significant stressor vs. 52% of adults who reported the 2016 presidential election as a significant source of stress (1).

As of summer, 2020, 77% Democrat and 62% of Republican survey participants identified the current political climate as a significant source of stress in their life. (2)

As the presidential election nears, it is possible this number is even higher.

What are some strategies to manage election related stress?

The American Psychological Association (3) offers the following strategies:

  • Stay informed, but know your limits (3):
    • Monitor how you feel after news consumption. Preoccupation with national events, interference with your daily life, may be a sign to cut back on your news intake and limit social media discussions.
    • Consider scheduling a short block of time in the morning and one in the evening to catch up on news without checking for every new update during the day.
    • During “digital breaks,” take time to focus on something enjoyable, such as a hobby, exercising, or spending time with family and friends.
  • Find commonalities with others (3):
    • If political differences arise with others, instead of heated discussions, consider hearing the other person’s story and look for commonalties within your views.
    • (Respectfully validating someone else does not mean you have to agree with them).
    • If calm and constructive conversation is difficult, it may be best to disengage from the conversation.
  • Find meaningful ways to get involved in your community (3):
    • This could be through local organizations, city council or town hall meetings, local politics, etc. Sometimes, taking active steps to address your concerns can lessen feelings of stress.
  • Seek solace (3):
  • Take care of yourself (3):
    • Exercise
    • Listen to your favorite music.
    • Spend time with close family and friends.
    • Prioritize getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods.
    • Avoid ineffective coping mechanisms such as alcohol and substances use.

Other thoughts:

  • Consider implementing healthy coping strategies that helped you cope with past stressful times in your life.
  • Try new healthy coping strategies mentioned above.
  • If you have difficulties despite these strategies: Go to our mental health support options page: https://ccs.osu.edu/mental-health-support-options/

By R. Ryan Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. American Psychological Association (2019). Stress in America: Stress and Current Events. Stress in America™ Survey. Accessed August 2019.
  2. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2020/stress-in-america-covid-july.pdf
  3. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress-political-change

Mental health impact of interruptions

By R. Ryan Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

While there are benefits to having roommates, living with others, electronic devices, studying with others; even brief interruptions of work can have drawbacks.  A study (1) by Mark and colleagues looked at this issue.

What was the study?

  • Mark and colleagues (1) studied the impact of interruptions via phone or interruptions via instant messaging on 48 college students, average age 26 years old.
  • Participants were given information and asked to answer related emails as “quickly, politely, and correctly as possible”.
  • During the task, participants were subjected to phone or instant messaging interruptions related, or unrelated to the task or no interruptions.

What were the results?

  • Mark and colleagues (1) found that people in the interrupted conditions experienced a higher workload, more stress, higher frustration, more time pressure, and effort.
  • Depending on the type of interruption, they also found that it could take upto 23 minutes to return to the original task (1).

What are some potential strategies to minimize interruptions?

  • When studying minimize/turn off unnecessary notifications on your electronic devices.
  • Students may want to time some of their studying around the schedules of others in their living situation (house with family members, roommates, etc); and parts of the day when there are fewer interruptions by others.  It may be helpful to proactively communicate with others about your wish to not be interrupted for certain times of the day.
  • Identify study areas on campus that have few interruptions.
  • Some students may benefit from white noise or instrumental music to help maintain focus others may prefer a quiet space.
  • It may be useful to study or do a key task or two first thing in the morning before using electronic devices or doing other tasks.
  • Try keeping a notepad handy to make a note of any ideas or thoughts that may occur while you are working on a task.
  • Experiment doing 1 task at a time for with various chunks of time, to determine how long an ideal chunk of time is for you to stay focused on a single task.  This may help you schedule things more effectively in the future.
  • Consider meditation practice to improve your focus.
  • Consider the OSU Dennis Learning center to improve your study skills.
  • For stress management and mental health: Go to our mental health support options page: https://ccs.osu.edu/mental-health-support-options/

Other thoughts:

  • This is a small study and further research in this area is needed.
  • It is possible that some people may work better in high interruption environments.
  • It is also possible that interruptions have a different impact depending on the type of work you are doing and they type of interruption.
  • Further research in this area is needed.

By R. Ryan Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Gloria Mark, Daniela Gudith, and Ulrich Klocke. 2008. The cost of interrupted work: more speed and stress. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’08). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 107–110. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/1357054.1357072

 

Ways to Improve Sleep

By R. Ryan Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

About 30% of adults experience insomnia (1), which can be thought of as daytime impairment caused by frequent difficulties falling or staying asleep or poor quality sleep (1).

College students with sleep disorders are more likely to experience academic failure (defined as GPA less than 2) compared to college students without sleep disorders (2).

Individuals with insomnia are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, alcohol, and drug abuse (3 ).

What are some ways of improving sleep?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests the following ways to improve sleep (4):

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
  • Plan to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
  • Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy.
  • If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
  • Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
  • Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings.
  • Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
  • Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol, nicotine, other drugs.
  • Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.

Anything else?

  • For some, the effects of sleep deprivation can start by missing as little as 30 minutes or more of your usual sleep time.
  • Some people may need to eliminate caffeine or alcohol completely, gradually.
  • If you have to use electronics in the evenings, consider BLUEBLOCKERS.
  • Young adults should plan on 8 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
  • Avoidance of things that interfere with sleep: screen time (consider using a bluelight filter or nightmode). Avoid large meals/snacks at bedtime.
  • Practice Relaxation skills such as progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, deep breathing, guided imagery.
  • Positive visualization: visualize positive past or future events.
  • Consider keeping a notebook to jot down things on your mind at bedtime.
  • Avoid naps when possible, sleep more at night instead, and if you take naps, keep them brief (under 20 minutes) to avoid nighttime sleep disruption.
  • If you have had limited or no benefit from these strategies, professional treatment may be needed (see resource link below).

For more resources: Go to our mental health support options page: https://ccs.osu.edu/mental-health-support-options/

By R. Ryan Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Roth T. (2007). Insomnia: definition, prevalence, etiology, and consequences. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 3(5 Suppl), S7–S10.
  2. Gaultney JF. The prevalence of sleep disorders in college students: Impact on academic performance.  J Am Coll Health.  Sep-Oct 2010; 59 (2): 91-97.
  3. Breslau N et.al. Biol Psychiatry. 1996, 39: 411-418.
  4. http://sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits