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

 

Mental Health tips during Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

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

Global disease outbreaks can be stressful, especially when it starts to impact your everyday life.

While different people react differently to this type of stress, common reactions can be:

  • Anxiety
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Change in sleep, eating habits and increased use of alcohol or drugs as a way to cope.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following ways to support yourself (1):

  • While it’s important to educate yourself to reduce the fear of unknown, Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19.
    • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Try to do some other activities you enjoy to return to your normal life.
  • Connect with others.
    • Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships.
    • Try to plan time to communicate with those in your support system.
      • If in person interaction with others is not possible, a phone call or video chat may be an option to consider.
    • Keep social distancing in mind.  CDC recommendations for social distancing (Remaining out of places where people meet or gather, avoiding local public transportation (e.g., bus, subway, taxi, rideshare), and maintaining distance.
  • Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking.

The following are adapted from National Library of Medicine (2):

  • Recognize and accept the things you can’t change.  This can help you let go and not get upset. For instance, you might not change rush hour traffic, but you can look for ways to relax during your commute, such as listening to a podcast or book.
  • Avoid stressful triggers when possible. For example, if your family squabbles during the holidays, give yourself a breather and go out for a walk or drive.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise or physical activity most days for about 30 minutes can help your brain release chemicals that make you feel good, and help you release built-up energy or frustration.
  • Change your outlook. Are you being too negative? Work on more positive attitude toward challenges by replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones.
  • Do something you enjoy preferably daily even if it’s just for a few minutes. Examples include reading a good book, listening to music, watching a favorite movie, or having dinner with a friend, a new hobby or class.
  • Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. This can help you think more clearly, and have more energy.
  • Eat enough AND eat healthy foods. This can help fuel your body and mind. Skip the high-sugar snack foods and load up on vegetables, fruits, raw nuts, lean proteins, good fats.
  • Learn to say no. Set limits if you feel over-scheduled, cut back or defer where you can. Ask others for help when you need it.

Consider relaxation techniques:

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. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/coping.html
  2. https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/responders.asp