Dear Miriam | How Do You Handle Pre-Election Stress

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Dear Miriam,

My pre-election anxiety is making it hard to sleep. This is on top of an already pretty significant baseline of pandemic stress. I’m so tired! How can I get through the next week?

Signed,


One Week to Go

Dear Week,

You, my friend, are not alone. All along through the pandemic, mental health professionals have been sharing stories about people experiencing overwhelming levels of stress as well as tips for managing the parts of life that you are able to control and finding ways to let go of the rest.

The election has created (or highlighted?) extra uncertainty in all of our lives and, living in Pennsylvania, being in the national spotlight creates even an additional dimension on top of that. No wonder you’re tired.

Before bed, but all day, really, restrict your own access to the news. It’s not worth your well-being to check for updates constantly. If your social media is full of political articles and commentary, limit your scrolling of that, too. Pick a distracting show or book or activity that becomes your go-to before bed. It will occupy your brain, hopefully crowding out some of the political worries, and it will also create a routine that lets your body know you’re approaching sleep time.

If being proactive may help you address your worries head on, you still have a week in which to donate money to a campaign, text bank, phone bank or write postcards. You also have time to reach out to friends and neighbors and see if any of them need help making a plan to vote or need a ride to their polling place. Then, maybe, you can rest easier knowing you’re doing everything possible to help things go the way you hope they do.

You can try more typical sleep strategies like avoiding caffeine or other triggers later in the day and turning on white noise or a sleep story while you’re trying to fall asleep. You can try melatonin as well before bed to see if that works for you.

If you find that your worries are persistently interfering with your life, seeking out therapy may be very helpful. The troubles of the past seven months have made a lot of people more comfortable talking about their experiences with mental health and have opened up the conversation about what it means to seek help from a professional.

There are many scenarios in which the stress over the election does not end on Nov. 3. Putting in place coping strategies now will help both over the next week and in dealing with the uncertainty that may linger on for a while. Unfortunately, there’s also the potential for many new stressful situations to arise while the pandemic rages on, and you need sleep to handle all of it.

Be well,

Miriam

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