I developed two imaginary friends when I was a kid. Blueberry was my overall-wearing, foul-mouthed, blue-skinned, marble-shooting best friend from New York City. The other was a willow-thin, pacing whirlwind who dressed in loose, striped tights and a tattered purple cape. He didn’t have an official name when I was younger, but he has since become known as The Anxious.
I still think of Blueberry fondly but she is no longer an active part of my life. The Anxious, however, is alive and well.
He likes to show up on random nights any time between 12:30-5:30 a.m.
During one of his visits, he perches on the side of the bed and wrings his hands until I awaken. Before my eyes are fully open, The Anxious puts his hand on my shoulder and says, “Good. You’re up. There are some things that we need to talk about. Stat.”
Before I can swat him away, he is off to the races. The Anxious starts pacing and spitting rapid fire questions and emphatic statements at me:
– Do you think you were a good mom, wife, friend, citizen of the world yesterday?
– How are your short-term savings, long-term savings, college fund, 401k?
– Do you think that Conley really knows how much you love her?
– Why were you hateful to Tony at dinner?
– What have you accomplished lately?
– Remember that stupid thing you said six months ago?
– Exercise more.
– Drink more water.
– Eat less junk.
– Get more sleep.
However, in the past couple of months the topic that The Anxious wants to bring up the most is a certain leader of the free world. You know, the orange-tinted fellow with the swirling hair who makes you fret over such things as: We are all going to die in a nuclear winter because he wanted to show Meryl Streep or Nordstrom who was really the boss.
And, I may be the only 40-year-old with a caped and anxiety-ridden imaginary friend, but I am definitely not the only one that is losing sleep over today’s uneasy political climate as well as everyday stressors. The American Sleep Association reports that 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder, with insomnia being the most common issue.
I sat down with Dr. Kristin Daley, a psychologist specializing in sleep disorders at Southeast Psych in Charlotte, and asked her for some tips on how to keep The Anxious away and get a good night’s rest even if we are scared of the man who was elected.
(1) Make your bedroom a place of safety and security.
It should be a place that calms and comforts you.
(2) Set a curfew for your conflict.
No TV, Facebook or heated political discussions for at least two hours before bed.
(3) Know when you can handle exposure to the news.
After all, you do have to stay informed. Stay woke even. Reading headlines before your morning run might help you set a new personal record.
(4) Drop anchor.
Put your feet on the floor and press down. Know that the world is still there and let the physical act of feeling the floor beneath you help ground you. Meditate.
(5) Don’t numb out.
Facebook used to be good for mindless winding down, but no more. Don’t rely on it to chill out. Ditto alcohol. Alcohol might make you sleepy to start, but it interrupts sleep and, after a few hours, you’ll be tossing and turning and worrying about the world.
Not to mention, that orange-tinted fellow with the swirling hair.
Photos: Charlotte Observer file, Kristin Daley