When Tara McGowan, a young progressive consultant, recently tweeted that she hadn’t been sleeping well for months, her remark generated a thread of tips for how to get more shut-eye.
Sleep is at a premium for political professionals this time in the cycle. It’s only natural that with the arrival of fall and GOTV, campaign and advocacy people start losing more sleep. It stems from the sheer amount of workload placed on practitioners, and the choices that we make.
This time of year people start drinking caffeine later and later in the day and usually finish things off with some alcohol shortly before bed. All of those things start disrupting your sleep cycle and prevent you from getting the 7-9 hours you need to be a healthy, fully functioning adult.
Now, we don’t all need to run on adrenaline and caffeine for the next three weeks. It’s possible to practice self-care down in the final innings. Undoubtedly, we’re all going to have to work longer hours, so this is about making your sleep matter. Here’s how you can do that:
Power down before bed.
Too many of us end the day in bed still on Twitter, or responding to emails. We hit send, set the phone down and think we’ll just drift off because of exhaustion. Well, no matter how tired you are, you’re most likely still going to be restless if you go directly from screentime to closing your eyes.
You need to have a shut-down period.
What does that look like? In my practice, I prescribe being away from your phone or computer screen for 30 minutes before you go to bed to help you wind down. Some suggest taking an hour, but that’s most likely not realistic – at least not until Nov. 7.
Start a bedtime routine.
Yes, toddlers also have bedtime routines, but that doesn’t mean that busy practitioners shouldn’t have one, too. Take a few minutes before bed to pack a snack for tomorrow, or set your shoes and workout clothes out — maybe have some chamomile tea, or magnesium calm drink to help your body relax for a good nights sleep.
Reframe your mind by reciting positive mantras. Personally, I keep a journal. I end with the three things I’m grateful for. That changes my brain from ruminating about the crap I endured over the day and sets me up for a good night's sleep.
Take time during the day to rest.
There’s a phrase that health practitioners often use when talking about rest: sleep begets sleep. If you’re running on adrenaline and not sleeping, it’s going to be hard to get a solid night’s rest. To help get your body into a relaxing routine, take a 10-20 minute rest during the day.
That can be as simple as closing your office door and putting your head down on your desk. You don’t need to be tucked under the covers. This is more about relaxing your mind. We all are going minute by minute, day by day, so just pause and do nothing. This is about giving yourself permission to take a break instead of instantly reaching for that second cup of coffee.
I recently met a woman who spent her career working on presidentials and she told me her work life changed when she gave herself permission to take 5-10 minutes of rest at her desk during the day. Try it.
Set your boundaries.
This last one is harder during this time of year. But if you’re clear with your team about when you respond to email – say, up until 9:30 p.m. – then often people will shift their work block accordingly. You can’t avoid a 3 a.m. campaign crisis. Still, it’s possible to determine what’s an urgent priority, and what can wait until the next morning. A lot of the things can wait until to the next day to be managed.
Jayson Sime managed congressional races, worked for state parties and ran state-level programs for groups before founding Right to Shine, a wellness consultancy.