When I think back to when I first started experiencing anxiety, I can trace it to childhood sleepovers. I wasn’t worried about leaving my parent’s house or scared of sleeping somewhere new, but I can remember feelings pings of anxiety about sleep. Would I be the last to fall asleep? Would I be bored in the middle of the night and lay there in silence? I’m not sure if that’s a usual thought running through a kid’s mind, but it was common for me.
Since then, my anxiety has always surrounded sleep. Will I get enough sleep? Are my neighbors going to be quiet? Will I be tired for tomorrow’s to-do list? I’ve never been anxious about public speaking or flying or other things that cause crippling anxiety in a lot of people, but I know in general that anxiety is a serious issue. It’s also one that can be hard to deal with.
I’ve spent a lot of time, research, and effort learning to prevent and cope with my own anxiety, and since I know I’m not alone in feeling anxious at times, I wanted to share what I’ve found to help. Depending on your situation and whether it’s pre- or post-anxiety, here are some ways to (hopefully!) ease it.
For me, that means limiting alcohol during the week (it increases my sleep stress), making sure my sound machine is set up, turning off tech an hour before bed, and doing my relaxing bed-time routine. For others, it might be preparing for a speech and making note cards, getting to the airport early enough for a glass of wine before a flight, or talking things over with a therapist before a big event. Do whatever habits or tasks make you feel better and help ease your anxious feelings—even if that means scheduling them into your calendar.
Without a doubt, meditation has helped my anxiety levels more than anything. I try to meditate every morning and before bed (for about 10 minutes), but if life gets in the way and I can’t, I find that relying on an app like Headspace or even slow breathing will make me feel better in the moment. It gives your brain and system a chance to slow down and time to get out of your own head. Plus, it can be done anywhere! Don’t worry about sitting cross-legged or even closing your eyes; simply breath in and out if you feel anxiety coming on.
Talk It Out
The people close to me know about my sleep struggles, and I think being open about it is crucial. Having people to talk you through an especially anxious moment not only makes you feel supported, but you usually realize the situation isn’t that bad after voicing it. My fiance usually asks me “What’s the worst thing that’ll happen?” I get no sleep and I’m groggy for one day—I’ll survive!—plus it rarely ends up that way. If no one is around to chat, call a loved one or talk to your animal. Seriously! Just get it out.
Take it Step by Step
If you think about everything big picture, your anxiety will likely increase. Instead, think about yourself in that moment. Are things OK? Alive? Surviving? The answer is hopefully yes, so don’t worry too much about what’s next. Get through each moment focusing on that moment alone. Once you successfully conquer a minute, move on to the next.
It’s the answer for almost everything, I know, but for good reason! Working up a sweat not only raises your endorphins a.k.a happiness, but it gets rid of stress, makes you feel better about yourself, and it can help with sleep. Do your best to make it a part of your weekly routine to prevent anxiety—a few times a week is all you need. Try to take things outside and with a friend for the ultimate anxiety-killing combo.
If you struggle with anxiety, how do you cope with it? Anyone else have sleep anxiety? What situations do you struggle in? I’d love to hear, as I think talking about it is a great start for easing it.