Anxiety and stress are horrible for your sleep. Ever done a quick email check before turning off the light–only to see an urgent email from your boss about that project that’s due the next afternoon? Then you know what I’m talking about. Just knowing the fact that something must be done the next day, can already make you feel anxious. And in turn make you sleep less (deep).
Worrying makes you lose sleep, which makes you decrease performance anyway the next day.
Now, not doing any before-bed-phone-checks is a good habit to have in any case. But what are some other rituals to help relieve anxiety that you can do every night before bedtime to feel calmer and less anxious?
4 Ways to Relieve Anxiety Before Going to Bed
Whenever you’re going through a rough time or feel like you need more calmness in your life, you can try one of the 4 following methods.
The great thing?
They don’t cost anything to start. And they also don’t take up much time.
With just 5 to 10 minutes, you can already feel calmer. So it will be easier to go to sleep and get a full night’s rest.
Meditation is a great way to get rid of anxious thoughts. This can be especially useful at night. However, most people try to meditate in the wrong way. Instead of having the goal NOT to think for 5 minutes (which is impossible), it’s better to have as a goal to refocus whenever you lose focus. This will train your brain to get back on task and is the main reason why meditation works.
One easy way to get started is to start small. Try to focus on changing your identity first from a ‘non-meditator’ to a person that meditates almost every day (we’re still human after all!). See what happens with just 1 minute of focusing on your breath at night. Do this for 7 days and if you enjoy it go to 90 seconds. Gradually you will feel calmer at night. And let’s face it, sometimes even 1 deep breath of air is enough to relieve tension.
2. Take a walk
The second thing you can do is to go for a quick brisk walk before bed. Nietzsche said that “All great thoughts are conceived by walking.”
Not only will you get some fresh air and some exercise, but you will also get to clear your mind. Sometimes all you need to get rid of looping thoughts is some movement and to get out of the house.
Now, don’t take this walk right before going to bed, as it can also give you some energy. But it’s a good idea to take one after dinner when you still have some time to get into sleep mode after you come back.
You might object that you won’t want to do this when it’s winter and cold outside – but I beg to differ. Taking a walk is nice in summer, but also in winter, it has its charms. You’ll pack yourself up in warm clothes and when you come back and there’s a hot tea waiting for, you’ll feel refreshed. Both in mind and body.
3. Journal the day
You know the feeling when you finally talk to someone about what’s been troubling you? Speaking your worries out loud is a great way to take the power away from them. It also helps formulate your thoughts clearly, and that can help you find a solution.
However, you don’t always have someone to talk to. Maybe you’re single. Or you don’t want to bother your partner every night with your (sometimes insignificant) worries.
One thing I’ve been doing for the last 5 years is keeping a daily journal. Not only is it a great way to look back and see exactly what you did exactly 3 years ago, but a journal can also function to clear your mind and dump your troubles. In a way, it can have the exact same effect as talking to someone over a specific problem.
You can also journal specific things you’re doing to improve your sleep and see how they affect you. It’s a great way to see how efforts you’re taking playoff. You can more easily see trends, for example, if you’re taking a daily nap and notice that you’re less sleepy at night – it’s difficult to notice this if you don’t have it written down.
It will also decrease mental effort when there’s a specific thing you want to remember. Just write it down. That way you can always look back and remember. Your brain will thank you for giving it less to do.
4. Confront your fears
Mark Twain said when he got older that “I’m an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” It’s a great quote because it illustrates that we as humans tend to overthink a lot of things.
Sometimes all you need to do to get rid of a fear is to accept it. It’s the same principle Luminita described when she wrote her post on 15 things to give up to be happy. Really, take one of your fears and go through the worst-case scenario. Anxious to tell your boss about a job you did well and ask for a promotion?
Well, the worst-case scenario is you try it and he says no. You might argue that getting fired is the worst-case scenario–but in that case, you wouldn’t want to work for such a company anyways. You can search for a better job.
Realizing that you can deal with the consequences of a specific event and come out fine is often enough to quell the fear. Sure, you have to take it into account and plan specific actions to make sure it doesn’t happen, but you won’t experience the debilitating anxiety that often surrounds it.
And often, when a specific fear is keeping you awake at night, it means there’s something you’re not doing throughout the day. It’s a worry asking to be confronted. And when you finally take action against it, you will feel better, you will be able to relieve anxiety, and you’re again able to sleep at night.