Right when it’s time to truly unwind, let the body fully relax, and drift into deep restorative sleep, anxiety finds a way of shifting into overdrive. Perhaps it’s that we are no longer distracted with work and daily tasks, and our brains have time to file through the archives. Perhaps it’s something that has become a habit we don’t know how to break. Either way, it’s not conducive to healthy sleep, and it’s downright disturbing.
Poppy Jamie, founder and best-selling author of Happy Not Perfect, has a loaded toolkit when it comes to shifting our mindsets, getting out of negative feedback loops and self-talk with ourselves, and creating a self-compassionate environment in which to relax and thrive. She has some seriously hot tips for getting out of that adrenaline-spiking funk that tends to enter our cozy bedrooms and torment us after lights-out. Take note.
“Adults are no different than children in needing a routine to help signal that it’s time for bed. Just like children benefit from the lights dimming, having a story read to them and a hot bath, we do too. When you create a set of actions that you repeat at bedtime, these become cognitive reflexes that signal to your brain you are about to go to sleep. Repetition and consistency is the key here!”
Journal your thoughts before you sleep
“A journaling practice allows you to write whatever you feel you need to, without any judgment. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, recommends writing three pages every morning—which is brilliant, but if sleep is your problem, I suggest writing three, free-flowing pages before bed. The exercise helps stimulate the computer side of your brain, and in doing so, this relaxes the emotional side. When you commit to journaling for three pages, it almost becomes a spiritual practice, because you will notice how solutions arise unexpectedly. Furthermore, journaling helps the brain stay asleep, because it’s less likely to want to wake up after a few hours worrying about something that hasn’t been done. The act of journaling before bed helps you create your own psychological safety, and this is what we all require to fully allow ourselves to relax into rest.”
“If you have a habit of feeling anxious before bed, try taking a hot shower or bath. In order for us to sleep, the body needs to drop in temperature, so by heating your body up and then sleeping in a cooler room, you help this natural process.”
Write a to-do list for the next day
“Writing a to-do list is different from journaling. A to-do list is a set of actions you need to do the next day, and journaling is more free-flowing about how you are feeling in the moment. A to-do list can be a brilliant way to calm your mind, as you are lifting off the pressure to remember all the things you need to do. Instead, you’re helping your mind and being a good teammate by noting important action items down to think about at a more convenient time.”
Share three things you are grateful for
“Sharing what you are grateful for to a friend, a partner or even just to yourself is another simple way to reduce anxious thoughts before bed. Anxiety and gratitude can’t happen at the same time, Deepak Chopra often says, because they both use the same brain region. You can only be feeling anxiety or gratitude. Switch your anxious worries for gratitude by listing three things you feel thankful for before you sleep. I do this with my boyfriend every night before we sleep, and it’s really nice to reflect on those small moments that are easy to take for granted or focus on the things that didn’t go well in the day.”
“I swear by a magnesium drink before bed. Studies have proven that nearly 60% of adults are not getting enough magnesium, and this can lead to more anxiety and trouble sleeping.”
It sounds so simple and yet it’s so effective—belly breathing is an easy and powerful way to tame anxiety. When we focus on breathing into our belly, this stimulates the vagus nerve and causes the body to send a signal to the mind for it to relax. Anxious thoughts cause the stress response in our body to be activated, so the simple belly breath (aka just consciously breathing into your belly, filling it up like a balloon on the inhale and releasing on the exhale) acts as a reversal to this. Try inhaling for 5 and exhaling for 7. Extending the exhales relaxes the mind and body further. I often recommend that people place a book on their belly and focus on breathing the book up and down just using the stomach to help them feel into a deeper breath. This is a clear way to see if you are breathing into the lower part of the belly, while strengthening those muscles and relaxing the mind at the same time!”