With everything we have on our plates, it’s no wonder 65 percent of us toss and turn. Whether you worry about work, kids, family, or the ongoing health crisis, it’s hard not to let it get to us. Some of us even struggle to focus during the day. If this is you, read these easy ways to calm anxiety and drift off to dreamland.
When faced with restless nights, many of us turn to “sleep rituals” to restore some sense of control, reveals psychologist Stephanie A. Silberman, PhD. “But when we tell ourselves, ‘I must set the thermostat at X degrees’ or ‘I have to take a bath before bed,’ that gives power to something outside ourselves,” he explained. To build confidence in your ability to drift off without a “crutch,” she recommends switching up wind-down routines. “One evening, you might read a book; another, you might play cards.” This lets you see that you can fall asleep under an array of circumstances.
Worries don’t just keep our mind whirling, they lead to physical symptoms like increased blood pressure and muscle aches, all of which disrupt sleep. To soothe your whole body, expert Colleen Carney, PhD, urges deep breathing. “Just inhale, hold for a few seconds, then slowly exhale.” This tells your brain it’s safe to sleep.
Break out a puzzle.
You may have heard that when you can’t sleep, it’s best to get up and do something boring like watch TV. A better way: “You should actually do something a little engaging, like a puzzle,” says expert Joshua Tal, PhD. That’s because boring activities encourage our mind to wander and fixate on why we’re not sleeping, ramping up anxiety even more. “When we do something a little challenging, however, it gets us tired again so we can finally fall asleep.”
During the Day
Greet the sun.
Grabbing fresh air is a time-tested easy way to calm anxiety, slay stress, and improve our ability to fall and stay asleep, notes Carney. “Human beings are clocks,” she says. That’s why keeping a regular schedule and making time to get outside in the morning will lift your mood and help you sleep. In fact, folks exposed to just 10 minutes of natural light in the a.m. sleep better at night.
Grab a pen.
To nip worries in the bud before they even have a chance to keep you up, jot them down as they occur to you throughout the day, advises Silberman. “We often experience racing thoughts at night because it’s finally quiet, and all the worries we put off during the day start to resurface,” she says. “But if you get them on paper during the day—I’m nervous about an upcoming doctor’s appointment, for example—you can deal with them right then and there, preventing them from taking hold at night.”
Keep on relaxing.
The best time to unwind isn’t while you’re in bed, but throughout the day, says Carney. Practice mindfulness —by, say, focusing on your cup of tea or gazing at the mums on your patio. “This decreases your overall level of anxiety so when you do have a worried thought at night, it won’t feel as compelling.” Shifting into a more relaxed state of mind and body during the day ensures the restorative sleep you deserve.
If you’re looking for easy ways to calm anxiety, it’s hard not get get overwhelmed. Hopefully these simple tips will bring you more inner peace.