By ena ganguly
This is an anxiety inducing time for many of us. I know I haven’t been able to sleep this past week, not only because of my own anxieties, but simply sensing the anxieties and worries of others, and the communities I hold dear. Unfortunately, the less sleep I get, the more sluggish and irritable I become. Things are harder to do, like sleeping. Not being able to sleep was building up from the night before, to the point where I felt my body wasn’t getting adequate rest.
Thankfully, I realized that if I am to get some sleep, I have to take the time to build up to sleep, making sure my body and mind has time to process the day and keep all stimulating things away. Here are some tips on how I built a routine leading up to sleep time.
Have a set sleep time and wake up time
Make a point to start getting ready for bed at a set time every night. Of course this set time may be interrupted every now and again, but do your best to commit to a time to get ready for bedtime, and be in bed. For me, I start getting ready for bed starting at 9 pm, because I know that my body needs to start sleeping by 10:30. From 9 to 10, I will begin the process of getting ready for bed, and making sure my brain and body feel grounded and not overly stimulated.
I put an alarm on for the next day, which is usually at around 7:15 am, and also make sure to have my phone charged or charging, so that my alarm goes off every morning. After a while of having set wake up time, your body will almost ‘automatically’ wake up at the same time every day, which is what my body does most days, unless I was very tired the day before or my immune system needs the extra rest.
Turn off all electronics an hour before I go to sleep
If you can, limit or completely withdraw from social media engagement, emails, apps, videos, shows, etc. Let your mind be present for the here and now, so that it has time to destimulate and get into a state of sleepiness.
This may be hard for folks who have anxiety or need to be on their phones to feel okay. That’s real! Don’t think you have to start off cold turkey. Start by just limiting what apps you get on. Maybe playing solitaire or another game is more relaxing and less stimulating than to get on a social media app. Then, begin to limit for how long you’re on your phone. If usually you’re on your phone or watching TV till you fall asleep, try to get off the device right before you start falling asleep or feeling sleepy.
Journal and/or draw during that hour bedtime
Journaling is a great way to tire out your mind so that it’s not running wild while you’re trying to fall asleep. Personally, it works for me. If I need to vent, or acknowledge a feeling, or just free flow, I make it a point to take time to journal something. It’s usually not super long and only takes 10 to 15 minutes, but the act of journaling really slows me down and allows me to process the day and what all I’ve been feeling.Coloring or drawing has the same effect.
Both journaling and coloring are great activities for those who experience anxiety or whose minds run amok as they try to fall asleep. Start by just doing it for 5 minutes, and go from there. If you really like it, I recommend doing it consistently, for however long, rather than trying to sustain it for a long time but doing it every once in a while. The act of doing these things consistently is what builds a routine, and allows our brains and bodies to slow down to get ready to rest.
Stretch and meditate during that hour before bedtime
I have back pain and tightness around my hips usually, so I’ll stretch. I prefer doing some hip openers and anything else that feels nice and grounding. Usually, I’ll do it on my yoga mat, but you can actually stretch wherever you feel most comfortable and at ease including the couch, floor or the bed.
As for meditating, I’ll sometimes pray and do some writing as I pray. If not, I’ll close my eyes, with my legs crossed, making sure I feel comfortable, and just give my brain some time to think and feel whatever. For me, meditation isn’t about being silent or not having any thoughts. It’s quite the opposite. It’s about letting my mind rest and do or be whatever, without judgment.
Clean up a little
Cleaning may be a source of ease for some of us. Like all other activities mentioned, it doesn’t have to be a whole project. It can look like just tidying up a little bit: putting some clothes up, wiping down the kitchen counter or putting up the yoga mat you just stretched on. Take things slow and enjoy the act of cleaning, rather than the outcome you’re trying to achieve. This allows us to feel at ease and familiar with the space we are sleeping or resting in, and doesn’t have to take a long time or be arduous.
Get ready for bedtime
Lastly, create a small routine that will have your body set for the next day. If you take medicines, herbs, or teas, take them an hour before you get into bed or earlier, so that you don’t have to go to the restroom in the middle of the night.
Brush and floss your teeth, brush and tie or wrap up your hair, moisturize, do your skin care routine and anything else right before you get ready for bed. These little preparations can act like the final activities signalling to your body that it’s getting to be that time to lay down and close your eyes. Finally, if you have some ambient music or nature sounds, play them gently next to you as you stretch out to sleep. Listening to nature sounds can be grounding and put your mind at ease. There are many great apps available for free to users who have a smart phone. If you don’t have a smart phone, there are many CDs and YouTube videos available to help you fall right to sleep.
What are some things you are doing during this time to ground yourself? Share with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@allgoqpoc)!