These are some tricks and tips to help you curate a good sleep routine during a stressful time. Sleep is the cornerstone of mental health; without good sleep our bodies can not regulate and managing stress becomes very challenging. It is hard to find ways to ground ourselves when we feel in crisis. These are the times we need to go ‘back to basics’ and build a routine that feels like something important we are doing for our well-being. Just the intention behind our actions around sleep is half the battle. The following are just suggestions to help you develop a good sleep routine. The most important part is to remember to do your best and that trying to incorporate even one or two things is a win.
My number one recommendation is to try to stay off your phone in the evenings and turn off all screens (TV, iPad, laptop, cell phone) at least 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep. Looking at screens tricks our brain into thinking that you need to be awake and agitates the nervous system. Screens are a real part of our lives, especially right now, but pulling back will have huge positive impacts on your sleep and overall well-being.
Think about using an alarm clock that is battery operated and plug your phone in outside of your bedroom at night to help fight the urge to look at it before bed and right when you wake up. In the time you are free from screens, choose a new routine - make a cup of tea, dim the lights, take a bath or shower, turn on soft music, light a candle, burn incense, do art, stretch for 5-10 minutes, do some breathing exercises, or meditate (see links below).
Try to regulate the amount of news you take in as much as possible. It is important to stay informed, but there is a very fine line between knowing what is happening in the world and having a toxic relationship with the news. The most anxious patients I have, watch or read the news five to eight times a day. When they have stopped at my suggestion, they report that their sleep is better and they feel less anxious overall. Choose a time in the day to check in with the news for ten minutes. If you can, move to checking the news every other day. Notice your urges to check the news, and see if you can stop yourself, even one time a day. This also goes for social media. Boundaries are key.
Choose a bedtime. It is easy to get caught up in staying up late but a consistent bedtime calms our mind and body and lets our bodies know what to expect every day. Even a bedtime within an hour every day can be helpful to get our circadian rhythms balanced. Our bodies want rhythm and setting a ‘wind down’ time free of screens and stimulation can decrease anxiety significantly.
Remember to do your best, and know that changing your routine can be hard at first. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel like this is a challenge – just try again tomorrow.
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