I’m an anxious person. You might not always see it. In fact lately I’ve been described as calm. I’m also a good sleeper, but I know those two things don’t always go together, and that millions of people out there struggle to get their 8 hours.
If you struggle to sleep, please allow me to share with you what works for me. Keep in mind I’m no expert.
- Talk about it. Tell your partner. Tell your mom. Call me. Let’s talk about it.
- Go about your day. Being alone is the worst for my anxiety. Being at the office or going out with friends helps me see that we’re O.K. I often tell myself, “right now I have everything I need.”
- Do what you can do. Call your lawmakers, stock an emergency bag. Tell someone you love them. Whatever will help you feel a little better, do that.
- Ask God to take it for you. This is a tool my mom gave me just after college graduation when I was alone and lonely in a new city. She advised me to have a glass of wine and ask God to worry about it for me for that night. It was so calming to feel like someone else was on it, and I could have the night off.
- Get lost in a story.
Let’s explore that last one more because that’s my secret weapon. When I was a kid and struggled to fall asleep, my dad gave me some advice. He told me to create a go-to story in my head that I could tell myself.
I think that’s why I’m a writer today. Thanks, Dad! I love telling myself stories. I’ve even started writing them down in book form to share with others. I’ll give them to you when they get to that point.
I know most experts say it’s bad to watch TV or use a device before bed, but that actually helps me sleep, too. I usually save this for an especially rough time or if I’m at a hotel or somewhere unfamiliar.
I also love to read before bed. For me, a memoir, fiction, or magazine is best. I make sure it’s something calming and not the newspaper, something for work, or a class. Listening to a podcast or book on tape could also work. I find it hard to succumb to sleep, though, because I know I have to turn it off.
If your mind is racing with the what-ifs, I have a few more ideas that have been passed on to me over the years. See if any of them work for you.
- From my aunt: Say your prayers. It’s repetitive and fills your mind, plus you feel like you’re doing something.
- From a co-worker/friend: Go through the alphabet. Try to name all the vegetables, trees, exercises, or whatever that start with A. When you run out, try B, C, and so on. Pro tip: Don’t try something with a finite number, like states. You might keep yourself up trying to name all 50.
- From my sister: Count your breaths. Breathe in and out: 1. In and out: 2. If you get to 100, start counting back down. In, out: 99. In, out 98.
How do you get to sleep at night? Please share your tips in the comments.