Sleeping with anxiety

Cat sleeping
Sleep inspiration

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.

  1. Talk about it. Tell your partner. Tell your mom. Call me. Let’s talk about it.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

  1. From my aunt: Say your prayers. It’s repetitive and fills your mind, plus you feel like you’re doing something.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Published by Candace

I’m a journalist, nutritionist, doting auntie, one-time bobsledder, and wannabe health nut (who loves chocolate and pizza too much to fully commit). I don't want you to think my life is perfect. It's not.

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