Sleep and Routine in times of unknowing.
“Sometimes we’re tested not to show our weaknesses, but to discover our strengths.”Deborah King
We are all experiencing some amount of anxiety and stress given our current situation, the levels may be different, but we are all experiencing similar emotions. As we learn to navigate new roles, staying home and finding new ways to socialize, I offer a few practices I use to help keep rooted and stay grounded.
Establishing a routine is a helpful tactic to overcome anxiety, stress or fear. Routine is so important to establish because it can help to create a sense of normalcy and control in your life. If you are like me a big part of my stress right now is that so much of my life is out of my control. As a girl who loves control, this is torture.
Through all my transitions in life I have always attempted to establish some type of routine wherever I may be. This may be a coffee from coffee shop every Tuesday, a yoga practice each day or sometimes playing trivia once a week at a local brewery. I find something to make myself feel a bit grounded and connected to my current situation, like I have some type of control over my life. I notice when I do this I feel less anxious, I feel a larger sense of connection to my community and usually make a few friends along the way.
Given our current circumstances it may be harder than ever to establish a routine, but I also believe it’s more important than ever. With the news changing so rapidly along with our lives and priorities, everything seems to be out of our control. Take back some of the control and establish a morning, daytime or evening routine. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or even very long, sometimes just deciding make a cup of coffee and watch your favorite show each day at 1pm can be helpful. Allowing yourself to have one routing force each day can help you establish a bit of normalcy in a very abnormal time.
During the time of social distancing move your monthly happy hour to a virtual happy hour. There many resources available to keep us connected. Finding new ways to keep old routines is just as useful as establishing new ones. As someone who has been on the move and has missed many happy hours with friends I have found this time to be an opportunity to reconnect. With time being in abundance right now we (busy professionals and moms alike) have all had the chance to reconnect and get caught up on the last few years. An opportunity which typically only presents itself at weddings, showers or bachlorette parties is now available almost weekly and from the comfort of your own home.
Internal routines are equally as important to consider as external or social routines. This week I have challenged myself to wake up early for a guided meditation. I find the meditation helps to alleviate a lot of my fear and anxiety, I feel calmer throughout most or all of the day. It also gives me added purpose each morning and allows me to focus and set goals for each day. Having a sense of accomplishment before my morning coffee is uplifting and satisfying. Last week I felt lost but this week I have a renewed sense of ease and purpose. The routine of having a goal, relaxing my mind and checking off an early morning accomplishment have helped to center and ground me amidst the chaos. It has also made my mind a bit lighter and more adaptable, something we can all benefit from at this time.
Lack of restorative sleep can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety. In myself, I have noticed a difference in my quality of sleep during this time. I am having more vivid dreams, wake more frequently throughout the night and often times wake feeling weary and irritable. I like to offer non-pharmaceutical therapies to help promote restful sleep. Many over the counter and prescription remedies have side-effects and addictive qualities, it’s best practice to establish a sleep routine and identify/mitigate the stress/anxieties keeping you awake at night. I have found that lighting incense has helped me fall asleep quicker and for longer. Incense has been used for many years in spiritual practices all over the world. It is proven to reduce stress, anxiety and enhance mediation practices. The aroma calms the mind, triggering responses which aid relaxation, feelings of calmness and releasing of fears/anxieties. There are very few if any drawbacks to lighting incense and relaxing in bed. My favorite incense is Nag Champa, it has been used for hundreds of years. The smell is mild and uplifting, it’s a great choice in promoting restful sleep.
Listening to relaxing music, rain sounds, or ambient white noise is a proven effective way to enhance restorative sleep. The sounds allow us to focus away from our thoughts and release our minds into deep relaxation. Staying asleep for longer allows us to enter the REM cycle in which our minds can remove toxins, store memories and recharge to take on the tasks of the next day.
I know we will get through this rough time we are all facing together. We can’t change everything that is happening around us, but we can change how we react to it. Please feel free to reach out to me for any guidance on how to cope with this difficult time. We are all in this together.