How to deal best with stress & anxiety – and how can you still sleep well?
The world is quite crazy at the moment. There is only one topic: CORONAVIRUS.
It seems that way at least when you surf the internet, social media or to talk to anyone. It’s hard not to freak out. I assume most of us experience some kind of stress and anxiety or are worried right now.
Stress & anxiety is the topic of this blog post. And its impact on sleep.
The difference between stress and anxiety is that stress is a response to a threat in a situation – like the Coronavirus threat. Anxiety is a reaction to that stress. The problem is that even after the threat (stress) has gone, anxiety can still stick around, and in severe cases, you might develop an anxiety disorder.
Another problem is that stress and anxiety may cause sleeping problems or make existing problems worse. And having an anxiety disorder exacerbates the problem even further. Suddenly you find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle of being anxious all the time and not sleeping well.
Researchers have found that the relationship between sleep problems and anxiety is bidirectional. This means that sleep problems can cause anxiety, and anxiety can disrupt your sleep. And just like anxiety, sleep problems can impact how you function emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Research also shows that some form of sleep disruption is present in nearly all psychiatric disorders. And that people with chronic insomnia are at high risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
Ugh, that sounds all pretty gloomy, doesn’t it? And with what’s going on at the moment, it’s quite probable that more and more people will suffer from anxiety or develop sleep problems.
So what can you do to reduce anxiety and stress and therefore not develop any sleeping issues at all?
Here are 4 areas you should focus on:
- Meditate. Focus on your breath — breathe in and out slowly and deeply — and visualize a serene environment such as a deserted beach or grassy hill.
- Breathing exercise. A simple but effective breathing exercise is called the 4-7-8 technique: Breath in through the nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds and then exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds. Repeat the cycle up to 4 times.
- Relaxation techniques have been used to assist in the treatment of phobias, panic disorder, and depression, as well as providing relief for people in stressful situations.
- Accept that you can not control everything. Do your best to solve the problem, prevent new issues, be prepared and proactive instead of just being reactive and therefore feel like a victim. Stay informed and try to maintain a positive attitude. I know it sounds difficult to do, but that’s all you can do and that’s ok. For the rest, put it in God’s or the Universe’s hands.
- Play music. Soft, calming music can lower your blood pressure and relax your mind and body. Or if you are struggling with dark and negative thoughts, put on some happy and uplifting music and dance to it – even if you don’t feel like dancing at all.
- Exercise. Regular exercise is good for your physical and mental health. It provides an outlet for frustrations and releases mood-enhancing endorphins. Yoga can be particularly effective at reducing anxiety and stress. Physical activity is a proven way to reduce stress. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
- Limit Alcohol and Caffeine. Alcohol and Caffeine can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks. Better drink water.
- Prioritize your to-do list. Spend your time and energy on the truly important tasks, and break up large projects into smaller, more easily managed tasks. Delegate when you can.
- Direct stress and anxiety elsewhere. Lend a hand to a relative or neighbor, or volunteer in your community. Helping others will take your mind off of your own anxiety and fears. Don’t isolate yourself, and spend time with friends & family (if you are not in Coronavirus lockdown 🙂 )
- Make getting a good night’s sleep a priority. Block out seven to nine hours for a full night of uninterrupted sleep, and try to wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. Even if you are in such a particular situation like “lockdown and social distancing”.
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. Avoid stimulants like coffee, chocolate, and nicotine before going to sleep, and never watch TV, use the computer, or pay bills before going to bed. Read a book, listen to soft music, or meditate instead.
- Create a Sleep Sanctuary. Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Consider using a fan to drown out excess noise, and make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable.
- Bedroom=Sleep. Use your bedroom as a bedroom — not for watching TV or doing work — and get into bed only when you are tired. If you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, go to another room and do something relaxing.
- Exercise for better sleep. Regular exercise will help you sleep better, but limit your workouts to mornings and early afternoons. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Before going to bed you can even stretch or do some gentle yoga poses to relieve muscle tension and stress.
- Avoid looking at the clock. This can make you anxious in the middle of the night. Turn the clock away from you.
Well, I wish all the best and that you stay healthy, happy and anxiety-free.