A blaring alarm clock is the first thing that sets the snowball effect of a stressful day in full motion. Struggling to get out of bed, hitting the snooze button too many times and you’re too late to eat breakfast before work. After sitting in traffic during your commute you get to work and find three urgent messages from your boss, there’s no hope for the day to slow down. By the time you get home, after sitting in traffic yet again, it’s time to make dinner, tidy the house and rest your head on your pillow while all the stressful thoughts of what you didn’t accomplish today invade your brain preventing you from falling asleep. Stress is stress. We all have it and we all cope with it in different ways. But there are ways to help calm yourself when your stress levels start to peak. Being able to eliminate stress in little ways will help you rest easy at night and get better sleep. Here are a few tips for calming down.
The first step to calming down is to figure out what exactly is causing it. You may be sleeping eight hours each night, but do you wake up still feeling tired? It will be worth your while to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss you sleep quality and see if there’s an underlying sleep disorder that is preventing your from getting deep sleep. When we don’t get enough sleep, stresses become more difficult to deal with because we don’t have the full mental capacity or energy to solve the issue.
I think we can all agree that stress makes us lose focus and become unproductive. Taking a step back and trying a deep breathing exercise can help calm your nerves and refocus your energy. In my weekly yoga class we work on our breathing, so I can vouch for the effectiveness of breathing exercises. Inhaling and exhaling for equal counts of four, in through the nose and out through the mouth, can help reduce your stress. It’s really important to focus on yourself when stress seems to be taking over. Giving yourself a little more me-time, even if it’s just a minute of deep breathing, will help you cope with stress.
Don’t let the stress of a busy day keep you from hitting the gym. If you think you don’t have time to go to the gym in your busy day then think again. You don’t even have to break a sweat; just take a walk around the office when stress starts piling up. Getting your heart rate up will reduce hormones that counteract stress. I think that Elle Woods, the fabulous main character of Legally Blonde, said the best quote about stress and exercising:
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”
If something is stressing you out, then take a minute and just walk away from it, seriously. If it’s at work, get up from your desk and step outside, a little sunshine can’t hurt and can improve your mood. If it’s a fight with your significant other, walk into the other room to cool off. Any kind of movement will help with stress, whether it’s a light walk or a session at the gym lifting weights. Getting active to deal with stress will not only have you feeling great, you’ll also look great too!
After dealing with a day of stress, don’t you just want to grab a pint of ice cream or a bacon cheeseburger to pat yourself on the back? DON’T! Well, please, reward yourself, YOU DESERVE IT, but don’t run to the nearest junk food item. You can celebrate with better snacks that are still delicious. I’m a big fan of chocolate covered anything, so I suggest if you’re looking for a sugary “Job Well Done” then reach for some chocolate covered strawberries. I’m also addicted to peanut butter so instead of grabbing a bag of chips, I go for a handful of baby carrots and dip them into peanut butter (I hear celery is delicious with peanut butter as well). Also, another benefit of carrots and celery you may ask? They’re super crunchy so you can chomp out some of your built up stress (carefully though, no need to chip a tooth!).
The most important tip (at least to me) is to not bring your stressful thoughts into bed. Having a racing mind will keep you from falling asleep and achieving restorative deep sleep. My mom always told me to grab a pen and paper and write down whatever thoughts were keeping me up at night and it actually works (thanks mom!). Give it a try! Next time you let stressful thoughts flood your brain, write them down so that they’re out of your head, especially if it’s a to-do list. How often are the thoughts that keep you up at night about what you didn’t get to finish that day and what you’ll have to do tomorrow? Write them down so that you won’t forget about them in the morning and you’ll be able to sleep much easier knowing that you have all your thoughts in one place (thank me later).
There will always be stress, but now you have different techniques to try when times get tough. There’s no foolproof way when it comes to coping with stress; it’s just like sleep tips, everyone reacts differently to them. All that matters is that you try something so that you can find the best method for coping with your own stress. Improving your ways of coping with stress will make it easier to sleep at night and we all know how sleep directly affects both your mood and health.
Contributor: Emily Barrett