Overcoming Night Anxiety
Many years of my life were spent going to bed very anxious and not sleeping well, or waking up countless times due to my anxiety. I tried so many things to help cure my anxiety and those things continued to fail me. I thought if I just light a candle before I go to bed, the low light will help to ease that stress I felt; maybe if I just read a nice book before bed, the anxiety with an unknown source will go away. Unfortunately, I just got more and more anxious trying to find the right methods. I became too tired to try and decided to deal with the night terrors, sleepless hours, and emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion. This continued into college where I found better ways to treat my anxiety. Here are the three things I aim to do every night before bed to beat my night anxiety.
I prepare for the day ahead of me. I’ve written on my whiteboard in front of my bed this saying: “Plan a Day Ahead.” This is to remind myself that I have a lot less stress and anxiety when I know what tomorrow will look like (at least what it will look like on my part). If I know I am going to be gone most of the next day, I will remember to pack all the things I need the night before or to grab some snacks the morning of for the long drive I have ahead of me. Life is a lot more stressful when you’ve got things to do, but you can’t quite remember what those things are. Planning a day ahead also gives you better control over your time. Sometimes it’s not that you need to take Time Management 101, you just need to plan ahead.
One of the best things I have started implementing into my night is the art of reflection. I am a verbal processor and an activator. Usually I don’t sit in silence reflecting or processing much of my day, however, it has seriously changed my life since I’ve decided to take time to have silence and reflect. I write down as many things I can think of under these three categories: “Good things that happened today,” “Bad things that happened today,” and “What I’ve learned today.” Those bad days that I have, all of a sudden, don’t seem so bad. My problems aren’t minimized, but I’ve started to realize that I stress the little things too much. I’ve started to realize I have had some pretty great days even when bad things have happened. Even the times I’ve labeled a day as “bad” after reflecting on it, there’s always something I can walk away having learned. This is one of the biggest blessings I have experienced… alone time and reflection. It will center you back to what really matters in your life.
Finding a way to relax was the hardest part. I am a doer and a productive person. I want to work while everyone else is asleep. I want to get ahead. I want to hatch new ideas. However, when I do that before bed, I am prompted to interact with those ideas. That means that when I think of a cool idea for an art piece, in the next 5-10 minutes I will be finishing up creating that piece even if it’s 2 a.m. Or if I’ve thought of a great idea for work, I’ll start planning out all the details from venue space to minute details of what outfits the band members will wear. So what I must do is relax in a way I can feel comforted and not stimulated. I don’t have my phone in hand during this time unless I’m setting my alarm or putting on soft background music. Currently, what I have been doing is lighting some candles, turning on my twinkle lights, grabbing a cup of hot tea, reading a book, and doing some yoga/light stretching or meditation (meaning prayer, scripture reading). Occasionally, I will journal or put on essential oils. It all depends on what the night calls for. Some nights, all I need are my candles and tea and other nights, I’ve got to deeply relax and find new things to try.
These are not in any particular order. In fact, some nights I have to reflect before I can plan because of something that happened in the day. Other times, I need to plan before I reflect so I can clear my mind of what is weighing on me. Most nights, I set the relaxed atmosphere and add it into everything I do. Personally, I like to write things down on paper. Studies have shown you have better sleep when you limit screen time before bed, so paper and pen it usually is for me! But occasionally when I am very pressed for time, I will do a mental or technological list for my reflection. These are not step-by-step instructions, but rather guidelines to how we can handle night anxiety. Prayers to you and learning to trust the Lord with your anxiety more and more.