Mental health and wellbeing is very close to our hearts, and while we truly aim to have an always-on approach to covering all aspects of mental health, we have chosen to shine an extra bright light on #WorldMentalHealth today, and for the rest of October.
We bring you The Big Burn Out — a content series made up of honest personal essays, expert advice and practical recommendations.
If you're anything like me, your anxiety has a penchant for bubbling up riiiight as you're trying to get some much-needed (and likely long overdue) shuteye. Convenient, isn't it? And while this routine won't take the place of an anti-anxiety prescription or necessary therapy, I've found it to be incredibly soothing and it helps me get some seriously restful sleep.
Anxiety manifests differently for everyone, so tweak accordingly, but check out this simple routine that I've put together to ensure a more peaceful, worry-free evening.
- Perform my skincare routine. This one will vary for everyone, but I signal to my brain that bedtime is coming by starting my skincare routine, and it serves many purposes for me. For one, it makes for an excellent self-care routine, and two, it makes my skin look fricken GREAT. But the reason it helps with my anxiety is because when I begin to feel like I don't have control over a situation (or like . . . life), I refer to my methodical, calculated, multi-step skincare routine. It gives me a sense of control, order, and security. My brain focuses on exactly what I'm doing, what product I'm using, the physical sensations, etc. In this way, it becomes very meditative. For you, this might mean just meditation itself, or another routine that creates the same sense of peace and order.
- Set up a cosy environment. I find that when my bed is tidy, my sheets are clean, and I have cosy pillows and blankets in a dimly lit (or candle lit) space, I'm much more able to unwind and relax. It also helps when the rest of my room is tidy. I use a few minutes each evening to make sure papers are sorted, clothes are put away, and any dishes are out of my sleep space so my mind can fully relax.
- Turn on my noise machine. The newest addition to my routine is a noise machine. I've found that the "heavy rain" track on my noise machine (I've been using the Oregon Scientific DreamScience Brainwave Sleep Companion) is just what I need to lull me into a peaceful slumber.
- Diffuse essential oils. Aromatherapy has been a staple in my natural anti-anxiety regimen. It also is an imperative part of my wind-down, bedtime routine. I like for my space to smell clean and fresh regardless of the time of day, but it's especially helpful at nighttime. I typically opt for a combo of snooze-inducing lavender and eucalyptus — two of my favourite essential oils.
- Make a nightcap (of tea). It's no secret that I'm obsessed with tea, but there's also a nice anxiety-relief bonus when you pour yourself a hot cup before bed. "Drinking hot liquid helps with calming your nervous system," psychotherapist and anxiety expert Jodi Aman told POPSUGAR. So not only is it totally hygge, but it's effective, too.
- Do some body care. Maybe skincare isn't your jam, but body care is! Whether you like to dry brush or use some body oil on your skin. My personal preference? Myofascial release. My trainer Liz Letchford taught me how to use trigger point massage balls on tight areas like shoulders and hips — even feet. Even five minutes of self-massage and muscle release makes a huge difference for helping me physically and mentally settle in.
- Journal. Turning in for the night means avoiding screen time and cutting myself off from the constant barrage of emails, DMs, and texts. Although each of those things can be somewhat anxiety-inducing for me, it's also hard to break myself away from work and the outside world. To ensure I don't get antsy once the phone's tucked away, I focus my efforts and mental energy on my journal. Obviously you can use whatever journal you'd like, but after trying a few I keep coming back to my favourite Fitlosophy Goal Getter Journal because it has just enough structure. I also love how it forces you to lead with gratitude by asking what you're grateful for each day. Instead of focusing on what might be triggering my panic, I focus on the people and things I love most, which is both pleasant and helpful.
- Set my Sleep Cycle. I've been using a the Sleep Cycle app for years (I'm pretty sure it was a free download in the Starbucks app like four years ago? Whatever it was that brought it into my life, God bless.). I love that it lets you track things like your caffeine intake or if you had a stressful day, and then aggregates data to see how those things impact your sleep. Also, if you don't have a noise machine, the app has a feature that plays different white noises (like the ocean or rain) and it'll fade out as you fall asleep (the app magically knows when that happens). It also gradually wakes you up as your body is more naturally waking up on its own — so that way you're not startled when you're deep in REM or something. I *have* to have my alarm set so I can fall asleep peacefully without worrying that I might miss my morning meeting. Because, well . . . I'm anxious.
This doesn't happen like clockwork every night for me, and you shouldn't expect it to either. Sometimes I'm too tired to journal, or I'll forget to start my diffuser, or I'm not in the mood for tea. The point of this list is to help you find ways to relieve feelings of panic and worry that are keeping you from going to sleep — not to give you a list to stress out over. Plug and play — try a few of them, add on one or two at a time, and see if it makes an impact on your sleep. Sweet dreams!