Sleep and Stress: How to Come Out a Winner

If there's one thing we can agree on, it's that the quality of our sleep goes down the toilet when we're stressed. And I hope we can also agree that it's during times of stress that we need sleep the MOST to cope and become resilient.

So how can you ensure there's no loser when the need for sleep is paired with times of stress?

Here are 3 ways to get started.

1. Acknowledge the stress. You're not fooling your mind by pretending there's no stress happening! It's much smarter than that, so you might as well come clean. There's no need to vent to anyone if you're not comfortable talking about it but it's gotta come out.

So grab a notebook and start writing. Journaling at the start and end of your day is a well-known form of stress relief, not only because it might help to work through the things you're stressed about, but also because it's a way to get the feelings and emotions out of your brain.

Picture your mind as a clothes dryer full of socks. They're in there bouncing and swirling around non-stop until you open the door and the socks can finally be free and still. Open the door to your mind and let any thoughts, concerns, and worries flow onto paper.

You don't have to show anyone or start your entry with "Dear Diary", just start writing. And when you feel like you can't write any more...write another page. This is when the good stuff comes to the surface. The mental and emotional release can be huge, even after only journaling a few times.

And don't be surprised if you start feeling sleepy while writing. Your brain welcomes the release and will be in a much better space to allow sleep to come.

2. Stick to a routine if you have one. I've talked about our circadian rhythm before but it's worth mentioning again. We're designed to run on a bit of a clock, so when stress starts building, one of the best things to do if you wanna preserve your sleep, is to stick with your routine.

I know, I know...easier said than done.

Stress can wear on us and bring energy levels way down, making it tough to jump outta bed at the usual time. But it'll go a long way in helping move through the stress if you can keep at least some of your routine in tact.

Consider keeping your meals around the same time if your sleep schedule can't be adhered to. Digestion is a big part of our circadian rhythm so it's a bit of a sneaky way to feel like your sleep is on track, even when it's not.

3. Say YES to your good vices. During the early days of COVID we were all shaken by the new quarantine, safety measures and working from home. And from what I can tell, there were 2 camps divided on how to get through it.

The first group said things like: Do whatever you need to do to feel good. Drink ALL the wine. Watch ALL the Netflix. These are uncertain times and we need comfort.

Whereas the second group was saying: Take this time to focus on getting healthy. Spend time with your family, since you now have the time. Re-tool if you've been laid off.

What we can learn from both camps is that we need a combination of both approaches to move through difficult times. And that's where GOOD vices come in. A good vice is something you love doing AND it has positive effects on your mind, body, and soul.

Maybe it's reading a book while enjoying a nice glass of wine out on the deck.

What keeps this from turning into a vice with negative mind/body/soul impacts is a bit of moderation. You're not reading for 8 hours a day, ignoring your family and shirking responsibilities. You're not downing a bottle of wine and waking up with a sour stomach and pounding head. And you're not blocking out the rest of your world as if it doesn't exist.

Taking time for the pleasures in life helps slow things down so you can actually breathe, relax, and focus on an enjoyable task. Whatever your good vice is, guard it as a de-stressing prescription. Your sleep will thank you for it.

Moving through stress can feel heavy and hard but it doesn't have to be that way. Give these 3 tactics a try and see if your experience with stress changes even a little. Be kind to yourself and keep practicing!


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