Sometimes it's hard to switch your thoughts off, and not being able to have a clear mind (and fall sleep as fast as you'd like) can leave you feeling horrible the next day.
Prolonged or intolerable levels of anxiety can be destructive to our performance and functioning, and if the body doesn’t have time to heal between periods of anxiety we can also see poor impacts on health. Learning how to erase night-time anxiety isn’t always easy, however Lysn psychologist Noosha Anzab provides her best hacks.
Check them out below.
Acknowledge how you feel
As is the case with many issues, the first step towards a solution is acknowledging that there is a problem. Take some time to really understand how you feel, instead of pretending it’s not happening.
Think about what might be causing you to feel anxious and if you can’t pinpoint it, at least acknowledge it as a starting point to enable you to work towards eradicating it.
Write it down
Chances are your feelings of anxiety are stemming from the hundreds of thoughts that are popping into your head, causing you to feel stressed and overwhelmed. These thoughts might be about the day you just had or perhaps about the day ahead.
Rather than running these thoughts over and over, write them down. Get a notebook and jot all the thoughts that come out, not worrying about whether any of it makes sense. The simple act of writing down your thoughts can help you pinpoint the things you are worried about.
Some of the causes of anxiety can often be minimised through a bit of focused examination and writing it down will enable you to see things clearer. If your anxiety is about tasks you need to complete the following day, writing it down will also help you get a to-do list together, meaning you don’t have to keep reminding yourself.
What’s more, it can help with any tasks that you may have been procrastinating on. If you’ve been procrastinating and leaving tasks unfinished, this can be detrimental to your mental health. Procrastination over long periods of time can lead to anxiety and sometimes even depression, which can in turn can have an onflow affect in all areas of your life. If you have tasks that must be achieved in certain timeframes, write down a to-do list as a prompt.
Pick up a book and force yourself to concentrate on the story, allowing yourself to get distracted from your own thoughts. Reading at night can calm your brain and reduce stress hormones, which in turn improves the quality of your sleep. Chances are your anxiety is dramatically affecting your sleep, possibly even causing sleeplessness or insomnia.
Stress and anxiety are some of the main reasons people suffer from insomnia. However according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Sussex, opening a book before you go to bed can help you cope with insomnia. The study showed that six minutes of reading reduces stress by 68%, clearing the mind and preparing the body for sleep. Just make sure you don’t read directly from your phone or expose yourself to too much blue light! More on that next…
Avoid scrolling or watching too much tv
Watching your favourite movie or scrolling through Instagram right before bed sounds like a nice way to relax, right?! Wrong! Things like TV, phones and iPads all emit light that can affect your sleep, causing any anxious feelings to continue to circulate.
Electronics emit a particular type of blue light that can trigger your brain to stop making melatonin (the hormone that regulates the sleep–wake cycle). So even if you start to close your eyes or droop your eyelids whilst watching TV, your sleep will still be adversely affected. Best to avoid these things pick up a book instead!
Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake
One is a stimulant, and one is a depressant, however both can amplify feelings of anxiety. Caffeine can trigger feelings of anxiety and alcohol can make the underlying causes of anxiety feel worse. Therefore, it is important to limit intake of both of these substances to ensure you are not enhancing any feelings you have.
Engage in mindful activities
There are many practical things a person can do to help alleviate feelings of anxiety. In therapy, we often concentrate on things such as challenging of maladaptive thoughts and in-turn behaviours, acceptance and mindfulness (just to name a few)!
Mindfulness in particular is often used to engage in something with full awareness whilst being present in the here and now. This can be incredibly grounding and cause you to focus about what’s happening right now, rather than ruminating on what might happen.
There are myriads of things to that a person can engage in mindfully, such as cooking, meditation and yoga. These activities be seen as a natural remedy for alleviating feelings of anxiety and the best part is - we often do a lot of these activities anyway!
Exercise throughout the day
Exercise does wonders for all areas of a person’s life and can be particularly beneficial to help alleviate feelings of anxiety. Even mild physical activity can produce positive hormones changes, which can act as natural mild anti-depressants. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine, whether it be walking, swimming, tennis or yoga, will stimulate anti-anxiety effects. Relish in the feel-good endorphins that exercise will naturally give you, but just be sure to exercise earlier in the day (don’t leave until right before bed)!
Exercising releases endorphins which creates a level of activity in the brain that can actually keep you awake. Try to exercise in the morning or in early afternoon which can help you to feel less anxious in the evening and also help you to fall asleep.
Speak to a professional
If you are constantly experiencing night-time anxiety and are struggling to cope, consider speaking to a professional. Reach out to your local doctor or psychologist or consider an option like Lysn. Lysn provides access to trained psychologists via phone or video chat which can be accessed from the comfort of your own home. These types of services can be instrumental in providing the support and strategy needed to help to eradicate your feelings of night-time anxiety.
Noosha Anzab is a clinical psychotherapist & psychologist at Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.