I don’t think it matters where you are in the world at the moment, we’re all living in crazy, crazy times that none of us could have foreseen. Here in England we’ve just entered another lockdown, which is different to the last in many ways, but still brings with it fear, stress and anxiety for us all.
But possibly the overriding emotion is uncertainty. Us humans are creatures of habit, whether we like it or not. And all these restrictions and constant changes to what we can and can’t do are going to play havoc with us emotionally, and not surprisingly, with our sleep too. I’ll admit, I’ve suffered a few sleepless nights myself recently! (Yes, I said it!). Waking in the early hours with a million thoughts squirming for attention, many of which are beyond my control, especially at 4am!
If you’re suffering too, rest assured, you’re not on your own! I’m sure it won’t matter who you speak to, everyone’s feeling the strain in some way or other. And I’d put money on it that in the majority of cases their sleep is being affected in some way or other too.
And that includes our children (if you have them). They don’t live in isolation. Depending on their age, they may pick up on the news headlines, or simply on your own anxiety, whatever level it’s at. So managing your own apprehensions could well help them too.
So my message to you is be kind to yourself. There’s so many cliches about looking after ourselves, like ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’, that there must be a reason for it. And that’s because it’s so true! I think now, more than ever we need to embrace this and truly look after ourselves as best we can, in whatever form that might take.
I’m giving you permission to be selfish, and concentrate on you for a while! Whether that’s allowing yourself just 10 minutes a day to sit and stare out a window at nature (If you have a spare few minutes, why not check out this research from the University of Minnesota about the importance of nature and our wellbeing?). Or even better, get out for a walk, jog or cycle outside in the morning for 20-30 minutes to soak up the daylight (which will help your melatonin production, which is our sleepy hormone). Or maybe just take a relaxing bath and read a book while you feel the stresses melt away? We’re all individuals, with our own schedules and routines, so only you know what you can feasibly achieve. Even if you think you don’t have time, MAKE time!
Our sleep and mental health (and physical health too!) are inextricably linked. If one isn’t great, then the others won’t be either.
Personally, I’ve helped curb the early morning wakings by mentally running through the things that have been keeping me awake at night once I’ve got up in the morning (many of which have felt oh so insignificant in the cold light of day!), and working out what I can do about them. If I can take action, I will (or at least work out a plan of when I can action it if I can’t do it there and then). Or simply remind myself that I’m only human, and can’t control everything – I know there are some things I just need to let go of. As Ernest Hemingway said ‘If something is wrong, fix it now. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing’.
If you’re not practised at working through your troublesome thoughts, I have a ‘Worry Tree’ that many people find helpful. It’s essentially a flow-chart to use to work through your concerns, which you can download here.
Of course, if it’s more than just troublesome thoughts keeping you awake at night, I’m always happy to have a chat to see how I can help you, which you can book on my website (here’s the link, to make it easier for you!).