For as long as I can remember, I have always battled with stress and anxiety. Even when I was little, I would get myself worked up about the most ridiculous things that I had absolutely no control over. I remember reading things in the paper or seeing things on the news that would absolutely plague me with nightmares.
And okay, I’m totally no Doctor but I do think it’s hereditary. Or at least I grew up surrounded by such intense levels of stress it was bound to rub off on me.
As I’ve got older I’ve found ways to deal with it (for the most part anyway). It’s a seriously rare occasion that I get an anxiety attack now and I find it easier to break down my problems so it doesn’t affect my every day life.
It’s the sub conscious side of things I still struggle with.
Without even realising it, I make myself so ill with anxiety. Since June it seems I’ve constantly had something wrong with me. It started with the break up and then slowly drifted into family issues and now worries about the amount I still have to do in anticipation of the big move abroad.
Everyone tells me I’m silly, that I need to take it easy. What they don’t realise is it’s not as simple as that.
My biggest nemesis is sleep. For the past few years (and particularly this year) I’ve constantly gone through phases of only getting a couple of hours sleep a night. About a week ago I went a fortnight with no more than three hours proper sleep per night. I was like a walking zombie.
I was shocked to find out that over a third of the UK population is estimated to suffer from sleep disruption, and there’s a considerably increased prevalence in women. That’s mental; just think that while you’re there tossing and turning for hours and hours, a third of the country is doing the exact same.
It’s no surprise that insomnia is hugely associated with stress and anxiety. I mean, I know full well that’s where my issues lie. I get into bed and suddenly I am overwhelmed by the seemingly endless list of things to do. I just cannot physically push them out of my mind. And as ridiculous as it probably sounds, I actually panic about falling asleep. I don’t know why, but the thought of falling asleep sometimes fills me with such anxiety I can’t even think straight.
Back when I was still with my ex and before we moved in with one another, I used to get him to ring me before I fell asleep because my anxiety levels would be so high. Soppy, but he used to tell me stupid stories to relax me and send me off. He grew to hate it but it really helped. He never understood (once we’d moved in together) why I would insist on talking before we fell asleep. But how do you explain that the silence and darkness just becomes too much to handle?
Now I sleep alone it’s definitely worse. Not always, granted, but at least twice a week I’ll have real issues falling asleep; yet once I am asleep, I tend to stay asleep. They call this onset insomnia, whilst those that struggle to maintain their sleep will suffer from maintenance insomnia. I didn’t even know they had names; so naive!
The worst part is how it makes you feel the next day. That lethargic feeling, the sense of fatigue… it makes concentrating near on impossible. And you’ll get your colleagues just assuming your being a typical twenty-something year old, another late one, lazy sod kinda thing. Little do they know my evenings consist of Netflix and my jammies. Erry. Damn. Night.
So I’ve decided to accept that this isn’t going to just change by itself. I’ve been doing my research (can you tell?!) and have come up with a few tips; some obvious, some not so much. Because I won’t let the bastard win. And I sure as hell ain’t being a sleepy bear once I get to Florence!
- Avoid caffeine late at night – a pretty obvious one really. Although I am worst for caffeine, caffeine, all the caffeine. As in, I am an absolute beast before my 10am cup of coffee.
- Relaxation! – It’s clearly key to switch off long before your bed time. I’m not so bad now but when I was working on various projects I would be working at my desk until about half 11 and then crawl straight into bed. Your brain needs that time to switch from day time mode to night time mode. So I’m going to give the ol’ meditation ting a go. I downloaded a great app the other day called Yoga Studio which has a special section for meditation. So watch this space innit.
- Establish a bed time routine – I’d never really thought about this, but apparently it’s important to get together a little routine every night before you try to nod off. You know, have a milky drink (gross) etc… so for me I’m going to have a hot cordial and read for at least 30 minutes. Okay, maybe it’s not the best as my brain will still be working, but it’s the only time I get to read and it really does chill me the eff out.
- Don’t lie in bed feeling anxious about sleeping – Guilty! I’m sure we’ve all been there. You’re in bed and all you’re thinking is “Well, if I fall asleep now I’ve got four hours sleep… three hours… two hours… oh fuck”. Apparently if you start to feel anxious about the fact you’re not sleeping it’s best to get the hell outta that bed and retire to another room for a little while.
- Write a list of your worries and solutions before you go to bed then re-address in the morning – I guess this one’s for when you’re feeling particularly weighed down with stress. Just write it all down with your solutions next to them, leave them on your desk and re-approach them when you wake up. Simples (well, hopefully).
- Create a fantasy – this one was recommended to me by my cousin. Create a really stupid fantasy (ahem) and just replay it every time you get into bed. Mine? That I’m famous for my epic magazine columns and am consequently on Strictly Come Dancing. And Aljaz is my partner, obvs.
I’d love to hear if any of you have any other suggestions – drop us a comment!