Winter can trigger an uptick in anxiety leading to poorer sleep quality or trouble falling or staying asleep. Before you reach for a drink, over the counter or prescription drugs, try these easy to implement methods to help improve your sleep if you have mild to moderate insomnia.
A quick note: Don’t panic! I know what you’re thinking. At no time in history has someone calmed down by being told to calm down. Right? But seriously, don’t panic. You’re in control. You’ve got this. You just need to get your mind, nervous system and body on board.
Ground yourself and soothe your body with a hot shower, warm bath, or hot cup of herbal tea. Warming the body helps calm the nervous system and relax your muscles. Once your physical body feels cared for, it will be easier for your mind to follow suit.
Add in relaxing scents with candles or essential oils for extra stress boosting effects. A short self-massage with lavender massage oil can be particularly soothing.
Notice your breath. Typically when we are anxious, our breath is shallow and sits high up in the chest. Expand your breathing capacity with simple controlled breathing techniques like the exercise below. These can be done in just a couple of minutes, with immediate effect.
Inhale deep into your belly, feel your rib cage expand for a slow count of 5
Hold the breath in for an equally slow count of 5
Exhale fully through your nose for a slow count of 10, pressing your belly button toward your spine at the bottom of the exhale to gently press out all of the air
Take 2-3 regular breaths in and out through the nose
Repeat 3-5 times
You can do this simple breathing exercise in bed, in the shower, or in the bath
We’ve all experienced lying in bed, our mind racing through do-to lists, analyzing our relationships, or rehashing an argument we had with someone five years ago. When we quiet the mind through meditation, we take back control of our racing thoughts and give ourselves the space to drift off into a restful sleep.
To begin, draw your awareness to your breath. Without controlling your breathing, watch the inhales as they come and the exhales as they go
Allow the muscles of your face and neck to relax as you focus all of your attention on the breath
To keep your mind from drifting off, repeat to yourself “I breathe in” on the inhale and “I breathe out” on the exhale. Or simply “in” for the duration of the inhale and “out” for the duration of the exhale
If you notice that your mind has wandered, simply return to the breath without judgment