When I started this blog, I thought I would do more raw first-person writing about my anxieties and how I deal with them. After all, the title of the blog has the word “Anxieties” in big, bold letters. But the truth is, I’m anxious about writing about my anxiety. I don’t think it is a weakness. I know it is a chemical, biological, scientifically proven… thing. But I’m afraid to talk about it even though it’s something I’m constantly dealing with. I mean, I talk to my family about it because they all totally get it and won’t meet my rants with concerned looks as they slowly back away from me a few feet. They’ll enthusiastically exclaim, “Oh my god, me too!” when I tell them I had nightmares for a week after watching the first episode of Black Mirror or that I’ve started to sanitize my library books because I’m afraid I’ll get a paper cut and then contract HIV from some random stain left from the previous borrower. Oh, and then I’ll research the progress made in HIV/AIDS treatment for an hour online.
My default coping mechanism is to withdraw, it’s definitely not writing my feelings in a public blog for all to see. I mean, a few sentences alone will give me hours of anxiety time later on. Did I punctuate correctly? Did I overshare? Do I need to work on my boundaries? Is there any way to make more readers find my blog but fewer of my known friends and family members find my blog? I mean, whenever I see anyone I know, I’ll be silently wondering if they’re judging me for some random comment I made in my blog. Then they’ll make a face that affirms my suspicions and I will remember the exact expression of smug dissatisfaction each night as I lay awake trying to do the stupid mindful breathing my therapist keeps assigning to me.
It’s so much simpler to write book reviews and hide behind sarcasm and jokes that get me through my life than to pour out the thoughts that necessitate those defenses. But I started this blog in an effort to start being authentic and unapologetic in my anxiety. So, even though I had notes on a book review, here I am.
Sleep for the Strung-Out
One of the worst parts about my anxiety disorder is the effect is has on my sleep. I absolutely love sleep and pretty much everything about it. I love pillows, pajamas, slippers, curling up to say goodnight, tucking myself in and turning out the light, spooning my boyfriend, and letting the cat under the covers to curl up by my chest. You’d think a bed fanatic like myself would be able to fall asleep, right? Oh, no. Anxiety makes me work for it. Hard. But over the years I’ve discovered some tricks. Maybe they’ll help you too:
- Eat a bowl of whole-grain cereal before bed. Apparently the combination of calcium, carbs, magnesium, and tryptophan are a proven remedy for insomnia.
- Avoid chocolate, soda, coffee, alcohol, sweets, (pretty much anything really tempting and yummy after 5pm) or it will interfere with your sleepy-time.
- Speaking of which, I highly recommend any “Sleepytime Tea” before bed too (plus bonus! cute bears on the box). Just make sure to leave a little time between drinking and hitting the hay or you’ll just have to get up to use the bathroom. Then the problem starts all over again.
- No bright lights an hour before bedtime. Try to unplug before bed by turning off the smartphones, pads, tvs, futuristic watches, etc. Our crazy monkey brains see that bright light and think it’s prime hunting time or running from mammoth time, or whatever our caveman versions did.
- If you need TV to lull you to sleep, I recommend documentaries or Bob Ross videos. But don’t be fooled by some of those nature documentaries, it can be stressful watching penguins freeze and and ice caps melt. Learn about climate change in the morning. Bob Ross on the other hand, has a very soothing deep voice and a positive outlook that is difficult to resist. Always a comfort.
- But I recommend audio books or reading before bed above TV or movies. Ideally a story heavy in dialogue narrated by someone with a British accent.Or a classic like Jane Eyre or Jane Austen. Anything involving a Jane will do. Just make sure to use a soft reading light conducive to nodding off mid-chapter.
- Exercise for at least 20 minutes, preferably a cardio exercise that gets your heart rate going for a bit. If you’re like me and find this difficult after a day on your feet, try a morning walk or yoga to start your day off right. (My anxiety tends to be highest in the early morning so these exercises work to calm me down and ease me into my day. It also gives me something to focus on besides everything that could possibly go wrong in the next 24 hours.)
- Keep a worry journal by your bed. If you absolutely cannot turn off the endless “what-ifs” or “why did I’s?” then just getting them out of your mind and on paper can really help. You can also return to it the next night and reality test your fears. How many of those concerns came up today?
- A warm bath. There are certain products that seem to help me more. I respond best to lavender and vanilla scents but you can experiment to see what works best for you. Worst case scenario you just got some good relaxation time and you come out smelling all nice and flowery. (If you’re like me and you worry about water conservation, try to find ways to conserve in other ways like cutting down on laundry or running the dishwasher.)
- If you’re really desperate, try this song. For some reason the transparent reverse psychology works wonders on me.