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My name is Reese and I struggle with anxiety.
Call me fretful, anxious, a worrier, a workaholic, what-have-you, but a constant battle with anxiety can take its toll on you, your health, your loved ones, and definitely the speed at which you fall asleep at night.
It used to take me over an hour to fall asleep at night. I would lay down and toss and turn, my mind racing at the speed of light. I’d wake up at least six times during the night and by the time my alarm sounded to start my day, I would already be a cranky, exhausted hot mess and tumble out of bed with cell phone in hand..
And given the insane pace of modern life, this is probably a somewhat natural physical, mental, and emotional response. When is the last time you waited in line somewhere without fielding text messages, responding to e-mails, or checking your social media? When is the last time you worked out without listening to music, watching TV, and finding the perfect GIF for your group text, all at the same time? Don’t even get me started on the crazy ways I’ve multitasked at red lights. Let’s just say putting makeup on and eating a burrito at the same time can have disastrous results.
I recently had several sharp reminders from my immune system that slowing down and finding healthy stress relief isn’t just a quaint notion for flax-seed-granola-munching-yogis (not that I don’t occasionally do all of those things myself). Maybe I’m the only caffeine-and-anxiety-fueled insomniac to miss the memo, so I’ll share my wisdom here:
IF YOU ARE HUMAN, YOUR BODY IS ACTUALLY THE ONE RUNNING THE SHOW.
If you have migraines, eczema, insomnia, night sweats, etc, you should to 1) consult your physician and 2) work on incorporating healthy stress relief into your life.
For me, the first part of my daily routine that I wanted to tackle was to adopt healthier sleeping patterns. After some trial and error, I’ve finally found a routine that not only is helping improve my sleep quality, I actually get excited about going to bed. It’s like a treat now instead of something I just “should do”. And while I can’t control what happens AFTER I leave the house, incorporating mindfulness into my morning routine has at least gotten my day off to a calmer, brighter start.
7 Mindful Things to Incorporate into Your Bedtime Routine for Improved Sleep
Make your bed at some point during the day. Even if it’s at 8:30 and you’re going to bed at 10. Approaching a bed that looks and feels like a blank slate is a beautiful, calming thing. Making it in the morning, however, can jumpstart your productivity for the day and promote happiness, according to best-selling author Gretchen Rubin, Navy Seal William H. McCraven, and author Charles Duhigg. Research shows that this simple act sets a tone of execution and organization for your day. While I am, frankly, still working on making my bed in the morning, I will say that it is incredibly soothing ending an exhausting day by approaching a pristine, perfectly made bed. Even if the rest of your day was crap, you got this one thing right.
Put your phone away 30 minutes before you start getting ready for bed. This one is essential. Your phone emits blue light that can screw up your circadian rhythms, which alters your internal clock and negatively affects organ function. I try to set my alarm and then put my phone down before I start getting ready for bed. Once I’ve washed my face and brushed my teeth, it’s on to the next steps below.
Light a candle. We light candles on birthday cakes, at fancy dinners, and on romantic evenings, and frankly I feel like the end of every day is also something to celebrate. I feel like it’s a tiny celebration for one when I light my bedside candle signifying the end of another long day. Just be sure you’re burning a soy wax candle: they’re vegetable based, they burn longer, they burn cleaner, they’re non-toxic.
Indulge in some aromatherapy. You’ve heard me wax poetic about the wonders of my DIY Eucalyptus Linen Spray and y’all, Imma ‘bout to do it again. Once I’ve lit my nightly candle, I aggressively spritz eucalyptus spray (or rosemary or citrus, if I’m out of eucalyptus) around my room and across my bed. It feels like a spa, it feels like a treat, it is incredibly relaxing and decadent. This is one of the easiest ways to incorporate more slow living into your life. Utilizing your senses helps to call you into the present and helps you focus your mind on the physical space you’re in and what your body is doing, rather than whether or not you paid your water bill last week. Listen, even the Mayo Clinic lists improved sleep as a benefit of aromatherapy.
Stretch. You should stretch because it’s good for your muscles and tendons. You should stretch because it helps relieve stress and anxiety and increase mindfulness. But you should stretch before you get into bed because it feels AMAZING. Every night before I get in bed, I stretch my hamstrings, calves, arms, core. But my favorite thing? Stretching my hands, feet, and neck. It’s such a treat. It’s glorious. After a long day schlepping cameras or pounding it out at a computer, nothing in this world feels so amazing as stretching all the stiffness out of my fingers. Do the same thing with your toes, you can thank me later! Feel your body. Take a moment to connect to it, how the day has impacted your back, your neck, your feet.
Breathe. Before you get in bed, take several intentional deep breaths. Exhale all the stress of the day. Inhale deeply, taking special note of the scents you’ve incorporated into your aromatherapy routine. You’re now ready to get in bed.
Read. You’ve detached from your phone, changed the light in your room with a candle, spritzed a pleasant and relaxing scent, stretched, and practiced some mindful breathing. But if you’re like me, you might still need a little help to quiet your mind. Try keeping a book on your bedside table that you only read in bed, but now is NOT the time to pick up The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. If it relates to your career, self-help, or taxes, if it’s anything that’s going to cause your mind to churn or add to your mental to do list, you should probably pick something else to help quiet your mind. Pick something that interests you peripherally or takes you away from your day to day life, whether it’s history, romance, what have you. I’m reading a book on the medicinal properties of herbs, but I realize that’s not everyone’s cup of tea (har har, get it!). I also always take my contacts out before I start reading, it’s glorious. Give those eyeballs a rest.
6 Mindful Things to Incorporate into Your Morning Routine a Better Day
Be still. I used to catapult out of bed as soon as my alarm went off or else I would hit the snooze button until I had to then catapult out of bed in an absolute panic. Now once I turn off my alarm, I give myself five minutes just to be before facing the day. I personally use this five minute lull to snuggle my puppy.
Focus on things that make you happy. The light coming in the window, the smell of eucalyptus (I keep a dried eucalyptus wreath in my room along with the eucalyptus linen spray), the way your sheets feel. For me, it’s cuddling my crazy dog. He’s a juggernaut of hyperactivity but for that five minutes every morning, he’s a still, docile cuddle bunny. It’s my favorite part of every day.
Stretch. For all the reasons mentioned above, bookending your days by stretching out and attending to your body is a beautiful thing. Wake up not just your mind but your fingers, toes, ankles, arms, and legs.
Breathe. What better way to face the day than several deep breaths? Pack in as much oxygen as possible and exhale. You’re ready for this.
Make a quality cup of coffee (or tea). Yes, you’ve got somewhere to be. Yes, you’re running late, even. But making a good cup of coffee only takes a couple minutes and can be done by the time you get out the shower. I cannot recommend grinding your own beans enough. It makes a stronger, more fragrant cup and takes about 10 seconds! If you’re making tea, go for loose leaf. Life is too short to drink subpar coffee! It’s so much more flavorful and potent and it’s also a tiny pleasure to see the colors and textures of the leaves and fruits in your tea. Mindfulness is about reconnecting to the world, and that includes your tastebuds.
Step outside (or open a window). Even if it’s cold or rainy or roasting in the dead of summer, you’re a human being and a human being is an animal. Step outside without your phone. Breathe deep. Feel the light and the wind. You’re apart of this world, get out there and change it.
The tiny things in life so often turn out to be the big things. These small adjustments are a great first step for everyone, but especially anyone who craves a slower, more focused lifestyle.