Many people struggle to fall asleep because of racing thoughts. They may be thinking about everything that happened that day or everything that needs to be done tomorrow. These thoughts cause your body to go into the stress cycle.
The stress cycle is when your limbic system activates your fight-or-flight response to protect you from a threat. In this case, the threats are the to-do list left undone, the email you forgot to send, and the guilt from spending an hour scrolling through Instagram instead of… (fill in the blank). The stress cycle includes adrenaline, and nothing makes us feel jazzed up like adrenaline, which makes it very hard to fall asleep.
In their book Burnout, authors Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski identify seven ways to disrupt the stress cycle: connection, physical activity, imagination, creativity, crying, sleeping, and laugher. Ideally, you can do these things on a regular basis so that it helps you cope with everyday stresses.
I recommend following these guidelines:
Find something you enjoy: Maybe you enjoy hiking or baking or watching comedies or reading paperbacks. Don’t choose hiking simply because you think you “should” be doing something outside. And don’t choose baking simply because someone you know likes it and keeps telling to you try it.
Don’t set yourself up for more stress: Though goal setting is great, and I am a big fan of it, sometimes it is better to do something simply because you want to. Such as trying out jogging and see if you like it. Maybe not start jogging because your friends want to sign up for a fun run 5k next month. Also, keep in mind how much time you can commit to something. If you have a job that regularly requires you to work later than planned, maybe don’t sign up for a dog-training class that begins at a set time each week. Think of carving out time because you want to, not because you need to. Notice if you ever begin guilt-tripping yourself if you can’t do your activity regularly.
Share your excitement and passion: Connect with others who do the same activity, if they are nearby join them (if you want) or follow people on social media. When people ask you how you are doing, instead of talking about how busy you have been or complaining about work, talk about your activity and why you like it.
Keep it within your budget: Most people stress about finances and you want your activity to not add to that stress. Not everything is low-cost, but many things are. Maybe do some research about resources available, or even go out on a limb and ask for adjusted rates at local gyms or fitness centers. I’ve known a lot of small business owners who are excited to share their passions and could be willing to offer you a discounted rate.
Find a couple of activities you enjoy: We all need a break from things, even our favorite things. So, if you can find 2-3 activities you like, you can mix things up from time-to-time. Maybe you bake up a storm over the holiday season, and you take a step back and take advantage of the shorter days by curling up in bed and reading a good book. Your thing doesn’t need to be all consuming.
So, the next time you find yourself awake and stressing out, try switching over to thinking about your activity. Maybe you think about hikes you would want to do, or recipes you would like to try. Maybe you start thinking about the latest book you are reading, or which classic movie you want to watch next. Since there is no pressure to do any of these things, and we tend to relax when we are thinking about something we enjoy, you may find yourself asleep before you know it.
Keep an eye out at the end of the month with a blog from guest author and physical therapist, Berrin Boyce talking about the pelvic floor, what is it, what’s its function, and how does it relate to sexual function!