Stress can take a toll on the body in many different ways. One significant issue that can arise is the inability to sleep or poor sleep quality. A big reason this occurs is that we are unable to relieve stress and relax before bed.
Research suggests that sleep deprivation’s long-term effects can include increased risk of health problems (like heart disease and diabetes), a weakened immune system, and difficulty concentrating, not to mention moodiness and daytime sleepiness.
It is important to develop stress relief techniques to improve sleep hygiene so that you can fall asleep, stay asleep and get good quality sleep. These tips for stress relief provide an outlet and help with leading a healthy lifestyle.
First, Note Your Current Bedtime Habits
Before you can fix a problem, you must know what is currently happening. Answer these questions:
- What is my current bedtime regimen? (Do I have one?)
- What is my quality of sleep? Do I feel well-rested every morning?
- Am I going to bed at the same time every day?
- Do I wake up frequently during the night?
- Is there a pattern to my sleep disturbances?
Do you regularly have bad habits around sleep, or is it more likely to occur during specific periods of high stress and when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Or maybe there are some personal things that you’ve faced, and only then were you unable to relax before bed. Make a note of what’s been happening so you can more effectively target when and how to intervene to reduce stress and feel better.
If your sleep disturbance is situational, you know to incorporate your stress-relieving steps during those times of high stress and anxiety. If it’s more of a regular daily occurrence, you’ll need to take a good hard look at your everyday routines.
Stress Relief Techniques to Help You Relax
These are some simple ways to lower stress that you can incorporate into a daily routine or, if not, perform regularly. Some of these require longer commitments, and others are quick stress relievers that you can do at the end of any day, and hopefully, it helps!
1 – Gym Time
Many people advocate for this first thing in the morning because it can kick start your day and give you the energy throughout. However, if you’re an anti-morning person or someone who already wakes up early, waking up even earlier can be torture.
Stress causes an increase in your stress hormone (cortisol) levels which can lead to weight gain. Exercise can offset the effects of cortisol and aid in stress relief by releasing endorphins (happy hormones) and focusing your thoughts (or emptying your minds), leaving you with no choice but to relax. You don’t even have to go every day; just establish a regular routine for exercise.
2 – Yoga & Breathing Exercises
Yoga is another excellent way to focus your thoughts, reduce anxiety and relieve stress. Yoga workouts also help build core and upper and lower body strength if you need to feel the burn.
Otherwise, do relaxing yoga moves, and practice deep breathing exercises to calm down, quiet your thoughts, and lower blood pressure. There are apps such as Down Dog; however, there are also many YouTube videos to help you out for FREE.
Regarding deep breathing, you can do this during the day as well. When you start feeling overwhelmed, take 15 minutes (whenever possible), take some deep cleansing breaths, and try to empty your mind. It seems basic, but this is a simple way to help lower cortisol levels, lower your heart rate (if needed) and help you continue in your situation.
3 – Meditation
Hand-in-hand with Yoga is meditation. You don’t need to do a pigeon pose to relax (if that’s not your thing). You just need to be in a state of silence and stillness. There are apps out there to help with this as well. One way is the Insight app. Many free options within the app talk you through deep breathing exercises and meditative states.
Another option is the Muse headbands. While feedback on these varies, the program does teach you how to sit still and helps you get used to emptying your mind. In the beginning, this will be tough. Our brains tend to run away from us. However, meditation is possible with persistence and discipline.
For instance, pay attention to where you’re at right now. Take a deep breath. Pay attention to your breathing. The rise and fall of your chest. The sound of your breath. Just focus on that. Exclude everything else. It’s really hard to do this for an extended period. So start small. Start with five minutes before bed and slowly extend it. Use the apps out there to help you out. It can make a huge difference.
4 – Therapy
Regularly seeing someone you can talk to can do wonders for stress relief in a healthy and productive way.
Therapy is an essential tool for mental health. Just as you maintain your physical health with nutritious food and exercise, so should you maintain your mental health by speaking with a professional about your thoughts and anxieties.
In addition, when you’re dealing with stressful situations, how you speak to yourself during that time can affect how you cope. Positive self-talk can go a long way towards helping manage your stress response and improve your ability to maintain your daily relaxation techniques.
5 – Reduce Social Media & Screen Time
Much of our stress and anxiety come from the comparisons we make between our lives and those of people we see online. Getting off of social media, and shutting out the external noise of what we should be doing, seeing, wearing, etc, is a great way to relieve stress we both create for ourselves and carry throughout the day.
In addition, the blue light from our phones and TV screens can be detrimental to our ability to fall asleep. So, ensuring you avoid a screen for 30 minutes to an hour leading up to bedtime can go a long way towards helping you get the rest you need.
Tips for Your Nighttime Routines
In addition to everything mentioned above, include anything in your routine that makes you feel good and helps you unwind. You can read, cook, clean up, prep for the next day, listen to music, or pick up any activity or hobby to keep you distracted and stress-free.
Read here for more ideas for Things to do at Home.
6 – Practice Self-Care
Hot Showers/Baths: Wash away the stress of the day, utilize all those bath oils/soaps you’ve collected, and treat yourself!. At the same time, consider lighting candles and playing relaxing music.
Create Ambiance: You can relieve stress by just lighting some aromatherapy candles or incense. You don’t need to be in a bathtub to do this. It’s not just for romance. The atmosphere it creates, and the soothing smells give you that sense of relaxation and calm.
Pamper Yourself: Find those things that can help you feel good and relaxed at the end of the day. Try a face mask, do your nails, use scented lotions, etc. Each of these steps, while small, goes a long way towards stress relief, and once it becomes a routine, you automatically will start to relax.
If finding that quiet is harder for you, maybe try to take some extra minutes for yourself in the bathroom as you get ready for bed.
7 – Eat An Early Dinner
If possible, eat early dinners. Doing so allows you time to unwind, sit, and do some relaxation activities. Plus, going to bed with a full stomach can lead to nightmares. Eek.
8 – Drink A Hot Beverage
A common choice before bed is to drink chamomile. But there are many other herbal options like lemon/ginger or turmeric flavored teas. You can also do this in the middle of your workday if you’re feeling stressed.
Avoid drinking caffeinated teas in the evenings as that can disrupt your sleep, so look for the decaf versions of whatever you like.
We all have daily stressors. Knowing how to cope so they don’t affect your ability to take care of yourself is important for maintaining your health. It’s not just physical but emotional and mental health as well.
The more you’re able to unload at the end of each day, the better you’ll be able to sleep, and the better you’ll be able to wake up ready to tackle a new day. It’s a cycle that feeds itself. So, take time each day to make yourself number one; say yes and be good to yourself.
Of course, when it comes to your health, always speak with your physician before making any significant diet or lifestyle changes. Having a professional in your corner can help keep positive changes going, setting you up for long-term success!
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