When holiday stress and anxiety mount during the holidays, it can be hard to fall or stay asleep. But good-quality shuteye can calm frazzled nerves. Besides, if left unchecked, holiday anxiety and insomnia can create a negative feedback loop, where each condition makes the other worse. That’s a negative spiral you should try to avoid. Use these five stress-easing strategies to decompress before you go to bed.
- Clear your worries from your mind. At least an hour before bed, make a list of your holiday concerns, as well as tasks that you’re worried will go undone. Put the list in a safe place where you can find it in the morning—and then put those worries out of your mind before you climb into bed.
- Breathe away your anxieties. Spend a few minutes doing deep breathing exercises to release stress and reduce tension. A technique called the “4-7-8” breathing exercise is especially effective at helping you release stress quickly, thus setting the stage for sleep. To do it: Exhale fully through your mouth, while making a whooshing sound; then, close your eyes and inhale quietly through your nose for a count of four; hold your breath for a count of seven; then exhale fully through your mouth, making that whooshing sound again, for a count of eight. Repeat the sequence three more times.
- Use aromatherapy. The scents of lavender, chamomile, bergamot, and sandalwood can help relieve anxiety and stress. You can harness this effect by lighting a scented candle or giving your pillow a light spritz with a linen spray. Alternatively, you can place a drop or two of one of these essential oils on a cloth on your nightstand. (Safety note: If you do light a candle before bed, make sure you blow it out before you go to sleep to prevent a fire.)
- Put yourself in a positive frame of mind. Spend a few minutes thinking about five good things that happened today or who or what you’re grateful for. Or spend five to 10 minutes doing mindfulness meditation. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, empty your mind, and focus on your breathing. When stray thoughts come to mind, don’t judge or engage them; simply let them pass as if they were leaves floating on a stream, and focus on your breathing again.
- Get out of bed. If you’re too agitated to sleep, go to another room and read a calming book, drink some herbal tea, listen to soothing music, or practice yoga. (Do not use digital devices because their blue light will wake you up more.) Think of these steps as ways to gently help your body and mind relax and get ready to sleep.