When I was younger, I never would’ve imagined that I’d become a person with ongoing stress, anxiety or sleep issues. Then I hit my 30’s, and was introduced to this terrible trio. And instead of having a steady, committed, long-term relationship with sleep, we became more casual friends, and sometimes acquaintances. We started drifting apart. I think on several occasions it even became that person that you think might be your friend, but doesn’t acknowledge you in a public place so then you’re not sure. Yeah, we have our issues.
Sure, I’d known stress and anxiety before, as part of being a perfectionist, but it wasn’t something that stuck around for very long. And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what triggered the sleep issues. That was the first, and started happening early in my 30’s. The others were mostly results of high-pressure jobs that I’d had, I think, but probably combined with other things too. But they all started hanging around like leeches thinking that I owed them something before my chronic health issues of the past four years, that’s for sure. And they’ve certainly worsened with the decline in my health, because I can’t handle them as effectively as I would if I was healthy. Things get to me more easily. They take longer to sort through, and irritate me more . . . which, by the way, doesn’t help. #Cycle And my personality is one that just has a harder time letting go of things. We are big feelers with long memories.
However, one of the things I find most fascinating about humans is our ability to adapt. So, like any representative of my species, I’ve found a few ways to cope:
- The Five Minute Journal (also an App): I am not a negative person, but I am a perfectionist, so being critical is something I struggle with. I use this journal every morning and evening to take stock of moments of gratitude and highlights in my day.
- Essential oils: I personally love and use doTerra. I have many favorites (Breathe), but for tackling this issue, I’m all about Balance. I diffuse it or put it directly on my skin when I need it’s calming benefits. Just reaching for the bottle makes me feel better.
- Supplements: I get these either directly from, or recommended by, my naturopaths. I currently have one to help with anxiety and one to help me sleep that I take periodically. I think they help a little, but they’re still new to me, so I’m evaluating. But, of course, they aren’t the only things I’m doing, and I think that helps.
- A sleep mask: Pictured above. When I first started having sleep issues, I tried all kinds of things. I never thought I’d like a sleep mask. I always thought of them as making me kinda claustrophobic. But I was at my end, and gave it a try. And loved it! I’ve been using them for years, and also have a separate one that lives in my luggage for travel. I don’t think I could sleep without it now.
- Calm meditation app: I did several free trials of apps, and had it down to this one and Headspace. In the end, I liked them both, but this was cheaper. I like the sound of the waves, as well as the woman’s voice. I’m not practiced enough to do it on my own yet, so I like the guided meditations. And yes, they do have them for stress, anxiety and sleep. I’d wanted to start meditating this year already, so these blended together well. I try to do it for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night.
- Walk outside: I usually love nature from a distance, but I really do love to walk outside, especially on a trail or somewhere to shield me from the city a little. We also have beautiful mountains in Georgia. I find these walks really calming. I listen to an audiobook, or podcast or pray, but usually a mix. I definitely feel a sense of restfulness and renewal, not mention accomplishment, afterward.
- Friends: I spend time with people who fill me up. This usually means grabbing coffee or a meal or frozen yogurt. I hate talking on the phone, so that’s usually my last resort, or if the friend lives far away. But there is just no substitute for a good conversation with an even better friend.
- Mentor: I never knew I needed a mentor until I had one. I sort of stumbled into it with a group of girls and two women about 10 years ago. That lasted for about two years, and was awesome, but we all moved on. Then I spent another couple of years trying to find a new one, and was introduced through a friend. My mentor Holly and I meet about once a month, and I guess it’s been about six or seven years now. She’s awesome, and advises me on all kinds of things from business to personal. I’m currently looking for a new business mentor as well. Holly has mentors for different areas of her life she wants to improve in, and I think that’s really cool.
- Movies: I love TV, too, but sometimes I need the “away” that a movie in a theater brings. It’s a quick escape, super enjoyable, and only takes a couple of hours. I have a deep love for movies on many levels, and this is certainly one of them. I actually just rewarded myself with the new Star Trek movie last Friday morning after a stressful work week.
- One to grow on! Candy Crush: This is a weird one for me. I’m not really one to play games on my phone, but somehow I started doing this one at the beginning of the year when I had a full-on anxiety attack. I play it because it helps me focus on one thing at a time. I don’t have the flood of emotions and thoughts while I play this. I’m sure other games do the same thing that take strategic thinking, but this one works for me.
I know a lot of people would add pets to this list, but I am too selfish, cheap and OCD to have my own pets. I enjoy other people’s pets from time to time and that works just fine for me.
I will also, for good measure, throw depression into the mix here as well. Though I’ve struggled with it much, much longer. I will also lump my own depression and anxiety here because they often don’t look the same as what is usually portrayed. I didn’t realize I had depression for a long time because I wasn’t sad, therefore, I didn’t know the way I lived was any different from anyone else. Depression is more of “a lack” for me. I just feel less than myself. Kinda like a dull, rather than shiny penny. And I definitely get Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is one of many reasons I’m always considering moving to Southern California. Likewise, full-fledged anxiety is new for me, and thank you God, I’ve only experienced it a couple of times after it developed this year. More often, my anxiety is very mild, mostly resulting in a flood of thoughts when my mind should be still, like sleep. It’s nothing very emotional. Usually just t0-do lists and things like that. I love lists. But, of course, these things do contribute to a larger overall picture.
Side note: I will also say that I believe these kinds of issues, especially depression and anxiety are more common to creative, feeling people. I keep asking my friends who study psychology to do papers on this! It’s nothing formal I’ve found, just my own research through my experiences and conversations with others. And the worst part, especially with depression, is that it makes you feel very isolated, like you’re the only one who’s living a less than ideal life. If that’s you, I’m so sorry, and I’m here to tell you that you aren’t alone.
And yes, I do also have a prescription for Ambien, and take it occasionally, especially when I travel. I do believe there is a time and place for traditional medicine. But I try to take the more natural road when possible to put better things in my body and have less long-term effects or dependency which I believe come from many medicines. I know I am luckier than some in that I haven’t handled these issues with stronger substances, or been consumed by them. I’m incredibly grateful for that.
And I’d like to say that these 10 things work without fail every time, but that’s not true. I started writing this blog post in my head at 5:00 a.m. this morning, practically the middle of the night for me, and finally got out of bed to start writing it a little after 6:00 a.m. So, tonight, I try again. But by in large, they’ve been very helpful and allow me to lead a more normal life.
If you deal with any of these issues, how do you handle it? I’d love to learn from you, and keep adding to my list!
PS: Dear, sleep – I thought we had a good thing going. I don’t know what I said or did, but I’m sorry. With all my heart, I’m sorry. Please come back to me.