Insomnia and Stress: Coping Mechanisms

insomnia and stress

Hello, friends! I want to talk about something that’s affected me on and off over the past few years — and, yes, I know, a very cheery topic for the day after Christmas (for those who celebrate), but it’s an important one that I wish to address. Although – knock wood – I’ve been overall pretty lucky with sleep, there have definitely been nights where insomnia and stress were unavoidable. I want to share some techniques I use to cope with these issues in the hopes that they help some of you!

After my freshman year of college, I’ve made an effort to be in bed at around 10:30-11 PM each night to ensure that I get at least seven and a half hours of sleep. For me, sleep is incredibly important; I’m rarely able to function on anything less than seven hours.

Of course, this doesn’t always pan out — sometimes, if I have an impending assignment or assessment, I go to bed later or wake up earlier. One recent evening, for example, I had a late phone call regarding a potential opportunity. This phone call resurfaced all of my career anxieties, which meant my brain went into overdrive. I was presented with a decision and could not make a choice. Consequently, I was panicked and stressed and overwhelmed and everything you do not want to be at midnight. I spent the next half hour on a call with my mother, who tried calming me down and urged me to go to bed.

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I, unfortunately, have a difficult time compartmentalizing. Although I said goodbye to my mom, ended the phone call, and got into bed, I could not stop thinking. I tossed and turned, changing positions repeatedly, but nothing seemed to be working. I got up at 2 am to use the bathroom and again at 3:50 am. Each time, I glanced at my phone, and the passing time only made my heart beat faster. I needed to get up early the next day to study for finals, which I felt woefully unprepared for. By 4:20 am, I knew I needed to change something.

Insomnia and stress are difficult to overcome. Here are some things I’ve found helpful:

INSOMNIA AND STRESS: COPING STRATEGIES

1. YOU ARE NOT ALONE

This is an important one. Often, I find the earliest hours of the morning to be the loneliest. I draw a lot of comfort from knowing I’m not alone and, even if you might be physically alone in your room, there’s always someone awake at the same moment who can understand. There are countless posts on messaging boards and blogs — even this post! — detailing insomnia. Everyone suffers from a sleepless night or two (or many).
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2. DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP OVER LOST SLEEP

Yes, sleep is important, but the agonizing cycle of checking the time and failing to fall asleep is pointless. So you miss a few hours of sleep — okay, that’s fine in the long run. There is no need to add feeling frustrated or guilty on top of that. Instead, accept that you’re having difficulty falling asleep. You have this problem, and every problem has some form of solution. Now, it’s time to take the steps necessary to address this situation.

3. TAKE A BREAK

Personally, I find it counterproductive to toss and turn in a bed for over thirty minutes. If you’re finding that, no matter what position you’re in or how many times you roll over you’re unable to sleep, try getting up. Take a short break and grab a glass of water or meditate. If you toss and turn for hours, you might begin to associate your bed with stress, which is never a good thing.
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4. DEVELOP YOUR TOOLBOX

Begin collecting and trying out strategies you can use. Think back to nights where you slept well and identify certain factors that helped you get to that point. Similarly, look at nights where you suffered from insomnia and try your best to alleviate or completely eliminate the factors contributing to your troubles.

If I find I can’t fall asleep immediately, I will completely reverse my position — in other words, I move so that my head rests where my feet usually are. Somehow, I find that this “resets” me and allows me to fall asleep more easily. Find what works best for you — after all, you know yourself best.

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5. ADDRESS THE ROOT

Try to figure out what’s causing this insomnia. If you are regularly suffering from insomnia, it might be time to see a doctor. There are several medical causes¬†for insomnia, and trouble sleeping can be a sign of a bigger problem.

If you’re suffering from insomnia and stress, then try to think about what strategies work best for you. Is this stress temporary? Chronic? Can you diminish it through mindfulness exercises or through to-do lists? Are you drinking caffeine in the hours before you’re going to bed? Looking at your phone in bed?

Let us know down below if you have any coping strategies!

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