Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Personal Guide to Managing Night Time Anxiety

This post has little to do with homesteading but it is relevant to my life so I am posting it.  Once a week I have problems with getting to sleep due to anxiety.  It happens usually Sunday night - Monday morning due to my mind getting ready to go back to work.  I been a social worker for the past 12 years and waking Monday morning is basically putting a lot of peoples problems on my shoulders.  There is usually no good solutions and I have little control over the outcome and this is very a stressful job.  (Probably the reason I have fantasies about living on a homestead.)  The job has given me a lot of practice with dealing with stress and anxiety and so here are some of my insights into how to deal with anxiety at night when you are trying to sleep in no particular order.  (I'm not a doctor or a psychologist and I'm not giving advice so beware if you decide to try some of these things.)

1.  The first thing I always try is to roll on my stomach and try to go to sleep with my face down.  Seems like when I have a lot of anxiety that I tend to lie flat on my back.  A big problem when I have anxiety is my mind will go over a thought like a broken record.  My mind stops thinking when I lie face down.  I do not know how the position of my head in relation to the earth stops me from ruminating on a thought but it does work.  Problem is that my back starts to hurt so I can't do this for long.  Sometimes I fall asleep before my back starts to hurt and I then I move to my side when I sleep.

2.  Pouring  ice cold water over my head in the sink or shower is another thing that lowers my anxiety.  I read about this somewhere and I tried it with a lot of skepticism but it does work for me.  I have now clue why this works but this has gotten me to get to sleep.  Not my first choice of action because the cold water also tends to wake me  up but as far as lowering anxiety it works.

3.  Taking an over the counter allergy medication with antihistamine like Benadryl lowers my anxiety a lot but I rarely use it.  Benadryl makes me tired for a long time (over 12 hours) and I have problems with getting up in the morning.  I also find that I do not have motivation to work the next day so this does not work well with my job.  Seems like I need some level of stress to get in the zone to get things done.  This is a last resort when nothing else works.

4.   Playing video games like World of Warcraft before I go to sleep can also lower my anxiety and get my mind into thinking about something else.  I make sure that I play something that is really easy.  My theory is that by doing this my mind feels in control which lowers my anxiety level.  Nothing like kicking the butt of computer animated toons.  If I do PVP or try to do a challenging dungeons then playing World of Warcraft increases my anxiety and it backfires.

5.  I have a kindle and if I wake up due to anxiety I play 5-10 minutes of Tetris and this really helps.  It gets me to stop thinking about things and puts my mind in a less emotional and more rational state.  I also feel sleepy after playing awhile so it really works.  I play marathon mode so I don't let it get to fast because then it would be more stressful to play which is the opposite of what I am wanting.  I have also read that playing Tetris after a traumatic event helps with PTSD.

6.  I have the kindle app Sleepy Time on my Kindle.  I play a peaceful sound and then try to imagine that I am there.  For example I will play "rainy drive" and imagine that I am back in Portland on vacation.  This works really well and gets my mind focusing on the environment and not on whatever is causing the anxiety.   This one is one of the things that works the best.

7.  In the past I have done low carb diets and after a couple of days I will have general anxiety and it doesn't feel like it's connected to work.  If this happens I know that I am going too extreme on the diet and I need eat more carbs.

8.  I have tried flexing each muscle groups from my feet up to my neck to relax and this does work.  What you do is try to flex the muscle as hard and possible and then try to relax the muscle and focus on the difference between the two feelings in the muscle.  This works but it is a lot of work and is counter productive when I am trying to sleep so I don't use this one much.

9.  Praying helps my anxiety a lot with my job.  I usually say the Jesus Prayer for a couple of minutes.  If I'm really tired sometimes I will just say Jesus' name over and over.  If I know why I'm anxious I will say a rosary and imagine that Mary is there with me praying during the rosary.  Something about holding the rosary helps me a lot.  I try to focus on the words I say the words with my heart.  I also try to see the situation from the point of view of salvation history and things look different when I do this.

10.  Another thing that I will do if I know why I'm anxious is to imagine that I am at the crucifixion.  I walk up to Jesus and hug his feet and tell him that I need him to take the burden until I am ready to pick it up tomorrow.  I then ask him to give me peace so that I can sleep.  This does work and I have gotten grace from doing this.  The hard thing is to not go back and pick the issue up again.

11.  I have started to take vitamin D3 (5000 UI) at 7:00 am every morning and this has significantly helped my sleeping.   Vitamin D3 is what your body makes when it's in the sun.  Taking this in the morning and not any other time of the day is critical.  Before doing this I would get home from work tired but by 10-11 I would hit my second wind and not be tired.  This has not happened since I have been taking D3 and my sleep has been deeper.  Hopefully this will last because I have only been doing it for a week.

I have not taken prescriptions for anxiety or therapy because I feel that it is due to my environment and not due to my biology and I have been able to manage it.  What has helped your anxiety?

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