12 Essential Life Hacks to Battle Stress & Safeguard Your Sleep
Take back the night by taking stress out of the equation when it’s time for sleep
From family crises to stress around preparations for the holidays and overloaded schedules, stress can wreak havoc with your sleep. Conversely, a lack of sleep can amp up your stress, too. The toxic dance between the two can be stopped with a few savvy tactics designed to turn down the volume on stress and preserve good quality slumber.
- Routine rules – When life gets hectic, it’s our natural tendency to try to pack more into our days and stay up later to get things done. That’s a strategy that will come to haunt you over the long term. Carve your bedtime in stone and stick to it. The pay off – a sweet night of sleep.
- Just say no – Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but you’re not a super hero capable of super human feats. You can only do so much and it’s important to give yourself permission to realize that. It’s ok to say “no” or “I can’t right now.” Set your priorities and skip the B-list tasks.
- Download your brain – When your mind whirrs at a non-stop pace at bedtime and prevents you from sleeping, it’s a sign you’ve got too much on your plate. Instead of ruminating, create a to-do list whether it’s through an app or by writing down tasks on a piece of paper. It gets things out of your brain and organized elsewhere, so you can be less stressed. Consider out-sourcing some responsibilities to spouses, kids or friends. Go ahead and splurge on a cleaning lady during the holidays.
- Nap with intent – Having a short 20-minute snooze can boost your productivity so make it a priority, even when you’ve gone a lot going on. If you’re not a good napper, meditate instead. For help, use one of the apps like Headspace, that will guide you through the process.
- Watch what you eat – Your coffee habit might be hindering and not helping you especially if you drink it on an empty stomach, which can spike blood sugar levels. That spike can make you feel more grumpy, more irritable and more stressed. And just a gentle reminder to finish sipping last cup of coffee before 2 pm or risk a less than stellar night of sleep.
- Soak up the sun – If you’re feeling tied to your desk, it’s time to snip the cord long enough to get some outdoor time. Sunlight stimulates the production of serotonin, the feel-good hormone that combats Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Bonus points if you combine being outdoors with some exercise, like a walk around the block or some stretching. You’ll feel better for it both physically and emotionally. Research says that the mood boost from exercise can last for up to 12 hours.
- A quick sniff citrus – When you’re truly squeezed for every minute of the day, inhale the zesty scent of a lemon or orange first thing in morning. Some soothing aromatherapy can supercharge your energy while relieving stress, thanks to a boost of norepinephrine, a mood-improving hormone. Come nighttime, choose soothing scents like lavender, chamomile or jasmine to help you relax into sleep.
- Squeezed for time – Borrow a move from a traditional Chinese medicine and grab the fleshy area between your index finger and thumb called the hoku spot. Hold it firmly for 30 seconds to ease stress and tension. Make it part of your bedtime ritual to make falling asleep easier.
- Listen to music’s noteworthy benefits – Soothe your soul and take your mind to another place with your favorite tunes. Soft jazz, classical and easy listening are good genres for just chilling. Use music to transport yourself back to great travel memory, whether it’s dance music from Mexico or tribal drumming that reminds you of a visit to Africa. Music has the power to soothe or excite, bring you to a meditative state, spur creativity and help you forget that you’re feeling stressed.
- Banish electronics from your bed – You won’t be able to find a calm place when you’re still being inundated with social media updates, email and news notifications. Plus, research confirms that the light emitted from electronic devices will disrupt your sleep. Turn off your gadgets at bedtime and periodically throughout the day, like at mealtime for example. Constant connectivity has been linked to higher incidents of depression and anxiety, especially in women. Use the “do not disturb” settings on your cell phone and tell the world to go away – at least for a little while.
- Get intimate with someone you love – Want to sleep better and nurture closeness with your partner? Even when you’ve got a jammed schedule, be sure to make time for sex and intimacy, even it’s just a prolonged snuggle. Touching, sex and orgasms all help increase your body’s production of endorphins (nature’s own pain reliever) and oxytocin. Goodbye, stress. Hello, after glow!
- Vacation dreams and hopes –You might not be able to take off today and leave your stress behind, but just thinking about your next vacation will help you get through the crunch. While on your way to go shopping for the holidays, plan your dream vacation itinerary, including the sights you want to see, the photos you’ll take and the bucket-list caliber hotel where you’d like to stay. It just feels good to daydream!