For some, the holidays may be the happiest season of all, but for others the hectic pace and endless to-do lists can take a real toll on their mental health. This year, the impact is heightened by a global health pandemic.
According to a survey from Mattress Firm, more than 60 million Americans say COVID-19 has worsened the quality of their sleep, and those losing sleep are often seeing their mental well-being and healthy habits worsen. Nearly half of respondents said COVID-19 has increased their worries and prevented them from falling or staying asleep at night, with 41% reported their poor sleep has a negative impact on their daily lives.
“It’s no surprise that when our minds are full or our hearts are heavy, our mental health tends to suffer,” said Dr. Sujay Kansagra, a sleep health expert for Mattress Firm. “What many people don’t realize is that mental health struggles also affect sleep, and adequate rest is a key component of maintaining and improving your mental health.”
If stress and worry are preventing you from getting a good night of sleep, try these ideas from Kansagra to help improve your mental state and ease your body into rest.
Think positively. Every night before going to bed, list three good things from your day. They don’t have to be amazing things, just three positive aspects of your day. For example, acknowledge you had a good virtual catch-up with a colleague or enjoyed a new recipe or workout class. Listing your positive experiences at night can help you maintain a positive frame of mind as you unwind for the day.
Create a to-do list. This technique is for those who mentally work through their list of pending responsibilities before bed. In a fast-paced world, sometimes lying in bed is the first time you have to actually think about what’s on your list. By creating a list of tasks (or even writing down your worries), you can prevent yourself from thinking about them excessively before bed and throughout the night.
Try progressive relaxation. This involves taking slow, deep breaths and slowly tensing the muscles in your body for a few seconds then relaxing them. Start at your feet and work your way up the body. This technique can help you relax and decompress after a long day.
Give yourself a break. Especially if you’re working from home or tackling a lot of seasonal tasks, it’s easy to keep yourself busy up until the minute you fall into bed. However, your mind may still be whirling from all that activity. Build in a few minutes before bed each night to let your mind rest, whether it’s spending a few minutes with a good book, practicing meditation or sipping on a cup of sleepy-time tea.
Appeal to your senses. Being mindful of how your senses react to various stimuli can play a role in your ability to drift off to sleep. Some people need silence; others benefit from ambient sound. Certain scents can be soothing and make good choices for essential oil diffusers, such as lavender oil. Also be conscious of the touches that affect your sleep, like the support from your mattress, the softness of your sheets or the temperature of the room.
Whether it’s your family, your health or general stress that’s keeping you up, find time in your day to give yourself some grace. Your mental health is extremely important and should not be overlooked, so if you’re feeling a little worn down, ensure you’re getting the quality sleep you need to tackle the day and week ahead.