After work or school, you may notice it seems like nighttime is the time when anxiety overwhelms your lowered mental defenses. And frustratingly, a host of intrusive thoughts creep in.
In some cases, the resulting tension and upset even follows you into your dreams.
Why Your Anxiety Flares at Night
You are inevitably exposed to stressful situations. For those struggling with anxiety, this is ongoing and daunting. So, you do your best to ignore the anxious feelings in the name of remaining productive.
For the most part, you spend the daytime hours keeping things together. You distract yourself and make do.
Yet, more often than not, those ignored emotions will reappear once you’ve let down your guard. You may feel them rising as you’re relaxing in the evening. More frequently, anxiety finds its opening when you decide to lay down and there is no noise or visual stimulus to divert your attention.
Of course, it’s normal to worry or feel embarrassed about an awkward or difficult event from earlier that day. Concerns bout upcoming goals, events, or obligations may be a temporary preoccupation as well. However, when intrusive, troubled thoughts interfere with sleep and health, an anxiety disorder may be at fault. Such anxiety can elicit a disproportionate response, e.g.
- Chronic worry
- Panic attacks
- Fears that border on illogical or irrational
- Compulsive behavior
- Feeling threatened
- Repeated nightmares or flashbacks
Anxiety has a nasty habit of feeding on itself too. You feel anxious. It causes symptoms. The symptoms drive more anxiety. The cycle can leave you frustrated and exhausted.
Fortunately, there are some self-help steps you can take.
5 Things You Can Do About Nighttime Anxiety
1. Relaxation Techniques
There are some traditional choices (yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, etc). But it’s up to you to find whatever helps manage your stress best. Work with your physician, a fitness coordinator, and a qualified therapist can help you sort through options and ensure your technique is accurate. Once you find what works, make relaxation a priority in your life. Schedule time for it and remain diligent.
Working up a sweat, perhaps in the latter part of the afternoon, will serve many purposes. First, it will enhance your physical conditioning and discharge pent-up energy. Also, exercise helps counter stress hormones and encourages the release of reward-oriented “feel-good” chemicals in your body. Both results make it easier to fall asleep.
3. Plan Your Meals Wisely
Important factors include portion control and healthy choices. More specific to nighttime anxiety, make sure you don’t eat too close to bedtime. Heavy meals and insulin spikes can hamper your sleep patterns and facilitate more reasons to feel anxious in the evening.
4. Evening and Bedtime Routines
Your body and mind thrive when there’s a rhythm to your life. This includes bedtime routines. Let’s factor in the above three suggestions:
- Time your workout and last meal of the day in such a way that you aren’t too invigorated or too full to fall asleep.
- Leave enough time to practice some stress management techniques as bedtime nears.
- Do everything in your power to maintain a regular bedtime routine and sleep schedule. Sleeping and waking should remain consistent, even on the weekends or days off from work.
5. Take Tech Breaks
That device in your pocket can be an anxiety creator. Throughout the day, schedule tech breaks. In the evening, try not to stare at a screen (TV, computer, phone, tablet, etc.) past a certain time. Turn off the headlines, social media, and work-related alerts. Again, you can choose a relaxation technique or person-to-person engagement instead.
It Can Really Help to Have an Anxiety Coach
Anxiety — day or night — is a very convincing liar. It really makes a difference to work with a therapist. Together, you can parse out what’s going on. They can also empower you with the skills you need to relax, regain control, and take back your nights. It all starts with more information on anxiety and consultation. I’m here to help.