Stress Reduction by Sleeping Better!

Sleeping stress free cat!
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” Robert Frost

Sleeping well is an important part of stress management. It’s a no brainer that having a high level of stressors can interfere with sleep. So while we focus on sleep let us not forget that we must also look to our other stressors and work to manage them as well. Don’t forget to review the steps in the previous section Stress-Management here. That said getting in the habit of sleeping well could greatly reduce the stress you feel while awake and your ability to manage any stresses that do come up.

So what constitutes good sleep?

We often focus on the hours of consecutive sleep as one measure. February 2015 the National Sleep Foundation changed the sleep ranges for many categories of humans.

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

Check out the full article here.

For the purposes of this article we will focus on the young adult through older adult ages.

First determine if you are getting enough sleep. Track your sleep on paper by writing down when you go to bed and when you wake as well as estimating how long it takes to fall asleep and any interruptions to your sleep through the night. You could also use one of the fitness trackers on the market to track your sleep.

If you find you are not getting enough sleep take a look at your habits around sleep. Are you…

  • Getting to bed at approximately the same time each day?
  • Rising at the approximately the same time each day?
  • Using your bed only for sleep and sex?
  • Turning off the television and stepping away from screens at least one hour before bedtime?

These are important components to having the best shot at a good night of sleep. Changing schedules from day to day can wreak havoc on sleep quality. Having a good routine is a must. Another important component is not using your bed as the command center for your life. Your brain needs to know that the bed is for certain activities which allows it to relax when bedtime rolls around. Things like solving the problems of the world and watching television or using computers cause the brain to become more stimulated which interferes with sleep. The blue and green pixels from television and other screens also suppresses melatonin (a sleep promoting hormone) which naturally rises as bedtime approaches.

Doing those things and still not sleeping well? Start looking at your daytime habits. Are you…

  • Getting at least 30-60 minutes of natural light?
  • Avoiding stimulants like caffeine at least 5 hours prior to bedtime and nicotine at least 1 hour prior to bed?
  • Getting 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise during the day?
  • Avoiding intense exercise within 4 hours of bedtime?

Natural Light

Exposure to natural light (sunlight) in the early part of the day helps to reset the circadian rhythm which helps make you more alert during the day and sets you up for better sleep at night.

Stimulants

Stimulants used through the day and into the late afternoon and evening can interfere with sleep. If you don’t experience sleep difficulties no worries, but if you are struggling with sleep cutting off the supply of caffeine to your brain earlier in the day may be helpful. If you are a heavy caffeine user it is best to taper your use over time as cutting off the supply suddenly could cause a major headache.

Exercise

Exercise helps the body in multiple ways, but can also help improve your sleep. According to the folks over at hopkinsmedicine.org “30 minutes of moderate exercise may see a difference in sleep quality that same night.” And moderate exercise isn’t marathoning or olympic style speed stuff. The moderate zone is when you are noticing the effort, are breathing heavier, but can still talk and hold a conversation (but can’t sing), and you notice you are sweating a bit after 10 or so minutes of effort.aking one or more of these changes is a benefit to your sleep and helps to decrease stress during your waking hours.

Give it a try

Make one or more of these changes and decide for yourself if they help improve your sleep and help decrease stress during your waking hours.

Have a great day–Lynda

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.

Note: This site is not intended as a replacement for formal mental health treatment. If you believe you have issues more than what this site can address please contact a local mental health professional.

Effective Stress Management Makes You A Better You

O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small

Old Breton Prayer

There are times when stress overwhelms us and we find ourselves floundering. We may struggle to effectively manage stress. But if we can consider that a journey of many miles can be undertaken with even the smallest of vessels we can set our sights on finding a way to better manage our stresses.

In the last section we discussed 5 steps to identifying what you may be finding stressful and preparing for change.
  • Consider the sources of your stress.
  • Write down all those life situations you find stressful.
  • Determine how much control you have over each.
  • Prepare for change.
  • Apply stress management strategies to help better manage those stressful aspects of your life.
Stress tricks your brain.

Remember that good old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”? Well, it turns out that’s not quite true. While words are not likely to break your bones, words–whether from others or from ourselves– can be quite damaging.

Stress management is possible, but oftentimes we get too caught up in the story of our stress and start doling out blame. One of the chief recipients of that blame is usually ourselves. The “I should have” and “when will I learn?” comments only serve to stress us more.

What to do?

The first bit of advice I generally give when helping individuals one on one is: “Limit the amount of time you spend engaging in self judgement.” While we all need to be able to accurately identify where we can do better, spending a lot of time chastising ourselves for the situation we find ourself in does not drive the boat forward. It simply keeps us floundering in a sea of stress.

Let’s begin.

Grab the list you made in the last section.

  • Draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper creating two columns.
  • Label the columns
    • “within my control”
    • “not in my control.”
  • Enter each of the things on the list into one of the two columns.

Next

  • Look at what you placed in the “within my control” column and rank them from most important to least important.
  • Look at each item and consider what part of your life they fall into.
    • Work
    • Home life
    • Health
    • Social
  • For each item ask the following questions:
    • Why is this important to me?
    • What do I find stressful about this?
    • What will be different if I effectively eliminate this stressor?
    • Do I think about this differently at different times?
    • What needs to change?
  • Determine which item you want to work on first.
    • While we often want to work on things in order of priority sometimes working on something less important first helps to build skills and momentum that we can apply with greater efficacy to the more important items.

Now that you’ve determined a good starting place, look more closely at each item and ask a few questions about it.

  • Where does it come from?
  • Are there different ways to think about this?
  • If my best friend had this issue what would I tell them?
  • What about this situation makes it stressful?
  • What steps do I need to take to alleviate this stressor?

Often just answering these questions about your stressor will start to move it a bit. Taking action on those identified steps will carry you the rest of the way most of the time.

In the next segments we will dive a bit deeper into the various areas of life that many people find stressful and look at more strategies for managing stress.

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.

Note: This site is not intended as a replacement for formal mental health treatment. If you believe you have issues more than what this site can address please contact a local mental health professional.

Welcome to The Stress Nest

This is a blog dedicated to stress management.

Thanks for dropping by.

While stress management is a term that can mean many things, it is my hope that I can boil it all down and present easy to follow methods that you can try out in your own life.

Within these pages we will look at what stress is and how we can better manage stress to reach goals or just plain relax. You might wonder how stress can be “managed”, don’t we just want to rid ourselves of stress and be done with it? Well the simple answer is…Yes…..and…NO. While stress is often seen as something bad we just want to get rid of, we also need stress in our lives to help motivate us to reach our goals. That’s right stress–in the right amounts– can actually help us! But overdo it and you can be stressed out and your productivity will suffer.

You may have dropped by because you are overwhelmed with stress and wanting to find a way to decrease the stress in your life so you can be more productive and happier. Or you may just have been intreaged by the name. Whatever the reason, WELCOME!

Prepare for a journey that just may change your life for the better.

Why should you listen to me? Good question.

For the past 15 years I have been helping people to look at their lives and make changes that actually improve their lives. As a nurse practitioner in the mental health field I have years of experience in helping people to identify what is stressing them and set goals to address those areas and alleviate the negative impacts of stress while holding on to the beneficial aspects.

Take some time to look around. I’m glad you decided to come by.

I plan to provide new content weekly since I am still working a regular job. I am hoping to tailor material based on feedback so please feel free to leave comments.

Have a great day –Lynda

Note: This site is not intended as a replacement for formal mental health treatment. If you believe you have issues more than what this site can address please contact a local mental health professional.

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.

5 Minute Stress Management

 

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop”  Confucius 

According to the Oxford English dictionary stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.”

But what each of us finds stressful can be quite different. While some seem impervious to difficult situations others are brought down by seemingly small stresses. Part of managing stress is figuring out what kinds of situations are particularly stress inducing for you and then applying some skills to address those.

We can further break stress into the various types.

  • Distress: “Extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain.”
  • Eustress: “moderation or normal psychological stress interpreted and being beneficial for the experiencer.”

The purpose of stress management is to find out what is “distressing” for you and what types of activities create “eustress.” We want to find the perfect balance of the two. Yes it is possible to have levels of distress that are not particularly harmful and we are all going to experience it, but by finding a way to move the needle to a more positive form of stress you will help to neutralize the negative impacts of stress on your life.

Where does stress come from?

  • Work
  • Relationships
  • Health
  • Social
  • Economic

Stress can come from any area of our life. Of course we can experience both the positive and the negative types of stress in each domain. Working to decrease the negative stresses and increase the positive ones is our goal.

How do we do that?

I like to do something I call the 5 minute dive. In it we will take 5 minutes (you can take longer) and go through the following 5 steps.

  • Consider what kinds of life situations add to your “distress”? If you sit down and suddenly draw a blank think of the last time (or last few times) when you noticed a shift in your mood. Are there situations in your life that create feelings of anger or defeat or just make you want to cry? These are areas that are likely causing you some type of “distress.”
  • Write them all down. Don’t get caught up in how many things you are writing down or judge yourself for them. Later you will take them one by one and apply some skills to help alleviate some of the distress you feel around these areas. Keep in mind that there are some things that we can’t feel good about. That’s true for all of us, but many times we get stuck in cycles of distress and if we take the time to figure out, what we can change and what we can’t we will go a long way to alleviating at least a portion of our distress.
  • Determine how much control you have over each situation you identified. Keeping in mind we can only control our own actions and not that of others.
  • Prepare for change. Managing stress requires effort, but don’t despair often small changes can yield big dividends.
  • Apply some of the stress management strategies discussed in the next section.

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.

Note: This site is not intended as a replacement for formal mental health treatment. If you believe you have issues more than what this site can address please contact a local mental health professional.