I have a bit of a confession: late nights make me anxious. As in, full-on anxiety kicks in when I know I’m on the wrong side of midnight, or even on the run up to it.
It started around 2 years ago when I started a really busy manager role, which came with a long distance commute. Suddenly, my mornings began at 6am on the dot, and I wasn’t getting home until 7.30pm earliest. I slowly said goodbye to my after work gym sessions (going from 4 times a week to 1-2), and all of a sudden, my ‘free time’ was just gone, vanished. But I could cope with that, because I’ve always been able to juggle 10 million things. It was no big deal…
What I didn’t expect was the anxiety that was to follow. Even if I made it to an evening get together in Manchester with my friends, I started to notice I ran my evenings around the time. Always looking at my watch. I’d need to order my meal by a certain time if me and the girls went for dinner, I’d need to be driving home by 10 pm, then I’d have to schedule in doing a bit of my blog, having a shower…. It was enough to bring me into meltdown.
I’ll always remember the night it hit me about how precious my evenings were and how worrying about how many hours sleep I’d get started to take over. I’d met with my friends a year ago at San Carlo Fumo for the January 50% off offer for a 7.15 pm sitting, and the restaurant were so busy they ran behind schedule. We didn’t end up sitting down until 8 pm, in which this point I noticed myself nervously twitching and staring at all the waiters setting up tables.
When we ordered our Italian tapas, there had somehow been a mix up with some of our tables small plates, which wasn’t picked up until later. In short, one of my dishes didn’t come out until 9.45. I had 10 pm as my mental curfew to be back in bed, sorting myself out for my 6 am alarm clock. When the waiter brought over desserts at 10 pm to apologise, I was almost shaking. I needed to be driving home, not eating dessert in the middle of the city center. I remember racing home, getting into bed at midnight, and cursing myself for having a social life.
Since then, I panic about the amount of hours sleep I get. I always wake up around 6.20 am, so if I’m not asleep by midnight, or if social plans happens or I have loads of blog work to do, I get this intense case of anxiety.
Over the past few months, I’ve tried to be kinder to myself and kick this sleep anxiety to the curb. I’ve started leaving work literally 1 minute before 6 pm, so I can shoot off and try to be home within the hour. If I’m visiting my parents, I don’t want to feel I need to rush off at 8 pm and only spend an hour with them. If I go to the gym, I don’t want to be rushing a 30 minute session. And I certainly don’t want to be clock watching when I meet my girlfriends after work for dinner and drinks.
So here’s a few ways I’m actively trying to kick this fear of late nights and work-life balance in the bud. It’s all about improving my well-being and quality of sleep, plus not to mention the bags under my eyes and dark circles I have from trying to cram too much into my days and evenings. I’ve also been suffering a lot of interrupted sleep, waking up at 4 am, and then again at 6 – just 20 minutes before my alarm.
1. Set a ‘bedtime’ but don’t swear by it
A lot of my anxiety was due to counting the hours between 11 pm and 6 am, and giving myself a strict bedtime of 10.30. Sometimes, like the San Carlo night example I gave earlier, it just can’t be met. So I’m trying to be more relaxed with myself and to ease away from strict mental deadlines.
Now, I set myself a goal time of 10.30 pm to be in bed twice a week, and those evenings where U go to the gym or meet friends or have blog deadlines, I just roll with it. Yes, it’s already meant I’ve crawled into bed past midnight, but I just have to be kinder to myself and set my alarm 20 minutes later in the morning.
2. Chose the best bed possible
It sounds kinda cliché, but the quality and feel of your bed is so important for your sleeping health. I actually only properly thought about this after returning from a short break away, in which the bed was incredibly comfortable, and each night I looked forward to diving into its bouncy, full mattress and having the softness of the covers envelope my whole body. If sleeping is this big important thing, then we might as well make our beds something to look forward to getting into, right?
It could be just a simple procedure of updating your bed which can make all the difference. I looked at Dreamers Bed Centre first for a bit of inspiration, as they retail a lovely array of beds, divans, mattresses and even bedroom furniture. Just by simply updating your bed to resemble a warm, cosy, inviting place can make all that difference mentally. But with a brand new mattress, your body will physically feel and reap the benefits too.
Have a think about how long you have had your mattress for, and have a browse online for some inspiration if you’re due an update too!
3. Keep my bed as a sleeping place only
Another one which may sound silly, but I’ve found with my constant anxiety about getting into bed and getting serious shuteye before a certain time has only been made harder by trying to ‘do tasks’ so to speak in my bed, so I mentally feel like I’m actually ‘in bed’, when I’m not really, if that makes sense?
So for example, if I get home late and I’m rushing, I’ll make a cup of tea, grab my iPad, and sit in my bed having a drink and going through emails. I do it so I feel like I’ve physically gone to bed at an ideal time, but technically, I might as well be picking up my desk and office and dropping it on my bed. This isn’t going to help with switching off later! I’m not usually one to preach, but after years of doing this, I feel, it’s a biggy to be aware of.
And breakfast in bed, like my lovely array of photos, may be one of the nicest luxuries you can give yourself, but again, it’s taking away what your bed should actually be: a place to sleep. Try to leave it alone and have it purely for sleeping. That way, your body will start to familiarise with this, and switch off much quicker when you climb in,
4. Create a boudoir setting
This point reflects point 2 a little bit, where it’s all about how you perceive your room, your bed and your evening regime.
Sometimes, it will turn 10 pm and I think about going up to bed, but when I’m sat all cosy in my lovely living room wrapped in cosy throws, with my laptop in front of my and the TV on, knowing how much work I should be doing, I start to put it off. I’ll sit there all warm and snuggled working away, with no eagerness to get into my bed. However, when I eventually do, and its late, my anxiety kicks in again and suddenly I’m panicking and beating myself up about the time and my alarm in the morning.
I’m going to trial making my bedroom look like a beautiful boudoir – fresh bedding each week, silky cushions, a nice smart side table and sassy Pinterest-worthy bedside lamp, so that when 10.30 strikes, I’m eager to rush upstairs and settle in my sweet little setup. Again, I’m already on the hunt for this, eyeing up some stylish bedroom furniture as I go too!
5. Write lists before bedtime
This one is no magic brainwave – we’ve all been aware about the power of writing down our troubles, worries and to-do lists on paper before hitting the sack. About two months ago I started to do this, and have reaped the benefits so far. However, I also do something else which I find has been mentally making me feel calmer and less worried all the time…
In my notebook, I’ve been writing down three things which I’m grateful for, which have happened that day. They can be as big or small as I like, even the tiniest thing like ‘had a 10-minute tea break and good catch up with my work friend today’, or ‘ate the most delicious cheese cake and didn’t feel guilty’. Or sometimes, its bigger things that have made me happy and proud to reflect on, like ‘received a new enquiry about booking me for bridal makeup’, or, ‘hit one of my highest figures for blog views today’ – it can be whatever makes you happy and grateful.
Just by writing down everything on my mind and all the outstanding tasks gives that sense that you won’t forget anything – these lists are there in the morning, waiting for your fresh eyes and clear mind. And the grateful/happiness lists just really help my overall mind and well-being!
Try it for yourself perhaps and let me know how you get on!