Modern life can be really hectic. If you have an already jam-packed schedule – be it with a busy job; looking after children; caring for elderly parents; or just trying to fit too much into each day – when something else comes your way it can feel like it’s too much to cope with.
You can easily let yourself fall to the bottom of your own list of priorities. However, this is only going to make things worse, as you won’t be able to cope with the stresses that keep coming at you. You will achieve burn out and you don’t want that to happen. You need to listen to your body, before your body tells you it’s reached breaking point.
Cortisol is the master hormone which controls our stress hormones and is known for its part in the fight or flight response our bodies have to stress. While in a state of fight or flight, our body adjusts (or even stops) some of the body’s functions. This can adversely affect the functioning of your immune system, digestive system and reproductive system.
If you are constantly stressed, you are likely to also experience horrible symptoms such as anxiety, forgetfulness and headaches. In this elevated state, your body is not able to work as it should and you won’t give it the time it needs to rest and repair.
The number one way to combat stress is to get a good night’s sleep. Definitely easier said than done! Sometimes just knowing we should be asleep can make us stressed and therefore make the problem worse! I’m sure we’ve all experienced lying in bed in the middle of the night with loads of thoughts whirring around your head, making it seem impossible to get to sleep.
But sleep is such a vital function to allow the body to rest and repair. When you sleep, your body is going into the parasympathetic nervous system which is the rest and digest part of your nervous system. This allows your body to calm down. The heart rate slows and blood pressure lowers which gives your body the chance to focus on parts of your system that might have been paused during your fight or flight response. Being in this state allows the body to regulate its functions and return processes to the desired equilibrium.
While unfortunately I can’t wave a magic wand and get rid of all your stresses, I do have 3 top tips that I regularly follow, that will help you get that all important sleep your mind and body needs.
As we are so busy rushing around during the day, it’s no wonder that at the end of the day when we suddenly want to be able to switch off and fall into a deep sleep, we can find this tricky. As children we had bedtime routines which involved slowly calming down at the end of the day to relax and prepare for bed. So I want you to start doing this again – cuddly toy optional!
You need to prepare your body for sleep by allowing time to calm down and relax. I love unwinding in a bath with lavender oil or Epsom salts. When you go to bed, dim the lights – perhaps light a scented candle – and create a cosy, relaxed atmosphere. Try reading a book quietly in bed. By taking some time for yourself and getting into a regular bedtime routine you will help your mind and body calm down ready for sleep.
With modern day phones and tablets, we have the world at our fingertips – day and night. This can make it really hard to switch off and maybe you find yourself suffering from FOMO – fear of missing out! But my advice is that you stop using your electronic devices at least an hour before you go to bed, either by switching them off or putting them on silent. This allows your brain a chance to switch off and the body can prepare for winding down.
It’s also definitely worth keeping these devices out of your bedroom, even if they aren’t switched on. Charge them in a different room so you won’t be tempted to check them in the night. If you use your phone as an alarm clock, buy a cheap battery operated alarm instead. Keep your bedroom as a comforting sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the day by keeping distracting electronics out.
Magnesium is a calming mineral and the more stressed we are, the more magnesium we use. To replenish these stocks, we can either eat more magnesium rich foods or absorb more via the skin.
Foods that contain lots of magnesium are dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, rocket, watercress and spinach. Nuts such as walnuts and almonds, and seeds such as pumpkin seeds are also good sources of magnesium, as are legumes like chickpeas and lentils.
To help your body absorb magnesium, try Epsom salts in a relaxing warm bath before you go to bed. You can also rub magnesium oil or body butter into the skin which will not only help replenish your body’s stores but will also help your skin stay hydrated and feeling great.
Getting a good night’s sleep really can make such a huge difference to your wellbeing. So I hope you try some of the tips I’ve mentioned. Please comment below to let me know how you get on!