Category: Wellbeing

Ten Strategies for a Good Night’s Sleep (Without Medication!)

By Ben Johnides, MA

Getting a good night’s rest is very important. Sleep helps us maintain the energy and concentration to meet the needs of everyday life. It is also a key factor in regulating our mood: Recent research suggests that improvements in sleep help people to feel less anxious and depressed. For this reason, addressing sleep concerns is one of the first steps in treatment for individuals struggling with emotional concerns.

If you are not sleeping well, there are plenty of behavioral strategies that you can use to get your sleep schedule back on track, without using medication.

  • A bedtime: Going to bed (roughly) the same time each night is important because our circadian rhythms operate on a 24-hour clock. Going to bed more than an hour later or earlier than usual creates an effect which is equivalent to jetlag.
  • A wake-time: Similar to the above, it’s important to get up roughly the same time every day. A little weekend sleep in of 60-minutes or less won’t make a big difference, but more than that can throw off our circadian rhythms.
  • A bedtime routine: Just like children, adults need a bedtime routine to prepare themselves for sleep. For most people, 30 minutes is a good amount of time for an effective bedtime routine, which may include reading, meditating, or other calming activities in preparation for bed, and of course no screen time.
  • Create a sanctuary: When our bedroom is too cold or too hot or noisy or when our bed is uncomfortable, it can be hard to sleep. A high-quality mattress and pillow, a nice duvet, light-blocking blinds, and a noise machine can make a huge difference.
  • Bed is for sleep: When we do work (even emails!) in bed, or stay in bed tossing and turning, our body subconsciously associates our bed with being awake. Therefore, it is important that the bed only be used for sleep and romantic activities. This helps our bodies to establish an association between the bed and falling sleep.
  • Don’t sleep too much: Sleep researchers recommend that we only get as much sleep as we need to feel refreshed. Oversleeping decreases the quality of sleep, which makes sleep less restorative (and enjoyable). Relatedly, napping during the day is a “no-no” because it tends to throw off our sleep cycles.
  • Physical exercise: Daily physical exercise helps us to feel tired at night, which can make a big difference for sleep quality (and quantity). However, know your body: Some people struggle to sleep if they exercise late in the day.
  • Diet: Going to bed too hungry or too full can impact sleep quality. Ditto for going to bed too thirsty or after drinking a lot of liquids. And of course, having caffeine anytime in the afternoon can make it very hard to get to sleep.
  • Don’t bring problems to bed: Worrying in bed is a great way to teach your body to stay awake. If you tend to worry, write down your concerns in a pad of paper and then try to let them go until the morning.
  • Don’t try too hard to sleep: Sleep is a natural process that ALL people do. Forcing the process of sleeping just creates stress and ironically makes it harder to sleep. If you cannot sleep and are feeling frustrated, remember that one or two night’s without sleep isn’t ideal but usually isn’t the end of the world.

Have a good night!

You’ve Gotta #Hustle: Managing Anxiety in your Career

By Aliza Tropper, LMHC

Scrolling through social media you’ve surely noticed an overwhelming amount of content around “hustling” (as if it’s a new trend to push hard at work). Nicely designed graphics, encouraging comments, and creative posts flood our feeds with the same message – you’ve gotta #hustle. Immediately, we feel that we’re not doing enough and should be working more.

Let’s take a step back for a minute and examine the facts. Does hustling really bring in more revenue and increase productivity? Or is it increasing stress and anxiety, and leading to burnout? Is all the hype about hustle well founded, or is it an illusionary trap??

In today’s business climate there is an unavoidable pressure to constantly be available. The rise of mobile technology had rendered the 9-5 job a rarity. Responding to 11pm emails, attending after hours meetings, and running around to networking events on weekends is the new norm. And on top of all those demands, instead of using the few minutes that we’re not busy to just breathe, we’re stuck with the feeling that we’re wasting our time and should be grinding harder.

There is no question that our non-stop culture is leading people to become anxious overachievers. Without a healthy work life balance, burnout is inevitable and creates a clear risk for anxiety, depression, and medical problems.

More centrally, our pressure to hustle may actually be a result of anxiety. It’s true that some people like pushing themselves to achieve because they like a challenge or because they simply have lots of goals for themselves. But many (most?) people today are more driven by negative reinforcement: That is, they feel pressure to always be achieving, and they feel anxious and uncomfortable taking a break.

The reality is that working more doesn’t necessarily mean more success. In fact, in addition to the personal emotional and physical toll of chronic stress, sometimes people make costly decisions because they are overly stressed. Ask yourself: Have you ever regretted what you wrote when you responded to an email late at night? Did you ever make a bad business decision because you were too tired or overwhelmed at the time? Has your health suffered, or your relationships, because you are working too hard? All of these are indicators that you’ve gotta STOP #hustling instead of pushing harder.

To that end, here are some concrete tips to preventing burnout in the workplace:

● Set time limits with yourself and others: Pick a reasonable time each evening when you will turn off noficiations and stop responding.
● Take care of your physical health: Eat three meals each day (especially breakfast!), drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids throughout the day, and exercise at least 3-4 times a week.
● If you have a desk job, take small breaks every 90-120 minutes to get up and stretch.
● Connect and spend time in person with family and friends, at least every 36-48 hours.
● Devote significant time each week to something else besides work (e.g., a hobby).
● Be mindful when you are doing too much and STOP yourself.
● Accept and love yourself unconditionally. Learn to be ok with your own limits. Speak up and articulate your needs at work.
● Set attainable goals and be flexible when it doesn’t go as planned
● Tolerate your mistakes when you mess up: You’re a human being, it happens!
● Celebrate your accomplishments, big and small.
● Seek out help from others and mental health professionals when necessary.

Tips to Managing Stress and Anxiety Over the Holiday Season

By Hudi Kowalsky, LMHC

For many people, the Holiday season comes with mixed emotions.

Some of the pro’s include crisp winter mornings, holiday cheer, great retail sales, and festive spirit all around.

But the holidays can also create considerable tension, stress, and anxiety. First, holidays often come with a break from routine which can be disruptive and complicated to navigate. And for those who need to travel things can be even more complicated, and expensive. Second, there is family stress. While spending time with loved ones can be a great blessing, complicated dynamics often play out especially during the holiday season. And for some individuals spending time with family members can trigger unwanted memories, as well as habits which no longer serve us well. Third, is the vice of social comparison: Looking at images all over of other “happy” people can leave many wondering why they are feeling so sad, anxious, and alone. And for those who don’t have families to share the holidays with, such feelings can be even more compounded. It’s very easy to look around and see what others appear to have and be quick to judge ourselves harshly and curse our fate.

What are some tools that we can utilize to have a happy and NOT anxious holiday season? How can we maintain a sense of equilibrium and peace from late November through the start of January? To rephrase that question in the language of clinical science: What are the most effective ways to manage our emotions and increased vulnerability to anxiety during this season?

Here are our seven favorite ideas:

  • Keep up a healthy and regular routine as possible. If you need to travel or attend a family gathering or holiday party, try not to wake up or go to bed more than 60-90 minutes later than usual. The body has its own rhythm that needs to be maintained.
  • When you need a break from work, really take a break and let things wait until you’re back at work.
  • Keep up your fitness and try to stick to your regular diet/calorie intake as much as possible. If you miss a workout or overeat a bit here and there, just try to get back on track.
  • A drink here or there with friends and family is usually fine, unless your doctor has told you otherwise. But if you’re feeling sad or anxious be sure to go easy and not overdo it. Drowning away sorrows tends to bring them back with a vengeance down the road.
  • When you’re spending time with family that you care about, turn off your cell phone for at least part of the time together. When we’re not distracted by our phones a new world of curiosity and possibilities in relationships opens up.
  • If you’re in therapy, ask your therapist if you can contact him/her while you’re away as needed during the holiday season when things come up. And if you’re taking medication, make sure you have an adequate supply so you’re not running to a random pharmacy for a refill mid-Thanksgiving meal.
  • If you’re not in therapy, make sure you have a close friend you can call or lean on if things get tough. Sometimes, there is no greater medicine than having a shoulder to cry on.

Happy Holidays (seriously)!