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What I Do When I Realize It's Going to Be a Hard Night

Chances are, the day was unbelievably long. I probably snoozed my alarm clock half a dozen times before I dragged myself out of bed that morning. I probably put on a brave, upbeat face as I pushed through the pain and fatigue I felt during the school day, and I was almost definitely relieved to go home and crash for most of the afternoon. I probably felt a wonderfully contradictory combination of nothingness, anxiety and feeling as though I was made of concrete mixed with moments of hopelessness. And chances are, while I was getting ready for bed, I leaned over my bathroom sink with a death grip to hold myself upright and stared at myself in the mirror, steeling myself for the night ahead. Denying that I’m in a bad mental space never does any good on nights like this. I know that my thoughts will only continue to darken as I climb into bed, turn off the lights and am met with nothing but pain, darkness and my own mind. I also know that while I can’t prevent these feelings and thoughts, there are things I can do to help distract myself and make it easier to fall asleep.

I’m a Christian and my faith is very important to me. When my mind is going nonstop, praying traditionally can be difficult. I have a prayer journal that I use to write out my thoughts, which not only draws my attention to that task, but also works to help me feel safe and less anxious.

Another powerful tool is music. Music has always been a monumental coping tool for me, and there have been many nights I will set a song on repeat and fall asleep to it. I can change the genre or artist depending on my mood, but I tend to love listening to artists like Ben Howard. The strong guitar influences in his songs remind me of how I feel when I’m playing the instrument and I’m able to give my mind the task of figuring out how many guitars are being played at once, whether the music is melody or harmony, or just focus on a part of the song that contains repetition. I can also use one of my many noise apps if nature sounds or white noise are a better fit.

I try to avoid going on my phone, because the light can be stimulating and prevent sleep (even with night shift settings on), but if things take a turn for the worse, I can go to preset Pinterest boards I have. I have a board labeled “support” that revolves around things I find pertaining to mental health. I have a board with hundreds of Bible verses. I also have boards with photos and funny videos of all my favorite animals. Sometimes, looking at these images can calm me enough to fall asleep.

When I’m hurting mentally and physically, I love to utilize my plug-in heating pad with an automatic shutoff mechanism. I use a body pillow too, which can help ease my back pain or keep a heating pad in place. Sometimes, if my joints are hurting, giving the afflicted areas short massages and then placing heat on them will ease the pain.

Whether I use a combination of all these methods or only need to try one, the best thing I can do is try and take my mind off of my mental and/or physical pain until I can relax enough to fall asleep. Nights can be an especially hard time of day to get through, but learning coping skills that work for you can make them a bit more manageable.

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Getty image via KatarzynaBialasiewicz