My hands fell asleep, wrapped precariously around the steering wheel of my car. That tingly, dead feeling travelled all the way to my heart. My blood circulation seemed to stop, and all systems within my body quaked and quivered. I managed to pull over to the side of the road. I sat there for five minutes, inhaling shallow breaths and staring blankly at the streetlight next to my house. I had just gotten out of a staff meeting for my college newspaper where I was a reporter, and it was late. I was on the verge of having a panic attack.
When I finally made it home, all I could do was lie in my bed and stare at the ceiling, thinking of all the work I had to complete that night. After the wave of anxiety passed and I could concentrate, I finally finished all my homework and newspaper work. When I at last shut my laptop and let my head hit the pillow, it was 4 a.m.
This stressful routine ended up being a regular occurrence for me throughout the semester, but when I started gaining weight, losing hair and crying on a regular basis, I knew I had to start taking care of myself. I needed the peace and restfulness that comes with sleep.
"This stressful routine ended up being a regular occurrence for me throughout the semester, but when I started gaining weight, losing hair and crying on a regular basis, I knew I had to start taking care of myself."
One of the first steps I took toward healthier sleep habits was to make time for myself. I wouldn't think about anything else but getting in tune with my needs. I designated mealtimes and the last half hour before bed as "me time."
Next, I looked at what I was putting in my body. As an aspiring journalist, it felt a little sacrilegious to give up coffee, but my caffeine habit was keeping me jittery and wide awake long into the night. When I decided to trade in my coffee grounds for tea leaves, I found the magical elixir for relieving mild stress and anxiety: lavender tea.
Lavender is calming and restorative during times of stress, putting you in a relaxed state. Placebo or no, simply catching a whiff of my steeping lavender tea would instantly calm me down before bed.
"When I'm well-rested and awake, each moment is fuller and richer than the next."
The next step I took was to exercise. I'm fortunate enough to attend school on a campus in the Rocky Mountains within walking distance to several beautiful, secluded trails. Stepping off campus is a bit like entering Narnia. Walking to the mountains and breathing fresh air did wonders for my anxiety. No matter where you live, I highly recommend getting your cardio somewhere outside.
The final, and perhaps the hardest, step I took to reduce my anxiety was to seek counseling. My counselor always seemed to know how to ask the right question at the right times, and she provided helpful techniques for managing my anxiety and winding down before bed.
All of these factors affect your ability to fall into deep, restorative sleep at the end of the day. I have a set time each night when I go to sleep, regardless of what I still have to get done. This, more than anything else, has healed me the most. When I'm well-rested and awake, each moment is fuller and richer than the next.
This post is part of our series on sleep culture on college campuses. To join the conversation and share your own story, please email our Director of College Outreach Abby Williams directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can find out here if the #SleepRevolution College Tour will be visiting your campus, and learn how you can get involved. If your college is not one of the colleges already on our tour and you want it to be, please get in touch with Abby.