Anxiety: Yoga poses, Foods to help, Sleep!

ANXIETY! SLEEP! Falling asleep can be one of the most difficult things to do. Sometimes I think so hard about falling asleep that I think I psych myself out, become even more anxious about it and end up not sleeping at all! I also wake up most nights, anywhere from 2-4 AM hungry and experience major anxiety attacks. Anxiety is a difficult thing for most people to understand unless they have truly experienced it first hand. You may not always be able to see it physically on a person and it can be easy for someone to tell you to calm down, but in reality you just can't. Whenever I've told someone about them they respond "oh" or if I ever have one in public during the day, which is not often, they are always in the middle of the night, usually the people I am with back away and are completely helpless as to what to do and think I am crazy. 

The attacks would last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes and I could have anywhere from 1 up to 4 a night. These attacks are ROUGH and if you’ve watched my stories on IG before, you’ve heard me describe them: I feel that I am physically trapped in my own body, I can’t move because my body feels so heavy, yet my mind is racing extremely fast, my thoughts are yelling at me, yet I can’t even remember what I am thinking about when it is over, my heart feels as if it will pop out of my chest at any minute, I try to tell my brain to move my body or get up, but I physically can’t - it can’t make a connection, I am nervous, scared, exhausted, angry, out of breathe, and almost feel as if I am going to die in that moment. Then all of a sudden it is completely over. When it is done you are relieved, super exhausted and also like what the hell JUST happened!!! Sometimes I truly do not want to sleep at night because I am scared that they will happen again, I would rather stay up all night than experience 4 of those each night even if they just last for 15 minutes. For a while, this used to happen every single night and during the day or first thing in the morning. Then, I started to experiment with the foods I was eating, the times I ate, my bed time routine, when I exercised, how I exercised, and other ways I went about my days and weeks to see if I noticed a difference in my sleeping patterns.

I developed a nighttime routine and made it a regular habit. I changed the times that I exercised from late in the evenings to earlier in the afternoons or earlier mornings. I incorporated more healthy fats, fiber, and protein in my diet and cut back on sugars and refined carbs, as well I eating a large variety of foods daily (i.e; constantly changing up my meals). I changed the times that I ate my meals and the way that I ate them and what I ate before I went to bed. For the most part I gave up caffeine; I might have coffee here and there, but I hardly ever finish a full cup, maybe a matcha, and the only real caffeine that I might be having on a daily basis is raw cacao! I keep my phone out of my bedroom, read more, and incorporate yoga techniques in the evenings to help calm my mind and body. This has helped with the not only the number of hours I am sleeping but has helped with the quality of sleep that I am getting too. Granted, I am the type of person that functions better on 6 or so hours of sleep and when I get too much sleep I am actually more tired! However, now when I wake up at 3 AM or in the middle of the night I find that I am not hungry and can actually fall back asleep pretty quickly. I’ve also noticed that if and when I do wake up hungry and the longer I stay up, I am bound to have an attack. Therefore, I make sure that I eat well before bed and try my best to go to bed relaxed.

Below, I wanted to share: 
Snacks before bed that I like and are great for sleep! 
Things that can throw off your sleep schedule
My nighttime routine
Ways to reduce anxiety

THINGS THAT HELP ME SLEEP/NIGHTTIME ROUTINE

  1. Create a routine: a regular bed time & stick to it.
    1. Go to bed to rest, not to always fall asleep immediately. For example, leave your phone behind, turn off the TV, create a dark space or dim lights. Take an epsom salt bath, read, journal, listen to music quietly, then fall asleep. 
      1. At least 4/5 out of the 7 nights a week I take an epsom salt bath, I do a face mask, I read and drink a turmeric latte (sans caffeine) after dinner. Then, I go to bed. 
    2. Clear your mind:
      1. Before I go to bed, I make sure everything is put away in the kitchen, living room, bedroom and my space is clutter free. Secondly, I write out my to do list for the next day. This prevents me from constantly thinking about what I need to do the next day. 
    3. Journal.
      1. If your day was super stressful, you feel anxious, or any type of feelings/emotions even happiness, write them out! Sometimes it can be soothing to write out your thoughts and get them off your mind; whether they are good or bad. It can help keep your stressful thoughts from jumping and your mind at ease. 
    4. Relaxing my body & mind through breathing. 
      1. Take long inhales and exhales. I often will hold an inhale at the top for the count of a few breathes and then let it go for a longer count. It is almost like the type of breathing you learn in a yoga class. 
    5. Yoga poses to relax your body. You don’t need to be a “yogi” to do any of these poses! 
      1. Legs up the wall. Lie on your back with your legs up the wall and your arms stretched out! You can do this in your bed! This helps with calming your mind, focus, and creating less stress in your body. 
      2. Child’s pose. You can do this pose in bed too! Start by sitting on your heels, big toes to touch, knees spread out wide, melt your chest to the floor/bed and crawl your finger tips forward. Breath long inhales and exhales. 
      3. Seated Wide Angle Pose. Sit straight, spread your legs in opposite direction and place a pillow in front of you. Inhale to sit as tall as possible and exhale to fold your body (torso) over the pillow. Rest there for a few minutes and deep breathing. 
      4. Supta Baddha Konasana. My favorite! Lie on your back and bring the soles of your feet together, knees out wide. Rest your arms to the side of your body/take up space. Let your back stamp into the ground and melt into your bed, the floor, wherever you are laying! Breath deeply- it is super relaxing and a really great hip opener. 
      5. Supine twisting. Lie on your back, bring both of your knees into your chest. First, bring them both over to the left, look right. Stay there for a few breaths/few minutes, then switch to opposite side. It will feel amazing on your back, digestion, and help you relax. 
      6. Savasana. Just lay! Melt into your bed and take up so much space. Let your body feel super heavy, breathe, meditate, and think of something or some place that makes you super happy or brings you peace. It sounds silly, but it works! Whenever I am at this part of class during yoga, I am always feeling so relaxed, calm, centered and at this in-between stage of wanting to fall asleep and awake. Go there! Breathe deeply and you might just fall asleep!
    6. A healthy snack before bed! (if needed)
      1. Filled with healthy fats, protein, yet light on the stomach, not full of sugar or refined carbs. One that promotes sleeps and keeps me satisfied (ideas below) IF, I do wake up at 3 AM and I am so hungry that I absolutely have to eat then I usually go for a handful of almonds, one or two of my bites, or 1 scoop of almond butter, or even 1/4 of a roasted sweet potato + 1 tbsp. almond butter. 
        1. If I also wake up in the middle of the night, I make sure I do NOT look at my phone, turn the TV on, look at the computer, or do anything that cause me to wake up even more. I may practice breathing techniques, stretch, do any of the yoga poses, or write anything out that might be clouding my mind. 

I try my best to stick to a regular routine each night and take these with me when I am traveling. For example, I always bring my own homemade snacks, any essential oils that might help me sleep, skin products that I love (face masks, oils etc) so I can have some what of a routine while I am away from home that is a little familiar to me. While I am at home, I also try and wake up the same time each morning, even on the weekends to keep my body regular instead of sleeping 4 hours one night and 11 hours the next night unless my body absolutely needs it! The yoga poses are also great because you can do them in your bed! I do them at night as I am trying to fall asleep and if I wake up in the middle of night or even if I am experiencing an anxiety attack. My attacks usually wake me up in the middle of night anywhere from 2-4 AM. They help calm my mind, refocus my energy, and make my breath long/not short or choppy. This routine or the above might seem like a lot at first, but it really isn't! All of the yoga poses can be done in your bed when you are laying there, you can clean up your space while you are are getting ready for bed/brushing your teeth, journal/make your to do list in your bed, and take a epsom salt bath 30-40 minutes before you want to make your way to bed! 

SNACKS BEFORE BED

  1. Roasted Sweet potato w/ 1 tbsp of nut butter, chia seeds/hemp seeds or cut them into fries! 
    1. Sweet potatoes have complex carbs, contain muscle relaxant potassium, natural sugars that tend digest slowly and can help balance out insulin levels, help with stress, contain protein, and fiber! I top them with chia seeds, ground flaxseeds, nut butters, or hemp seeds, instead of granola for extra fiber boost and because granola can be full of refined carbs or sugars that can often keep you awake. (Roast at 400 degrees for about 40 mins,. For fries, cut into wedges, lightly coat with coconut oil, add sea salt + organic cinnamon roast at 400 degrees, 40 mins flipping halfway. Do this at the beginning of week so you have it ready) 
  2. A spoonful of almond butter.
    1. Nut butters contains (almond butter especially) have magnesium that can help with any muscle cramps or maybe even headaches that might be keeping you awake at night. Also one scoop contains a decent amount of protein and fiber to keep your stomach satisfied without weighing you down. Sometimes, you might not actually be hungry, but need just a “little something” and usually a scoop of crunchy nut butter sprinkled with 100% dark raw cacao or a few chia seeds will do the trick for me. I look for ones that are made with just two ingredients, the actual nut + salt and I tend to stay away from peanut butter as of recently as legumes tend to cause my stomach to bloat. (personal choice, but I do have it it in small amounts)
  3. A handful of sprouted almonds/nuts
    1. Full of heart, healthy fats. Ones like almonds, or walnuts contain melatonin that can help regulate your sleep/wake cycle. Other good ones are pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds which can help boost serotonin levels! Try making your own healthy trail mix, but mixing these nuts/seeds together sprinkled with ground flaxseeds or chia seeds! 
  4. Chia puddings
    1. Chia seeds are loaded with protein, potassium, fiber, magnesium and B vitamins which not only feel you full, help regulate your digestion, but help keep you calm and your nervous system healthy! You can make a few batches at the beginning of the week and before bed top one off with half a banana or a few blueberries, a little almond butter or a few nuts/dark chocolate; for a healthy snack/dessert. 

*Chocolate can keep someone people awake at night, but for me a small amount of 100% raw cacao (no sugar) relieves my headaches, calms my mood and relaxes me. Other people, it can totally wreck havoc on their sleep schedule so you have to just test it out! 

Other ideas; small bowl of oatmeal, turmeric latte, banana smoothie (almond milk, half frozen banana, cinnamon, chia seeds or flaxseeds, ginger, ice), cherries, tea (non caffeinated), a mug of bone broth, or any of my energy bites that are posted under the snack page on my blog or on my feed! If none of these sound like anything you want to eat, experiment with a few things and figure out what works for you!

THINGS THAT CAN THROW OFF YOUR SLEEP

1. Alcohol; well, yes it can totally make you hit the pillow faster and feel like you are sleeping through the night, it definitely disrupts the quality of your sleep. Hence why you always wake up feeling terrible and still tired! 

2. Caffeine. obvious reasons.  

3. *Potentially* working out too late at night/too close to the time you go to bed. Speaking from experience, I used to workout pretty late at night around 8 or even later, get home around 9:30 PM, eat dinner then go to bed. My body was still on a high from working out, didn’t fully digest my dinner so it felt like it was working overtime to completely shut down. Therefore I could never fall asleep until 1 AM - 2 AM. 

4. Large meals before bed; Now, if I can, dinner tends to be my lightest meal and lunch is my main/bigger meal. Often times for dinner, I will have a light meal consisting of protein (salmon/fish, smaller piece of chicken, small salad/vegetables, avocados, a sauce etc) or I tend to gravitate towards an easily digestible smoothie and if I am hungry later on I will have a healthy fat/protein snack before I go to bed. This gives my body time to digest and doesn’t have to work in overdrive while I am trying to sleep; plus trying to go to bed on a super full and uncomfortable stomach is the worst- I toss and turn all night!! The time between when you turn off the lights and your alarm clock goes off in the morning is your body’s time to rest—you don’t want to be busy digesting food

5. The time you eat dinner. I used to love eating dinner late at night around 9 PM, but I realized that it was keeping me up at night, especially if I ate something that was high in carbs, high in fats, or something that felt heavy on my stomach and now I try and eat anywhere between 6-730 PM. 

6. Looking at a computer screen, scrolling through your phone, watching TV; anything with blue light! I make it a rule that I do not bring my phone into my bedroom and I actually don’t have a TV in my room either. My room is strictly for sleeping. Put your phone on airplane mode or do not disturb and leave it in another room! 

7. Work. If you can help it- anything important that I need to do for work, I try to get it done immediately after dinner and then give myself at least 1-2 hours to mentally shut down before I get into my bedtime routine. If I work up until the moment I go to bed, I am often stressed or anxious and thinking about everything that I didn’t get done. 

8. Working out too much. Your body might be so physically and mentally exhausted that it is overtired and simply can not fall asleep. Your muscles might feel depleted, overworked and you are mentally drained! Taking a few days off or even just one day might be beneficial to your sleep! 

9. Drinking too much water. Obviously, water is good for you! I notice that when I drink TOO much water closer to the time I want to go to bed, I wake up in the middle of the night constantly to go to the bathroom! 

Keep a journal or download an app in your phone to track your sleep. On nights that I do not fall asleep, have trouble sleeping throughout the night, wake up in the middle of the night hungry I make a mental note and in the morning I think about the foods, the exercise and what type of stress I may have been under the day before. I try and make some type of connection and see if it continues to happen if I eat those same foods or work out at the same times etc. For example, I realized that working out after 8 PM and eating dinner at 930 PM or later was greatly affecting my ability to fall asleep, therefore I started to change my work outs to early in the morning or mid morning. I also started to eat lighter meals before bed, kept my phone out of my room and started to take epsom salt baths more regularly to help relax my mind, muscles and body. It took a while to figure out a routine that works and it isn’t always perfect, but I can use these tools, tips, or techniques now to help especially if I am having trouble after a few days or even when I am traveling! Some of these probably seem obvious, but honestly we all need a reminder, even me! I might go a few weeks without doing any of these things and I notice that my attacks will be more frequent. It is good to get into a habit, start slowly and work your way up. 

REDUCING ANXIETY

  1. Increase vitamin B12, B2, and vitamin D. (Please note, these are obviously vitamins, not medication and talk to your doctor first, this is my own personal experience. All of these I’ve tested out and worked with my own doctors!) 
    1. WHY: B12 can help with:
      1. emotional and mental energy
      2. calming effects to balance moods
      3. responsible for promoting immune system function, red blood cell formation, healthy circulation, and proper digestion
      4. I started taking B12 when I was taking depression medication and feeling super tired all the time, down, etc. It really helped me!
    2. Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin. 
      1. I take a vitamin that is mixture of B2 and magnesium that helps with my digestion, headaches, and mood/stress levels. Riboflavin is linked to energy production and oxidation of fatty acids. It also helps with my migraines. 
    3. Vitamin D:
      1. You don’t have to take a vitamin for this! You can simply get vitamin D (exposure to being outside/sun) by excersing, spending time outside, creating a routine for getting outside, getting enough safe sunlight to enhance your mood! 
  2. Increasing Omega-3s! 
    1. needed for proper neurological function, cell membrane maintenance, mood regulation and hormone production. 
      1. Examples: wild caught salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, egg yolks, tuna, ground flaxseeds; some vegetables too like brussels, kale or watercress but just not as much the ones just listed. 
  3. Limiting sugar intake was huge! Why? Consuming sugar, fructose can stimulate areas of your brain that affect the stress response and make it more sensitive to stress and then prone to anxiety. 
  4. Breathing technique: 4-7-8 method. First, you hold your breathe for 4 seconds. Then, breathe out before holding it again for 7 seconds. Finally, exhale completely for a count of 8 seconds. Repeat these steps as needed or up to about 4 times. I usually do this when I am stressed or experiencing an anxiety attack because my breath is usually short and shallow. It slows my heart rate and makes me calm. 
  5. Relabel, reframe, refocus & revalue: You Are Not Your Brain, written by neuroplasticity researcher Jeffrey M. Schwartz. He teaches four steps for diffusing any anxious thought. 
    1. The first is to “relabel” the thought—rather than accepting the thought as a reflection of reality, identify it simply as an anxious thought.
    2. The second is to “reframe” the thought—the thought doesn’t have power, even if you feel uncomfortable or out of control during this moment or attack. 
    3. The first, refocus. Don’t self sabotage, do something productive. So during these attacks I like to get out of bed, immediately, walk around my apartment, practice the breathing, do any yoga moves, walk outside if you can, run, call someone. Do something productive rather than counteractive. 
    4. Fourth is to revalue, the thought. Once the attack is done, think about what it was. From start to finish and then the next time it occurs you can potentially stop it, use the same coping mechanisms or have them last for less time. 
  6. Meditate. Take just 10 or 15 minutes in the morning before you do anything to sit in silence, breathe, relax, reflect. Often times before I even start my day, I make a warming drink and sip on that slowly in silence (no emails, phone etc) to allow my body to wake up and start in a calm, peaceful mode before the business of the day takes over.
  7. GO OUTSIDE! Fresh air can do wonders for you mentally and physically. When the weather is warmer and it is sunnier I often skip my yoga classes and opt for walks outside with friends or take mental walking breaks in the afternoons or mornings to wake up. It really changes my mood! 
  8. De-clutter your environment: physical clutter overwhelms your senses, which makes you feel stressed.
  9. Prioritize sleep. This is hard! Focus on sleep being the main goal. I used to work hard, workout harder, play harder, but now if I am tired, I let my body rest and give it the days off it needs from working out and let my body rest in the morning and workout in the evenings if I can or change up my work outs in order to try to sleep. You’ll feel better in the long run! I used to be useless come Thursday and the weekends, but by balancing out my days I feel that I have just as much energy on Saturday as I do on Mondays and Wednesdays!

Hopefully you can start to incorporate some of these snacks, tips, suggestions above and develop your own nighttime routine for a better nights sleep! I always find that I am a much different, more productive and happier person (OBVIOUSLY!) when I sleep really well! I also notice that my digestion isn't suffering too! Everything is connected, which is why it is so important to find a routine that works for you and do your best to stick to it. The better that I sleep, the less stress and anxiety attacks I suffer from, the better my digestion is, the more productive I am and the healthier choices I make in life! 

What are some of your routines?!