Grief has so many unexpected affects on the body, mind, and spirit. Because we rarely speak about grief, it goes without saying that we also don't speak about how grief makes us feel. I don't just mean the sadness and longing. We feel so much more than that. Although this list could likely contain hundreds of items, there are three that, in my experience, have required the most focus and support.
Although I had a newborn waking we up hourly in his first months, in the moments he was asleep, I would sit wide awake and count the time passing. I had never been a particularly good sleeper, but this was something else. Every time I closed my eyes, I would start to see flashes of my dad's face, and it was all too much. So, I sat awake.
Sleep is one of those things that affects every single other aspect of our lives. It changes our mood, our ability to handle stress, our health. I knew that I needed to find tools to get better sleep a.s.a.p.
After a lot of intentional work and searching, I discovered that it wasn't actually one magic solution that would help me rest easy. Instead, it was a combination of different tools.
This is what I do to get the very best rest I can:
- Herbal tea in the evening with herbs to encourage sleep.
- Low light. I love sitting next to a big salt lamp, just bright enough to read the pages of a book, but so soft and cozy.
- An alcohol free herbal tonic, just before bed
- Lavender room spray
Beyond the products that I use to support good sleep, I have also developed a few practices that have helped my sleep issues.
- When I really do need sleep and feel like I could actually fall asleep, I communicate that to my partner
- No looking at my phone in bed - I use the "bedtime" feature on my phone to silence alerts after 8, and do my best to read instead of scroll. I also have to remind myself that no problems need to be solved in the middle of the night, and can always wait until morning.
- If I am absolutely wide awake and want to wiggle, I get up out of bed and wiggle. This might not work for everyone, but I am trying to build up my connection between my bed and sleep, so in the future when I am in bed I am in sleep mode. Sitting wide awake shaking my legs is the opposite of that, so I just get up and walk around, stare out the window, anything I want that doesn't involve any screens. When I feel ready, I try again.
- I do my best to approach this issue with love and care towards myself. I try my best to not get frustrated or get into negative self talk.
Am I perfect at this routine every night? Absolutely not.
I kind of like it that way. I am not a person who loves routine, so for me, I like having av ariety of tools that I can reach for however it feels right in that moment.
Increased Anxiety...About Everything
Losing someone you love is like getting hit with a splash of cold water, except sometimes the water feels like it's out of a firehose and no one is there to shut it off. It puts our body and mind on high alert because it is likely our fight or flight response is being triggered. For me, this looks like being sure every ache or pain I have is a sign of an incurable disease I don't know I have, hypervigilance, difficulty concentrating, and exactly two almost-panic-attacks.
This anxiety is a combination of fear of what I cannot control, and the inability to stay in the present. Together, it is sort of a walking nightmare.
To bring my anxiety into check and calm that fight or flight response:
- Focused breathing
- Self-love, and a flexible approach to the day
- Journaling (It usually helps to just get all those fears on paper)
- Daily CBD
- A max limit of my cups of coffee. I have two cups of coffee in the morning/afternoon. At that point if I'm really left wanting more I'll make an iced tea. Then it's only herbal tea from there on out.
- Daily movement. I cannot stress this one enough. I work out super hard at the gym. It's okay if that isn't your style. I think movement of any kind works here. The goal is to get out of your mind and into your body and stay present for a period of time.
- Time outside. This is a mood booster, reminds me of my earthly connection, and lets me take a break from screens and noise that can sometimes bring on a feeling of overwhelm.