Real Talk · Uncategorized

I tried these 8 sleep tricks, here’s what worked (and what didn’t)

Sleep is such a double-edged sword. A solid night of shut-eye makes you feel like you can rule the world, while tossing and turning all night long makes you want to cry. Plus, go a few days without enough sleep, and you’ll be moody, anxious, and constantly fatigued. Not fun.

Lately, for me, getting a good night’s sleep has been a struggle. Thanks to some stressful circumstances, I had trouble falling asleep. I’d wake up at 3 a.m. with anxious thoughts, and I’d feel groggy and useless in the morning until I had three cups of caffeine.

With my under-eye circles darkening and my already high anxiety levels on the rise, I realized I needed to change how I approach bedtime. Experts call this “sleep hygiene”—the practices and habits you can do to help improve sleep quality and your alertness during the day. After doing some research, I came up with these eight tricks and tips to improve my sleep hygiene. Some are based on science, others are old wives’ tales, but no medications were involved. For one week, I put them all to the test. Here’s what worked best in my quest for more restful nights.

Turn on White Noise.

I’ve heard of white noise machines for ever but I never actually invested in one until this year. Research shows that the whirring noise can help improve your quality of sleep by providing a sort of “anti-noise” that drowns out other sounds.

Verdict:

Buy. One. Now. After a few nights, I was addicted to the soothing hum, and now I can’t imagine sleeping without it. You don’t need to spring for the pricey machine either—you can even just download the White Noise App, which is also a godsend when you travel. (I recommend the “Airplane Noise” mode, unless the sound of a thunderstorm or cat purring is particularly soothing for you.)

Wear a Sleep Mask.

I have a sleep mask that I use mostly for long flights to block out the light but it usually lives in my suitcase when I’m not travelling.

Verdict:

Maybe I need more time to get used to it or to buy a nicer one, but it felt fairly constrictive, and would fall off during the night. I did find it helped me fall back asleep for an hour one weekend morning when I wanted to sleep in, and the sunlight had already started streaming in.

Turn Down the Thermostat.

Is there anything worse than waking up hot and sweaty in the middle of the night? That kept happening to me, and waking me up. Experts suggest keeping your bedroom cool, between 60 and 67 degrees, for an optimal sleeping environment.

Verdict:

No more midnight sweats! I also found that wearing warm, cozy pajamas—baggy pants, an old T-shirt, even socks—was more comfy than the tank top and lightweight pants I’d been wearing when we kept our room warmer. I highly suggest rocking the sweatpants-chic look at night; no one’s there to judge!

Follow a Bedtime Routine.

A relaxing pre-sleep ritual can help you unwind and prepare your body for sleep. So, every night at around 9:00, I turned off the TV and shut down my laptop to start getting ready for bed. I would make a cup of hot tea, take my vitamins, and wash my face. I even whipped out some lavender-scented hand lotion, since the scent has been shown to help you feel calm and relaxed.

Verdict:

I’m not sure which element of the routine was the magic bullet or if the whole nighttime ritual was to thank, but I felt relaxed and calm by the time I got in bed at 10 p.m. every night.

Stay Away From Screens.

Checking your phone late at night is a surefire way to feel stressed—and anything but sleepy. Plus, the blue light emitted by your smartphone suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. This negatively affects your sleep cycle, as well as your brain activity and hormone production. I tried my best not to check my phone before bed, but if I had to look at it, I set it up so Apple’s “night shift” function switched on at 9 p.m.

Verdict:

The night shift mode helped by reducing the brightness of the screen if I needed to check my phone, but what helped even more: keeping my phone out of sight and out of mind by charging it out of reach. That was the only way to ensure I wouldn’t get back on Instagram after I was in bed.

Journal Before Bed.

For anyone who struggles with anxious thoughts or worries, journaling can be a great way to help clear your head before bed—especially if you write about what’s good in your life. Multiple studies show that writing about positive experiences helped people sleep longer and better. I tried journaling for 10 or 15 minutes most nights too see if it help get me into a better frame of mind—and stop my worries from waking me up at 3 a.m.

Verdict:

I loved this trick. I felt much more relaxed on nights when I took the time to write in a notebook for a few minutes. Of course, I love to write to begin with, but as the research proves, anyone can benefit from this practice. I don’t think I’d commit to it every night, but I’ll definitely reach for my journal (instead of Instagram) after stressful days moving forward.

Avoid Alcohol Late at Night.

Alcohol can seriously disrupt the overall quality of sleep by interrupting your circadian rhythm. So even though you may fall asleep quicker after a couple drinks, you’ll wake up groggier and unrefreshed. I avoided drinks all week, but had a few glasses of wine out with friends on the weekend.

Verdict:

After I drank, I woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn’t fall back to sleep for over an hour. Plus, my mouth was dry, and I felt slightly headachy—gross. I’m not saying I’ll give up drinking for good, but now I understand how detrimental it can be for catching quality zzz’s.

If All Else Fails, Just Relax.

Experts say visualization techniques (basically, just imagining peaceful, restful places) and progressive muscle relaxation can help you fall asleep. To practice muscle relaxation, tense up your muscles then relax them, one by one. You can also try some deep breathing exercises to help your nervous system wind down.

Verdict:

This was one of my last-ditch attempts at 3:30 a.m. after I’d been lying away for nearly an hour. I tried all of the above, and while I’m not sure how long it took exactly, I did drift off to sleep within a few minutes. Sounds like this is one free and fast fix that works!

The Takeaway.

Over a week later, I’m happy to report my sleep schedule is back on track, and I’m logging 7 to 8 hours per night. I think it’s a combination of all of the strategies above, but I believe that following a relaxing bedtime routine and keeping my phone away from my bed delivered the most benefits. Plus, they’re totally doable and don’t require any big purchases. There have been a couple times when I woke up during the night, but overall, I feel way more rested today than I did one week ago—and I only had one cup of tea this morning.

Real Talk · Uncategorized

What I’m doing to stay on top of my workout game.

OK, I feel like I have to kind of say something before diving into this post. I am NOT any kind of personal trainer/fitness influencer LOL. I started sharing my workouts with friends a while ago because we thought it would be helpful to us all who struggle to workout even though we know we should (AKA me!). With all this Covid chaos, working out hasn’t really changed for me. I have always preferred to work out at home so having to adjust from being able to go to the gym isn’t something I have personally struggled with.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I STRUGGLE with working out. It does not come naturally to me. But what has worked for me is trying to find different ways to stay on top of it. TBH, I feel like I have to trick myself into working out most days or turn it into some kind of game since I do have a bit of a competitive streak in me. Anyway, here’s what I’ve been doing lately that I think has worked well for me as well as some things my girlfriends have found too.

PS – Wherever you’re at right now on your fitness journey or with working out, you’re killing it! I mean, we’re all just doing the best we can right now. I don’t want anyone to feel like if they’re not doing the same things I am that they’re doing something wrong. These are just things that have helped me so I want to share! 🙂

walking

Finding accountability.

A friend and I work out together on our lunch breaks at home over FaceTime. We know we’re going to do it every other day at 12:30pm and we hold each-other accountable. If you don’t have someone to workout with at the same time, maybe filming or live streaming your workout videos will actually help with holding you accountable to get your workout in!

Feeling comfortable working out at home AND the gym.

I feel like a lot of people have strong opinions on working out at home vs going to a gym. Usually, it seems like you either love one and hate the other. I actually HATE going to gyms. It feel like for me it’s a waste of money and I felt very intimidated by the other people there working out. Some people, like Tyson for example loves the gym and it started to become an accountability thing for him. His gym requires you to make an appointment now if you want to come in and knowing he made an appointment forces him to actually show up.

Getting back into cooking again.

If you’ve been around recently, then you know I’ve been hot and cold with cooking lately. Some nights it feels relaxing, others it feels like the most daunting and time-consuming task. BUT, I totally feel like, for me at least, that cooking and staying in a good workout routine go hand-in-hand. Not that every meal I cook is perfectly healthy, but I think it’s more about being in a routine. Like when I’m in a routine of cooking, working out, going to bed at a good time, etc., I just make better choices all around.

Keeping the walking going strong.

I love my walks, and to be completely transparent, walks are making up the majority of my current workout routine. It just feels like the most doable thing whenever I really, REALLY don’t want to do anything. Plus you can go with a friend or listen to music or a podcast and before you know it you’ve walked more than your daily goal! Basically what I’m saying is, when in doubt, go for a walk!

Challenging myself to new things.

I mentioned above that I sometimes have to trick myself or turn things into a game in order to get workouts in, and that’s what I did in July and August to motivate myself to run more. I challenged myself walk 5 km every day (roughly 3 miles) throughout the months. I actually did pretty good at keeping up with it too! It was just a fun way to keep my workout routine interesting. Plus I think it’s good to mix things up and try different workouts otherwise I get bored, and when I’m bored, all bets are off.

I hope this info is helpful to you guys if you’re looking for ways to keep up with working out! And if you have any of your own tips to share, please do in the comments!

As always, don’t forget to subscribe to LiveLaughLearn.blog to stay up to date and follow on Instagram @LiveLaughLearn.blog

XOXO.

B.

Real Talk · Uncategorized

What’s helping me work from home right now.

I’m not going to lie to you, I kinda feel like I need the below tips as much as anyone else does right now. Focusing on work lately has been such a struggle. But, I’ve been working from home once a week for years now and even though I’ve obviously never experienced a pandemic like this, I do go through times when working from home and focusing has been hard, so I thought putting together a post like this would be helpful. Especially for anyone who has never worked from home before and is having a hard time adjusting.

I want this post to really feel relevant to the current situation and not just so general, so while a lot of the tips are applicable all the time, half of them are really focused on how to get through things right now. And if you have anything to add, PLEASE share in the comments! I’d love to know how you’re balancing life right now while also getting work done.

Taking things day by day.

This has been huge for me. I easily start to overthink things so instead of spiralling and thinking about how long we’re going to have to stay isolated/practice social distancing, I try to just think about what’s happening today and what I can do right now. It helps me keep things in perspective.

Routine.

In my experience, whether you’re working from home temporarily or it’s your new permanent situation, having some kind of routine is key to getting the most out of your day. I know for a lot of you, your routine has been turned completely upside down so if you’re struggling right now, try to focus on giving your day some structure. Maybe try using the extra hour each morning that you would spend commuting to the office to work out or cook that breakfast you don’t usually have time for. It’s easy to spend that extra time sleeping in the morning but why not use the time to your fullest capacity and do something that lets you feel accomplished.

Brain dumps/journal.

If you’ve been about here for a while, you’re probably not a stranger to the brain dumps. This is pretty much how I start my day every day. Brain dumping helps me determine my to-do list and set up my priorities for the day. Speaking of priorities, I have a whole post on How to prioritize your priorities (because I’ve found doing so can be easier said than done). But anyway, if you haven’t done a brain dump before, do it – even more so if you’re new to working from home. It will help clear your mind and get rid of some of those feelings of overwhelm. If you’ve never done it before, here’s a post with instructions.

Start small.

Alright, so after I brain dump (write my daily to-do list), I start trying to check things off. I typically try to start with some of the smallest tasks on my list – especially right now. For example, making my bed is one of the first things on my list usually. This way no matter what else happens that day, at least I got that done. It’s just a morale booster if you ask me. Also, drinking water! That’s another small thing that I like to do right away in the morning.

Next, I’ll do quick, easy daily things like checking my email and touching base with coworkers before I really dive in. Once I get started with those smaller things, the rest of my day feels a lot more approachable. If you’re struggling to stay focused, I’ve heard productivity time cubes can be really helpful. I’ve never tried one but I’m tempted to test it out. Anything that helps me get my work done and manage my time is worth it to me.

Checking in on co-workers.

Since I can’t physically meet with my coworkers, I try and check in with most of them daily to make sure they’re getting through everything OK. People are in a weird place mentally right now and I think checking in goes a long way, so shoot a quick text or email to anyone you would usually see at the office. I guarantee they’ll appreciate it. We have a group lunch once a week online and catch up too.

Look for joy.

This one is especially important for me personally right now. Not that my work doesn’t give me joy, but I think it’s important to find something each day right now that makes you happy. For me, it’s dancing or going on walks with Tyson and Winston. Those are the moments when I forget about everything else and just let myself have fun. As a result, I feel less overwhelmed, which helps be able to get work done.

Being flex/non-judgmental.

Everyone is handling this new reality differently so I think the more grace we extend to one another the better off we’ll all be. Try to be as flexible as you can with deadlines and projects. Even though it is possible to be productive while working from home (and I hope some of my other tips help with this) a lot of people are doing it for the first time (and with their spouse and kids at home!) so try not to judge if things are pushed back or meetings have to be rescheduled.

Quick news and food breaks.

TBH I think breaks are one of the most important components of any workday. I’ve found I’m much for productive when I give myself a few 20-minute breaks throughout the day and a full hour around lunchtime. You can get out and walk during this time, make something yummy to eat, check the news, tend to your garden, prep dinner or just take a nap if that’s what you need. The biggest thing here is to not feel guilty about giving yourself this time. You need it and you deserve it, trust me!

Anything that helps balance.

It’s important during a time like this to not only give yourself grace but to make sure you’re taking care of yourself mentally and physically. Finding balance in life is hard enough when we’re not in the middle of a health pandemic so anything that usually helps you find that balance, definitely be sure you’re doing it now. For me, I’ve started to take CBD oil as well as melanin in the evening.

I feel like maybe these tips are a little different than the usual ones I’ve been seeing other people give, but that was kinda the point. I hope I’ve given you some actionable ideas that will really help you approach your day and be productive! And like I said above, please share if you have any other tips that have worked for you!

As always, don’t forget to subscribe to LiveLaughLearn.blog to stay up to date and follow on Instagram @LiveLaughLearn.blog

XOXO.

B.