social anxiety keeping you up at night
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Social Anxiety Keeping You Up At Night? Try These Tips

If there’s one thing worse than social anxiety itself, it’s social anxiety keeping you up at night! At least for me anyway. I’m the type of the girl who loves a good nights sleep, and needs at least 8 hours of winks to function well the following day. Without this, I’m as good as the walking dead. 

I’m no stranger though to nights spent tossing and turning. Lying awake in the darkness replaying everything I felt I did wrong the previous day, and what I wished I had said instead of the muddled up words that tumbled out my mouth. Or panicking about what’s going to happen the next day because I know I’ll be meeting a group of people I don’t know very well. Sometimes, after a number of small anxious moments have built up over time, I’ll also find myself staring at the ceiling for hours, unable to rest, because my body is simply stressed out.

So I know how this goes. I know how frustrating it can feel when social anxiety keeps you up at night. 

I’ve tried many techniques throughout my years of navigating sleepless nights. Some have worked better than others, so it’s always best to remain curious and open to options so that you can test the waters and find what’s most helpful for you. Additionally, having a selection of tools at your disposal is also beneficial.

What I’ll share with you today is 5 of the tools in my (overnight) bag.

But first, let’s understand what’s going on within our bodies.

What do we need to go from wide eyed to shut eye?

When we feel anxious, the sympathetic branch of our nervous system is activated. This activation is responsible for putting us into fight/flight mode. It’s an active state within our bodies that is designed to keep us alerted and ready to take action at a moments notice. Hmm, it’s no surprised we can’t sleep right? Our bodies are not designed to rest in these states! 

Adjacent to the sympathetic branch, we have what’s called the parasympathetic branch. This part of the nervous system is all about resting! We need this function to help us relax, digest our food well, restore our energy, and you guessed it, to sleep. 

So, what we’re dealing with here – when we’re experiencing restless nights due to feelings of social anxiety – are ways to help shift our bodies from that active, alerted state, into a relaxed, calm state.

What can you do to help achieve this? Here are 5 of my favourite ways:

Compassionate Mind Dump

Clear the mind. This is best to do a couple of hours before climbing into your comfy bed. Often when we feel anxious, our minds our overwhelmed with thoughts and stories that may not be entirely accurate (Read more on What You Need to Know About Your Anxious Thinking). Journalling, creating art, or speaking with a trusted person, are just a few ways to help release those thoughts, and offer us a different perspective on the situation. It’s also a great opportunity to practise self-compassion. 

Would a Self-Compassion Journalling Exercise be helpful? Great, we have one of those and you can download it at the end of this post.

Move The Body

As I mentioned earlier, when we’re experiencing anxiety our body is ready to take action. Oxygen is being pumped to our muscles, cortisol and adrenaline is coursing through our blood. We are literally preparing ourselves to physically fight or run from something. This means the body is holding onto a lot of extra energy, and it’s helpful if it has somewhere to go! We can intentionally help our bodies to discharge this energy through movement.

Perhaps you could take a walk or go for run earlier in the evening. Have a gentle workout at home. Or my 2 personal favourite ways; dancing and shaking. Put on your favourite music and offer yourself the permission for your body to move how it wants to. Or try this simple shaking exercise, by placing your right hand over your heart, your left hand over your pelvis, ground your feet into the floor, and bounce from the knees, allowing your torso to naturally sway. Keep going until you feel your body relaxing.

Exhale

From movement to stillness. Breathwork is one of the most direct ways to shift the nervous system from sympathetic into parasympathetic. (Read more about that here). Use slow long exhales that gently push the breath up from belly and out of your mouth. Followed by a calm inhale. Repeat until you begin to feel the tension releasing within your body and then allow your breath to settle into it’s own relaxed rhythm. This technique I use often when I’m already in bed. I’ll place my hands over my pelvis again to guide the breath as deeply as possible.

You can use calming smells such as lavender or bergamot, which help to slow your heart rate, as an additional aid. A friend of mine once bought me some Badger Sleep Balm, which has remained a favourite in my toolkit ever since.

Tell Yourself a Comforting Story

When the following techniques have not sufficed, and I’m still finding social anxiety is keeping me up at night, this one tends to work quite well! What I do is imagine myself receiving the comfort I need. I’ll create a story with my minds eye, where I’m sharing all the anxiety I’m feeling with someone I love. Then picture it being received with empathy, understanding and compassion, and usually a hug.

This isn’t a substitute for seeking out genuine connection with someone (we all need that), but this is a good option at 2am in the morning when there’s generally not many people to reach out to, or if you’re in the stages of learning and practising how to be more vulnerable around others, like I had to. 

Cry

Last but not least. When all other attempts have not worked, this is my fool proof technique. I cry. Within half an hour of crying, I will be asleep. Sometimes I naturally end up crying because I eventually feel so frustrated and overwhelmed. Other times I will intentionally trigger the tears because I know it will help. If you are planning on intentionally crying, this works best if you can do so mindfully. There is usually an element of amplifying the anxiety first and ‘catastrophising’, so you’ll want to do this whilst holding compassion, and without falling into ‘victim’. It might take some practise, but give it a go.

But how does crying help? Crying is controlled by the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system! Exactly what we want to help us sleep. I view it as a bridge that helps us get from anxious to calm. 

There you have it. My top 5 techniques for when social anxiety is keeping you up at night. 

As you can tell, some of these techniques are best used late afternoon or in the evening to help promote a better nights sleep. And some are tools to implement if you’re struggling to drift off. Try them out, experiment and adapt them to work for you. 

Sweet dreams.

Download your Free Self-Compassion Journalling Exercise here

Author

  • Stacie Clark

    Hello! I'm Stacie... I was the girl who awkwardly blurted out half-formed sentences. Pretended to not know much - about a lot of things! Would go on a date to sit in silence. And nervously laughed to hide the fear of speaking. I support people like yourself, who feel anxious in social situations, because I’ve been there too and I know it sucks. I believe we all have amazing gifts and qualities within us, waiting to be expressed, and I love helping individuals like you, find your own quiet ways to let them shine.

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