Remedies for sleepless nights

Over the years that I’ve been working with internationals living abroad, I’ve discovered recurring patterns and specific themes that my clients face. Even though each person is unique and so is their situation, there are definitely overlaps in how one feels when going through the different emotions that come with living abroad.

Today, I’d like to address how to handle sleepless nights and how to find a remedy that works for you.

The pandemic is definitely one of the biggest events that is currently causing sleepless nights. It has simply impacted everyone on the whole planet on a deep, existential level and we’re now collectively dealing with the after-effects of this. Long periods of fear for our health and our loved ones have taken away the foundation from under our feet and we are collectively suffering from loss of control over our lives.

Internationals living abroad are emotionally more vulnerable for many reasons, one of the biggest being the current travel restrictions which are preventing us from connecting with our loved ones the way we want and need.

Tossing and turning
Going back to the topic of this column, if you’re also suffering from sleepless nights, read on. Falling asleep might be easy, but then comes that time in the middle of the night where you find yourself fully awake and amped up.

Stress and worry rapidly take over us. When you look at your alarm clock to see the time, another layer of stress is added because now thoughts of resistance to being awake are added: “I should be sleeping now!”

While the day-time topics that are keeping you awake are not heavy or life-altering, at night they feel important and urgent, causing you anxiety.

You are a package deal
In order to find a remedy for your sleepless nights, you must consider the full picture. The world is changing rapidly, and you are impacted big time. I hope by now you understand that waking up in the night is not totally your fault. As an individual, you’re just part of the whole, going through a lot of stuff. And herein lies the solution for you.

If you find yourself looking at your alarm clock and the extra level of stress wants to creep in, stop yourself there and simply accept the fact that you’re not sleeping. Take a breath and know that sooner or later you will fall asleep again. At night, you surrender to what is – sleep or no sleep – and in the daytime, you can prepare yourself for the night and look at the things you can work on.

Simple remedies that can help you release stress
Have a look at any of the following areas that might need your attention, so that you can approach the night stress in a holistic way. As you read the following, try to relate to your life and the areas that you feel strongly about and the areas that could use your attention.

▪ The relationship we have with ourselves
May we always act out of self-love and self-respect, being aware of our boundaries and listening to our own needs. Spending time daily on this relationship and reinforcing our ingrained sense of self-value strengthens our heart to feel love, compassion and trust.
Clean your mind of unhealthy, negative or even just excessive thoughts. Practice mindfulness, meditation or seek support when it gets too much.

▪ Nurture your body as if your life depends on it
Which it does! Eat the right foods, do the exercises you really enjoy and be kind to your body. This is the right time for long nature walks or a relaxing massage.

▪ Who you spend time with is who you become
If you are surrounding yourself with people that are suffering from stress or do a lot of complaining, realise that it’s hard to not pick up their energy and have it amplify your own latent stress.
Protect yourself and create emotional space by changing topic or find other creative ways to keep your emotional energy clean.

▪ Environments
Cleansing, beautifying or changing our physical environments so they support who we are, what we do and what we want for ourselves instead of depriving us of energy. For example, creating a space for creativity or meditation. A bit of Feng Shui makes all the difference: cleaning out old cupboards, adding house plants to cleanse the air, etc.
In this light, I would like to want to mention the workshop we are organising for beautifying your house. Visit our website below and scroll to the workshop “Turn your house into a home” on the events page.

▪ Looking at the bigger picture
The main question is: what can you do for yourself in a pro-active way, instead of being overtaken most nights by lack of sleep? What is the message that is being sent to you in the middle of the night? And how can you help yourself?

We can think of ourselves as heroes in our own journeys. What is our character and what is the moral of the story? Like every good story, there is a struggle, a downturn and, in the end, a triumph or a tragedy. We are writing our stories, so let’s make sure they go in the right direction.

Being curious to find out how you can provide yourself with the solution is something you can do.

Important to know is that you are not alone! Taking care of your health is a powerful thing. Look at it as a new skill to learn.

By Ria van Doorn
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Ria van Doorn is a life coach for internationals living abroad and founder of the Expat Centre Portugal.