How to manage stress when you are tired

Last Updated: August 5, 2020 References

This article was co-authored by Sari Eitches, MBE, MD. Dr. Sari Eitches is an Integrative Internist who runs Tower Integrative Health and Wellness, based in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in plant-based nutrition, weight management, women’s health, preventative medicine, and depression. She is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine. She received a BS from the University of California, Berkeley, an MD from SUNY Upstate Medical University, and an MBE from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her residency at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, NY and served as an attending internist at the University of Pennsylvania.

There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 7,858 times.

Have you been feeling stressed out or exhausted due to your life and your responsibilities lately? Maybe your job calls for you to work long hours, or maybe you have family obligations that require you to spend extra time caring for others. When you are tired or burnt out, it’s easy to neglect your physical and mental well-being. However, if you don’t build regular stress management into your days, even minor problems can seem overwhelming. There are steps you can take to stay calm and centered even when life puts lots of demands on your time and energy. Adopt good sleep hygiene, take care of your mental health, and fight burnout to effectively manage stress when you’re tired.

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Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.

How to manage stress when you are tired

Creative RF / Geber86 / Getty Images

When people hear that I am Verywell’s stress management expert, the most common response is, “Oh, wow, I need your help!” The second most common response is “What is the best way to manage stress?” which is an understandable question to ask. One question that I have heard from a few people, which I think is an equally important question that people don’t always think to ask, is, “If I’m already stressed and exhausted, how can I get to a place where I have the energy for some of those great stress management techniques that work so well?” Many people fall into bad habits when stressed because they are simply too stressed to take on a new activity.

Exercise is one of those powerful stress management techniques that fall victim to stress. Many people would like to benefit from the resilience and stress relief that they can gain from a good workout, or from a regular workout routine, but find themselves too tired and unmotivated for exercise when they need it the most. If this sounds like you, the following stress management techniques can help you to become more energized and less stressed so you can either find the motivation to exercise more easily or at least find yourself less stressed and restored to the point that you can continue with your day more easily. See what works for you.

Listen to Energetic Music

Music is a powerful tool for relaxation and stress management for many reasons. Music can be a wonderfully effective tool for relaxation, but it can also energize you. When you feel exhausted from a stressful day, simply putting on some music that makes you feel energized can give you an influx of energy. If, after a few minutes with your favorite energetic music on in the background, you don’t feel energized enough for even a quick workout, at least you should feel less stressed and more energized in general.

Take a Walk in Nature

Walking doesn’t need to feel like “exercise.” Often, when a trip to the gym sounds like an intimidating task, a leisurely walk can feel like the right amount of effort. After a few minutes of walking, you may feel like quickening your pace and making it a brisk walk, which can bring aerobic benefits. If not, however, you have gotten yourself moving, you’ve given yourself a change of scenery, and if you’ve brought a partner, you’ve most likely enjoyed some friendly conversation. And with these activities, you should feel less stressed.

Watching a Re-Run and Exercise During the Breaks

It’s been shown that watching re-runs of your favorite shows when stressed can bring stress relief benefits that are unique. This is also an extremely low-effort activity. When you’re overwhelmed, you can easily relax this way instead of turning to less-healthy coping habits. By the first or second commercial break, you may be in the mood for a few simple exercises between breaks. If not, you’ll still feel less stressed.

Writing Down Your Goals or Your Gratitude

The act of journaling is a highly effective stress relief activity that takes less energy than exercise, but also carries cumulative benefits and engages your attention. Writing your goals can energize you in that it shifts your focus from the stress of the day to the things about which you are passionate and excited. Gratitude journaling is effective for stress relief in that it forces you to shift your attention to the things that sustain you and make your life wonderful. (There are also unique benefits that come with gratitude journaling.) Once you energize yourself with a little journaling, you may be in the mood for a workout. If you never feel like exercise after journaling, however, you’ll still be developing a stress management habit that works well for building resilience.

What About Meditation?

Meditation is another of those powerful stress management tools that can help you relieve stress quickly and build resilience over time. If you feel too stressed for a meditation session, learn about some techniques that can help you to get into a more relaxed state.

Last Updated: August 5, 2020 References

This article was co-authored by Sari Eitches, MBE, MD. Dr. Sari Eitches is an Integrative Internist who runs Tower Integrative Health and Wellness, based in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in plant-based nutrition, weight management, women’s health, preventative medicine, and depression. She is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine. She received a BS from the University of California, Berkeley, an MD from SUNY Upstate Medical University, and an MBE from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her residency at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, NY and served as an attending internist at the University of Pennsylvania.

There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 7,858 times.

Have you been feeling stressed out or exhausted due to your life and your responsibilities lately? Maybe your job calls for you to work long hours, or maybe you have family obligations that require you to spend extra time caring for others. When you are tired or burnt out, it’s easy to neglect your physical and mental well-being. However, if you don’t build regular stress management into your days, even minor problems can seem overwhelming. There are steps you can take to stay calm and centered even when life puts lots of demands on your time and energy. Adopt good sleep hygiene, take care of your mental health, and fight burnout to effectively manage stress when you’re tired.

Articles On Reduce Stress for Better Sleep

Reduce Stress for Better Sleep

Reduce Stress for Better Sleep – Tips to Reduce Stress and Sleep Better

  • Stress and Sleep
  • Sleep Disorders Diagnosis and Treatment

Stress is a response to adverse and challenging circumstances and a response to daily life. It affects us emotionally, physically, and behaviorally. The right amount of stress can be a positive force that helps us to do our best and to keep alert and energetic. But too much can make us tense and anxious and can cause sleep problems.

What Are the Signs of Stress?

Common signs of stress include depression, sleep problems, tension, anxiety, work mistakes, poor concentration, and apathy. You may have physical symptoms like headaches, upset stomach, fatigue, appetite loss, and chest, neck, or back pain. If high levels of unwanted stress aren’t properly managed, your health and sense of well-being can suffer. So it’s important to learn how to manage stress.

Tips for Managing Stress for Better Sleep

These tips can help you ease stress and hopefully get a better night’s sleep:

  • Assess what is stressful. The first step in getting a handle on stress is to figure out what’s causing it. Take a good look at your physical condition and your daily activities. Do you have pain? Are you overloaded at work? Once you identify your stressors, you can take steps to reduce them.
  • Seek social support. Spending time with family and friends is an important buffer against stress. It can be helpful to share your problems with people who care for you.
  • Practice thought management. What we think, how we think, what we expect, and what we tell ourselves often determine how we feel and how well we manage rising stress levels. You can learn to change thought patterns that produce stress. Thoughts to watch out for include those concerning how things should be and those that overgeneralize sets of circumstances (for example, “I’m a failure at my whole job because I missed one deadline.”) Many videos, tapes, and books can help you learn thought management exercises.
  • Exercise.Physical activity can help you blow off steam, reducing stress. In addition, flexible, loose muscles are less likely to become tight and painful in response to stress. But it’s best to exercise at least 2 hours before bedtime so your body temperature returns to normal. If you have a medical condition or are over age 50, it’s best to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen.
  • Learn to relax. Practice things like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing. Try taking a warm bath and turning off electronics to help you wind down before bed.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Junk food and refined sugars low in nutritional value and high in calories can leave us feeling out of energy and sluggish. A healthy diet, low in sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, can promote health and reduce stress.
  • Get adequate sleep. A good night’s sleep makes you able to tackle the day’s stress more easily. When you’re tired, you’re less patient and more easily agitated, which can increase stress. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Practicing good sleep hygiene along with stress-lowering tactics can help improve your quality of sleep.
  • Delegate responsibility. Often, having too many responsibilities can lead to stress. Free up time and decrease stress by delegating responsibilities.

These steps can help many people sleep soundly through the night. However, if you have frequent sleep problems, talk to your doctor. They can check you for possible medical problems like an overactive thyroid or sleep disorders, or a psychiatric condition like an anxiety disorder, and recommend treatment.


The National Sleep Foundation.

WebMD Feature: “Coping With Anxiety.”

American Psychological Association.

Harvard Health Publications.

National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists.

University Health Center, University of Georgia.

Chronically stressed people become tired because of the effect of stress on their adrenal glands. However, there are some useful relaxation techniques, exercises and foods that will help you manage stress and ease your fatigue.

How to manage stress when you are tired

Why stress leads to tiredness

Chronic stress (which is epidemic in modern society) leads to adrenal exhaustion and long-term fatigue. Because of the high levels of present-day stress, the adrenal glands, which are only designed to work in short bursts, become over-taxed. So, over time they produce less and less vital hormones, which are necessary for the creation of energy and we begin to experience a chronic level of fatigue. [Please seeAdrenal exhaustionfor more detail on this subject].

In order to break the vicious cycle of stress, you may need to:

  • Avoid stressful behaviors.
  • Know which life events are likely to cause stress and take extra care of yourself during these times [please seeStress and tirednessfor a list of stressful life events].
  • Practice Relaxation Techniques, which will help your body to recover from tiredness.
  • Choose foods that will strengthen your adrenal glands rather than weaken them.

Stress isn’t the only cause of adrenal fatigue; poor bowel function, lack of important minerals and vitamins, and lack of sleep all play their part.

Relaxation techniques

There are a variety of techniques, which can help you relax more deeply and more regularly. Remember that continuous stress has an effect on your body like continuous high speeds have on the engine of a car. They wear it out. Relaxation gives your body rest, which enable you to recover from tiredness.

Prayer and meditation

Although these have religious connotations, many people practice them in a broadly spiritual way, rather than tying them to specific faiths or belief systems. Meditation, in particular, has many forms ranging from Christian to transcendental and has proven benefits in stress reduction. Some people choose a mantra, or simple phrase repeated over and over again, others prefer to concentrate on what is actually happening, and consciously redirect their thoughts to a single focus.

Deep breathing

Most of us have developed the habit of breathing too shallowly. We gulp air and do not draw it deeply into our lungs and refresh our whole systems with vital oxygen. There are various breathing exercises, but almost all of them emphasise the need to breathe slowly, consciously and deeply. Here’s a simple one: breathe in for the count of five, hold your breath for the count of two before exhaling for the count of five. Try to practice this for at least ten minutes a day.

Try to breathe right into your belly. If you feel you are breathing too fast or shallowly, say ‘slow down’ to yourself. Biofeedback techniques and machines offer variations of this breathing exercise and give you feedback on how effectively you are performing.

Relaxation and re-framing

Re-framing is an effective technique allowing us to take experiences, which we feel are negative, and turn them into positive ones. Here are some for you to try:

  1. Lemons into lemonade
    Write down all the negative instances of self-talk that you can catch yourself with. For example, ‘I am so stupid’, ‘I am fat,’ ‘I am unlovable and undeserving.’ Put them aside for a couple of days then re-frame them into the positive statement. So you would write ‘I am clever and able’, ‘I am in the process of attaining my perfect weight’, ‘I am loveable and deserving.’ Now imagine your life as it would be if all that were true.
  2. Act as if
    The brain cannot know whether a given thing is true or not. So if you act as if it is true, you generally feel much happier and this has a positive effect on your body’s physiology. So start acting as if the best thing you can imagine in life, were true.
  3. Up in smoke
    Write down all the things you hate about yourself. Now burn them. Your negative feelings can be as transitory as the burnt paper.
  4. The Peaceful pond
    Each of us has a peaceful place within. Create a personal image of something very beautiful and peaceful inside you. Some people choose water, or the sea, others prefer trees or landscape. Whatever it is, spend time there often and enjoy the calm it brings you.

Muscle relaxation

Lie down on your back and close your eyes.

Sense your feet, feeling the weight of them, then tense them and relax them. Work your way from the toes right through to the ankles.

Do the same with your legs, gradually working your way up the calves to the knees and then your thighs, sensing their weight and then relaxing them.

Now think about your buttocks and repeat the procedure. Then turn your attention to your abdomen and chest. Feel them, breathe into them.

Think about your back and neck. Feel them and let them go. Finally sense the weight of your shoulders, sense how heavy they are and then consciously relax them.

Running on fumes? Here’s how to stop feeling so tired all the time.

You’re only as old as you feel, the saying goes. But what if you feel old, tired, and rundown?

Fatigue is a common complaint, especially after people hit middle age. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple ways to boost energy. Some even slow the aging process.

Here’s how to refill your tank when your energy levels sputter.

1. Rule out health problems.

Fatigue is a common symptom of many illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, anemia, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea. Talk to your doctor if you feel unusually tired.

Many medications can contribute to fatigue. These include some blood pressure medicines, antihistamines, diuretics, and other drugs. If you begin to experience fatigue after starting a new medication, tell your doctor.

2. Get moving.

The last thing you may feel like doing when you’re tired is exercising. But many studies show that physical activity boosts energy levels.

“Exercise has consistently been linked to improved vigor and overall quality of life,” says Kerry J. Stewart, professor of medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “People who become active have a greater sense of self-confidence. But exercise also improves the working efficiency of your heart, lungs, and muscles,” Stewart says. “That’s the equivalent of improving the fuel efficiency of a car. It gives you more energy for any kind of activity.”

3. Strike a pose.

Although almost any exercise is good, yoga may be especially effective for boosting energy. After six weeks of once-a-week yoga classes, volunteers in a British study reported improvements in clear-mindedness, energy, and confidence.

It’s never too late to try, either. University of Oregon researchers offered yoga instruction to 135 men and women ages 65 to 85. At the end of six months, participants reported an increased sense of well-being and a boost in overall energy.

4. Drink plenty of water.

Dehydration zaps energy and impairs physical performance. “Our research shows that dehydration makes it harder for athletes to complete a weight lifting workout,” says Dan Judelson, PhD, assistant professor of kinesiology at California State University at Fullerton. “It’s reasonable to think that dehydration causes fatigue even for people who are just doing chores.”

Dehydration has also been shown to decrease alertness and concentration.

How to know if you’re drinking enough water?“Urine should be pale yellow or straw colored,” Judelson says. “If it’s darker than that, you need to drink water.”

5. Get to bed early.

Lack of sleep increases the risk of accidents and is one of the leading causes of daytime fatigue. The solution: Get to bed early enough for a full night’s sleep.

When people enrolled in a 2004 Stanford University study were allowed to sleep as long as they wanted, they reported more vigor and less fatigue. Good sleep habits may also have important health benefits. Centenarians report better than average sleep.

If you do fall short on shut-eye, take a brief afternoon nap. Napping restores wakefulness and promotes performance and learning. A 10-minute nap is usually enough to boost energy. Don’t nap longer than 30 minutes, though, or you may have trouble sleeping that night. A nap followed by a cup of coffee may provide an even bigger energy boost, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

6. Go fish.

Good for your heart, omega-3 oils may also boost alertness. According to a 2009 study by scientists at Italy’s University of Siena, volunteers who took a fish oil capsule for 21 days demonstrated faster mental reaction times. They also reported feeling more vigorous.

7. Keep time with your body clock.

Some people get a burst of energy first thing in the morning. They’re often called morning larks. Night owls are people who are at their best at the end of the day.

These individual differences in daily energy patterns are determined by brain structure and genetics, so they can be tough to change. Instead, become aware of your own circadian rhythms. Then schedule demanding activities when your energy levels are typically at their peak.

8. Shed extra weight.

Losing extra weight can provide a powerful energy boost, says Stewart, of Johns Hopkins University. Even small reductions in body fat improve mood, vigor, and quality of life.

Most weight loss experts recommend cutting back on portion sizes, eating balanced meals, and increasing physical activity.

9. Eat more often.

Some people may benefit by eating smaller meals more frequently during the day. This may help to steady your blood sugar level.

Favor whole grains and other complex carbohydrates. These take longer than refined carbohydrates to digest, preventing fluctuations of blood sugar.

If you start eating more often, watch your portion sizes to avoid weight gain.


Kerry J. Stewart, EdD, professor of medicine; director, Clinical and Research Exercise Physiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Hartfiel, N. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, April 6, 2010.

Oken, B. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Jan-Feb 2006..

Daniel Judelson, PhD, assistant professor, California State University, Fullerton.

Harris, R. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2007.

Smith, A. Nutritional Neuroscience, February 2010.

Smith, A. Nutritional Neuroscience, April 2009.

Childs, Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, February 2008.

Ruusunen, A. Public Health Nutrition, April 2010.

Kamdar, B, Sleep Medicine, September 2004.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Fontani G, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, August 2009.

Roennenberg T, Journal of Biological Rhythms, February 2003.

Schmidt, C. Cognitive Neuropsychology, October 2007.

Stewart, K. Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, March-April 2003.

Americans are feeling anxious—a health risk, especially for older adults. DIY strategies can help.

Last summer an American Psychological Association survey found that our overall stress levels were going down—part of an encour­ag­ing nation­wide trend.

But a follow-­­up survey in early January showed a troubling change, according to psychologist Vaile Wright, Ph.D., director of research and special projects at the APA. “We saw the first statistically significant spike in stress in 10 years,” she says.

Whether acute or chronic, stress can affect you physically, changing your hormone levels and activating your body’s inflammatory response.

“There’s evidence that people under chronic stress are more susceptible to the common cold and flu, and are at greater risk of developing depression and coronary heart disease,” says Sheldon Cohen, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “Under long-term stress, many of your body’s physical systems do not respond normally.”

And though older adults usually report less stress than younger ones—thanks to years of experience in developing coping strategies—age may make us more susceptible to the negative health effects of chronic stress.

Fortunately, evidence-backed strategies can help manage stress. Whether you’re planning a budget or dealing with a sick relative, here’s how to turn down the volume on tension the healthy way:

Learn to Relax

1. Focus on the now. Research has found that practicing mindfulness—being ­focused on the present moment without judgment—can reduce stress. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back.

In a recent study published in the journal Psychiatry Research, people who had generalized anxiety disorder either took a lecture-type class on healthy lifestyle habits or participated in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), an eight-week course that teaches mindfulness via meditation, breathing, and yoga. When challenged with a stressful task, those who took the MBSR program showed reduced levels of stress-related hormones and inflammatory compounds, suggesting that their bodies had become physically better at handling stress.

For guidance on how to get started, check your local community college for a mindfulness meditation class. The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center also offers free guided meditations online (

2. Spend time with family and friends. When stress hits, its physical symptoms could be reduced by strong interpersonal connections, a 2015 study found. Knowing that people are there for you can help—even when they don’t do anything especially helpful.

“We know that people with strong ­social support networks do better ­under stress,” Cohen says. “They protect you from the adverse effects of stressors.” Family and friends can also help you reinterpret and cope with stressful challenges.

3. Connect with nature. Exercise has been shown to relieve stress, and being out in nature while you do it could help as well.

A small study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that urban residents who walked for 90 minutes in nature had lower self-reported scores on rumination—overthinking or hyperfocusing on a negative situation—than those who walked in a city.

Even a short stroll in the woods is beneficial. A study in the journal Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine found that people who sat and looked at a forest for 15 minutes, then spent 15 minutes walking in it showed lower levels of salivary cortisol, a lower heart rate, and lower blood pressure—all physical indications of reduced stress—than people who did the same in an urban environment.

4. Get more (and better) sleep. “When you’re stressed you often have trouble sleeping, and when you don’t have a good night’s sleep, it’s harder to cope with daily stresses,” says Judith Turner, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. “It’s a vicious cycle.”

Chronic sleep deprivation is also associated with an increased risk of a variety of illnesses and acute infections, such as colds, Cohen says. The sweet spot for sleep seems to be between 7 and 8 hours per night. (Too little or too much can ­increase your risk of certain illnesses.)

If you’re having trouble nodding off or staying asleep, keep potential distractions out of the bedroom (pets, snoring, glowing screens, bright lights, an uncomfortable temperature) and make time before bed to practice deep relaxation or mindfulness to help calm your brain.

5. Breathe slowly. When you’re stressed or anxious, your breathing can become fast and shallow. This stimulates the sympathetic (“fight or flight”) nervous system, which in turn can trigger more stress. Studies have shown that controlled breathing—the kind you might do in a yoga class—can help turn on the more soothing parasympathetic system.

“The way people ordinarily breathe when stressed enhances the stress they feel,” says Richard P. Brown, M.D., associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, who has studied the impact of breathing techniques on those with post-­traumatic stress disorder.

The average adult takes about 12 to 20 breaths per minute. He suggests slowing down your respiration for up to 20 minutes per day, with the goal of getting to five or six breaths per minute during that time. “With this kind of slow, rhythmic breathing, your heart and lungs work better and deliver more oxygen to your system,” Brown says. “This can ­decrease blood pressure, improve sleep, and give you both energy and relaxation.”

Deal With Bad Habits

6. Make smart choices. Coping with stress by turning to alcohol, drugs, overeating, or other tempting comforts might make you feel better temporarily. But in the long run, these can have negative health consequences, potentially leading to ­addiction, weight gain, and other problems.

“When we’re stressed we tend to smoke and drink more, exercise less, get poorer sleep, and eat poor diets,” Cohen says. “All of those can potentially impact disease processes—and make stress worse.” Instead, try meditating, exercising, or taking a walk outside.

7. Take technology breaks. Computer use can be a double-edged sword. Although it can help keep you engaged and connected, too much screen time can disrupt sleep and increase stress.

A report from the Pew Research Center found that women who used social ­media to tweet, message, or share photos ­reported less stress than those who didn’t use social media at all. But that connecting had a negative impact by making the women more aware of—and stressed out by—other peoples’ life challenges.

Pew calls that “the cost of caring,” and notes that such stress is normal—in moderation.

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in Consumer Reports on Health.

How to manage stress when you are tired

Contributors: Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM and Alexa Kane, PsyD.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

There are a lot of areas of sleep that science and medicine can understand and explain. But dreams are an entirely different territory, as the question ‘why we dream’ remains largely unanswered.

Vivid and frequent dreaming is often left open to interpretation through things like dream dictionaries and discussing with friends. Did that dream about your ex-boss really mean you have pent-up guilt and anxiety about your last job? Frequently having stress or anxiety-ridden dreams is usually a red flag for real life stress and the role it’s playing on your body. If you’re constantly waking up panicking in a cold sweat over a dream, it’s time to get your thoughts and stress in order.

Stress: we all have it, but it doesn’t have to control us

Stress is an emotional, physical or mental tension that results from something that’s outside of us.

Some of the bigger stressors or stressful life events include moving to a new place, changing roles at school or work, relationship issues or losing a family member. Stress can cause sleep difficulties, including insomnia, by making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. This impacts the quality of rest. Stress can also cause hyperarousal, which can upset the balance between sleep and wakefulness.

Being stressed is associated with poor sleep in general, and may trigger more frequent dreams. So it’s not uncommon to experience a distressing dream prior to a big event like a job interview, taking an exam or an important appointment.

And although there’s limited research about controlling the content of dreams, anxiety dreams can generally be a result of increased stress during our day-to-day lives. Daily stress can also increase the frequency of these dreams.

The good news? You have a great deal of control over your stress. If you learn to better manage stress in your life, you’ll likely decrease anxiety-ridden dreams and improve your sleep.

Here are four simple strategies to help your mind and body relax before turning in for the night:

  • Spend time winding down before bed: This can be thought of as a “buffer zone,” which is a period of time to allow the activating processes in the brain to wind down and allow your sleep system to take over. It’s generally a good rule of thumb to start about an hour before bedtime. During this time, engage in relaxing activities that you enjoy like reading or listening to music.
  • Schedule “worry time”: If you’re finding it difficult to control your worrying prior to bedtime, scheduling a specific time when you’re allowed to worry may help. Find a time that’s convenient for you and write down your concerns. Limit the time to a specific amount and stick to it by planning something to do afterward. For example, you can plan 15 minutes in the evening, before your favorite TV show.
  • Think of your bedroom as a place just for sleep, sex and pleasant activities: Try to limit the time you spend in bed worrying or being anxious. If you find yourself lying awake in bed stressed out, leave the bedroom and spend time in another room until you feel sleepy.
  • Practice relaxation techniques: There are other ways to relax while getting ready for bed, such as breathing exercises, guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation movements. (You can even check out free apps that help guide you through these exercises.) These techniques can be some of the most critical aspects of stress management and you can use them close to bedtime or throughout your day.

When you wake up panicking at 3 a.m.

We’ve all been there – a nightmare or stress dream causes you to wake up. The next thing you know you’re lying there overthinking your finances and everything you have to do the next day.

When this happens, what can you do to get back to sleep?

  • Stop watching the clock: Counting the minutes will only heighten your distress. Turn your alarm clock around and don’t pick up your phone.
  • Try to relax your body: Use a relaxation strategy that helped prior to bed to relax your body and mind.
  • Get out of bed: If you can’t fall back to sleep after a stressful dream, then try getting out of bed to help decrease the frustration. Don’t spend time in bed hopelessly trying to get back to sleep or interpreting your dream. (If your dream caused you anxiety, you may find yourself attempting to interpret it. But this can further increase the worry. This process will result in your brain associating your bed with stress and not sleeping well.) Once you leave your bed, find an activity that is uninteresting or boring. When you start to get drowsy, go back to bed.

Since dreams obviously aren’t measurable, there’s no real answer to what meaning they hold in our day-to-day life. But we do know that we generally have control over daily stress, which can trigger weird or anxiety-clad dreams. Learning to control the crazy and manage your stress is your best defense to help you sleep peacefully.