Counselor self-care: Battling the insomnia monster

The insomnia monster looks innocuous, but he's here to eat your zzzzzzzz's!

I have had insomnia issues since FIFTH GRADE. Ouchie. My sleep problems tend to come and go for a few weeks at a time, depending on my stress levels and general physical and mental health. Having sleep issues kind of stinks, but I can usually work through it and keep up my daily activities.

The past year, however, has been of major concern. I don’t know whether it’s tied to school or not, but my insomnia has become much worse in the past year. I sleep about 4 hours a night right now. Since beginning my counseling program, I have realized that lack of sleep severely affects my ability to perform as a counselor. For one thing, regulating my emotions is much more difficult. I’m more anxious and edgy, get frustrated more easily, and am more prone to depression when extremely exhausted. “Wise mind” is a lot harder to maintain. More importantly, it is much more difficult to stay fully present with clients when I’m so tired. It’s difficult just to have a conversation with a friend.

Thus, getting the insomnia monster under control before practicum and internship has become self-care task #1.

You could send me all of your home remedies for sleeplessness, but when my body doesn’t even get sleepy at night (instead choosing to do so at random points throughout the day), I think the problem might be more deeply seated, either mentally or physically. I’ve tried limiting screen time (due to sleep-interrupting blue light), reading boring stuff before bed, listening to white noise, melatonin, antianxiety drugs, warm baths, chiropractic coupled with electromagnetic stimulation, mild exercise, relaxation techniques, keeping a to-do list by my bed. Limiting caffeine is a necessity, and I can barely have a drink in the evening anymore because it messes with my body temperature too much. Also, warm milk is disgusting. Please don’t suggest that.

I have a few things left to try before I call my doctor. He’s not my favorite person of all time, and won’t be happy when I want to have an actual conversation to address the deeper issues instead of just writing me a prescription for Ambien. (Which I have tried, and it was awful.) I just bought valerian capsules and plan to couple those with a friend’s recommendation of cold compresses on the eyes. I might try acupuncture, but my insurance sure won’t cover that.

The last–and biggest, most dreaded thing to try–is exercise. Not just walking, but, like, sweating while exercising. The biggest obstacle (other than my hatred of sweating) is time commitment. I’m not entirely sure how to tackle this. Try running 15 minutes a day, and increase the time? 30 minutes of walking/running every other day? Can I do this in the dark so the neighbors don’t see?

So, there are no answers here, just an attempt to hold myself accountable for making some lifestyle changes that will hopefully result in better sleep. I’ll report back in a few weeks, maybe with some improvements. In the meantime, has anyone else faced the insomnia monster? How did you handle it?

Picture source

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2 thoughts on “Counselor self-care: Battling the insomnia monster

  1. Pingback: The Blue Man Group and counseling. READY GO « Feet in Two Worlds

  2. Pingback: This month, in the Family Resources e-Newsletter…Saying no with grace « Feet in Two Worlds

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