A person's face looking up at a cup of tea, food being delivered, a candle, and a crossed out newspaper and cup of coffee

My Nighttime Routine For Emergency Situations

Last updated: November 2019

The summer of 2019 was the most stressful time of my life. I put The Dude (my elderly uncle and Ward) on hospice, sold his house on an emergency basis to keep him on memory care, preplanned his burial arrangements, spent a month fighting various entities to keep his agonizing end of life pain under control, visited him nearly every day to check on his pain levels, and then we buried him.

This precipitated a scorched earth retreat from my most basic priorities around sleep and rest. All of my energy and attention went to his needs. None of this was great, but I (re)learned a few things along the way.

Double down on structure when things are going poorly

Major life events bring a powerful temptation to just keep doing things. After all, if something major is going on shouldn't our activity levels keep pace? Well, maybe? Sometimes? Not really?

There are always things to be done, but that tractor beam pulling you to scurry around wearing yourself out, that's a stress response. That call is coming from inside the house. Eek!

Here are the main moves that got me through

  1. Eliminate caffeine or other stimulants as early in the day as possible. I moved my deadline up to 4PM.
  2. Try an early bedtime. It felt ridiculous going to bed before dark, but it's what I needed.
  3. Do what you can to reduce even minor pain before going to bed. Time spent applying topical numbing to my neck, elbows, and SI area paid off.
  4. Reduce emotional irritants. I cut out most news. It wasn't going to help my family. And I didn't have the energy to watch anyway.
  5. Save as much energy as possible. You'll need it later. I do most of my chores during the afternoon and evening. Since that's when I feel my best. I limited my housework to essentials like laundry, putting out the trash, and doing dishes. We ate a fair amount of take-out, packaged meal replacements, and other convenience items.

Don't neglect your senses

Three years managing The Dude's dementia care reminded me that our environment and mood are linked. Sometimes, a few beautiful things can make a difference. And, even if these things don't change everything, you still deserve something pretty.

  1. Sleep teas are popular for a reason. They to help me wind down. Something about the taste and smell made a difference.
  2. Give warm lights a try. The flicker of a warm light flameless candle on my side table improved my mood a little bit. These things are everywhere. The technology has improved too much that the battery-powered LED “wick” gives the impression of a flame. A flame that's okay to fall asleep on.
  3. Surround yourself with what helps you to feel cozy and safe. I'm a fan of a well-made bed with soft fleece blankets and chill sounds playing on my phone. Using the sleep timer helps save the battery life.

What helps you get some rest under difficult circumstances?

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