If I’ve learned anything from researching and writing about health and wellness over the past few years, it’s that the human body is a fascinating system that can easily go rogue sometimes, operating on its own accord. But let me tell you something about human body behaviors: Nothing your anatomy does is by chance, or accidental. There’s a rhyme or reason to every good and bad sensation you experience, so if you feel fine during the day, but sick at night, there’s a backstory there, and it’s up to you to identify what’s triggering your nighttime discomfort. The problem is, the root cause isn’t always an obvious issue, so you might have to think beyond your symptoms.
Trust me, I know from experience how frustrating it can be when your conscious mind is like “we’re all good here, so what gives?” and your body responds with a literal gut-wrenching stomach ache or vision-disrupting migraine right as you’re about to lie down and attempt sleep. But it really doesn’t matter if your symptoms are chronic or come on sporadically. If you feel perfectly fine when the sun’s out, and downright sh*tty when it sets, your body is likely trying to tell you something. If you want it to stop, you have to listen up, and listen carefully.
In order to figure out what’s really going on with your body, the first step is to acknowledge what sort of symptoms you keep experiencing. For example, if you’re getting sharp stomach pains, headaches, or just general areas of tension, from there, you should be looking at your everyday lifestyle. What are some behaviors or habits that could be causing these symptoms to flare up? If you can definitively rule out the most seemingly obvious culprits — like an unhealthy diet or foods that just might not be agreeing with you, too much screen time during the day affecting your eyes, or a lack of exercise or general physical activity — ACE-certified health coach and behavior change specialist, Ali Zabel, BSBA, says these types of physical symptoms could stem from something psychological.
"During the day there is so much going on, and you may not have time to think or dwell on things," Zabel tells Elite Daily over email. But in the evening, and those few hours leading up to sleep, that busyness starts to slow down, she explains, and that’s when "the gears start turning and you start thinking about everything you were supposed to do that day and everything that needs to get done in the future." In other words, the time of day that should be relaxing, is actually proving to be exactly the opposite.
See, when you’re so preoccupied with deadlines, meetings, class assignments, exams, or whatever else is on your to-do list, your mind doesn’t have a chance to take a pause and process not only the information you’re taking in, but the emotions that go along with each additional task, too. When the work or school day ends, you’re finally able to collect your thoughts. This can be a good thing — a helpful thing, even, if you’re able to organize and think rationally about the day you’ve had, and what you can expect tomorrow to bring. But, it can also be detrimental to both your mental and physical health if your mind is cluttered and overwhelmed.
"A lot of times [these building thoughts] trigger anxiety or panic attacks, which can affect each individual differently," Zabel says. "Some may experience a feeling of sick with an upset stomach or a migraine, whereas others may have shortness of breath or something along those lines."
Of course, there’s always a chance that, if it’s your stomach that’s upset, it could be because you ate something foul, or it could be due to a type of food you didn’t realize you were allergic to, like gluten. If it’s a headache or migraine, that can sometimes be a sign that you’re dehydrated, over-caffeinated, or you’re getting your period, among a whole host of other possibilities. Either way, whether your body is strung out because of a sheerly physical issue or one that’s brought on by stress, if you’re feeling peachy-keen during the day and awful at night, your body probably needs a little extra TLC in order to get better.
Your first line of defense is ultimately going to be learning how to live more mindfully so that you can listen to both your physical and mental cues that tell you when something isn’t right. Of course, because we live in such a fast-paced world, Zabel points out, it can often be difficult to "slow down and take a more mindful approach" to it all. However, "when you realize that it is OK to slow down and be more realistic about the expectations that you have for yourself," she tells Elite Daily, putting this into practice can make a huge difference for your overall well-being.
But slowing down, and adapting to this kind of go-with-the-flow mindset, is only a fraction of the solution. Self-care has to be a priority, too. "Self-care is very important, and finding a way to reconnect with yourself even for five minutes a day will make a world of difference," Zabel explains, adding that things like breathing exercises and meditation are great places to start. And yes, bubble baths, and even treating yourself to a mani once a week, also count. Whatever is going to make you feel at ease, put it on the schedule and stick to it.
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