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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

My favorite app of 2020: Calm


For as long as I can remember, I have had insomnia. As badly as I want to sleep, the moment my head hits the pillow, all of the thoughts from my day become front and center in my mind, projected like a giant screen in a drive-in movie field. I've tried every natural supplement, pre-bedtime yoga, warm milk + brandy (which is what my grandmother gave me as a child when I couldn't sleep. Worked then. Doesn't work now) and Indica gummies (which I had high hopes for but sadly, gave me vertigo.) I tried Ambien but it had the reverse effect on me and made me want to run around in circles in the cul-de-sac. 

So, I lay in bed. I count in Italian. I count in French. I list the Nato Phoenetic Alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie. . .) Then my mind drifts to thoughts of the day. Am I teaching Waverly everything I can about racism and how to be an ally? Is she going to having difficulty once she goes to school because she's been without other kids for almost a year? When will life ever be the same as it was? Did I put the leftovers in the fridge or are they still on the countertop?. . .

And on it goes until I finally drift off exhausted around 2 or 3 in the morning and then it feel like I've slept for mere minutes when I hear the baby call my name at 6am. 

Insomnia and anxiety are just what I've known my entire life. 

This sounds like a commercial spot, even as I write this but here we are. I discovered the Calm App (app store) or  Calm App (desktop) and here's the thing - it works. It WORKS. While there are a number of different calming activities, I found that listening to the stories, puts me right out. My favorite is "An Evening in Hyde Park." I have absolutely no idea how this audio story ends. What I do know is that Ramon Tikaram's voice is like warm honey. Whatever panic fills my mind, whatever tasks I didn't get accomplished, whatever conversation from the day that nags at me, stops. I lay with my head in the cool pillow, eyes closed and listen to the story. From "Dream With Me" (Harry Styles) to "Passages From Walden" (Alan Sklar), the Calm stories are a balm to my weary, tired brain. 

I've tried this with Waverly too. When we have had trying days, as only a 3 year-old can have, we cuddle on the rocking chair in her room and we listen to "Sienna the Sleepy Sloth" (David Williams) or "Bella's Bedtime Blanket" (Keegan Connor Tracy). Our breaths sync as we listen to the calm voices read to us. Often, we fall asleep under the blanket was we rock, her warm head tucked under my chin and her little fists clutching my robe close to her chest.

The Calm app isn't just for sleep, however. I have also used the Panic SOS grounding meditation (either a 4 minute or 10 minute exercise) which calmed my mind and made me conscious of my breaths. It is exactly what I needed to ground me and stop the panic that can run rampant if I don't stop it when the anxiety first sets in. 

In addition to stories, mediations and music, there are also calming environmental sounds like rain and ocean. Right now, I am listening to the "Morning Coffee" playlist and I have the beach with rolling waves set as my visual background. With the stress of not seeing family and friends over the holidays and thoughts of what I accomplished in 2020 (or rather, didn't accomplish), I still feel calm, and grounded. 

If 2020 has left you feel defeated or sad or if this Groundhog Day feeling has gone on long enough, get this app. Maybe what you need is a reminder to breathe and let the feeling pass. 

And then, at night, when the day is done, fall into bed knowing you did a good job. You made it through what is one of the most stressful times in our lives. We've made it past the Winter Solstice. The days are getting longer and soon we will be moving closer to life the way it used to be. For now, close your eyes, listen to a bedtime story and relax into sleep. Night night. You did good today.

The Calm app is $69.99 for a yearly subscription and includes meditations,  over 100 audio stories, music, calming environmental sounds, stretching videos and Calm Masterclasses. It is worth every penny.

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