It’s 2 am and my mind is racing. Everything from what I’ll have for lunch tomorrow to that one embarrassing thing I said 10 years ago churns over and over in my mind. Did I remember to check my calendar? Wait, did I close the living room window?
Beside me, my fiance sleeps soundly. The dog snores at the foot of the bed.
Maybe this sounds familiar to you. You hop into bed, exhausted from your day and Bam! your brain decides to recount every mistake you’ve ever made. Maybe your brain is running because you got into a fight with a co-worker or friend. Maybe it’s running because you’re afraid of the nightmares you’ll have. Whatever the reason, there are skills you can practice to stop worrying and get back to sleep.
1. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing and meditation.
Instead if tossing and turning in bed, this this: put one or both of your hands on your belly. Breathe in through your nose, deeply and slowly. Focus on pushing out your belly instead of your chest. Hold your breath for a couple seconds and exhale. Try to exhale slowly and for longer than you inhaled. Focus on what the breath feels like in your nostrils, belly, or wind pipe. Keep it slow and let the tension flow out of you like water.
Often, as we focus on slowing our breathing and focusing on the present moment, our mind rebels. If it wanders, bring it back to the breath, again and again. Over the last few weeks, I have written about attitudes of mindfulness. Monday Mindfulness: Week 4- Non-Judging can be very useful if you find yourself getting frustrated by a wandering mind.
2. Square Breathing
Much like diaphragmatic breathing, square breathing focuses on a slow intake of breath through your nose. This time, breath in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, breath out for a count of 4, and pause for a count of 4 before the next breath. If this is easy, lengthen the count to 6, 8, 10 or more. Again, bring your attention back to your breath when your mind wanders, without judgement.
3. Give yourself a Break!
Much of the time that we struggle with sleep, we make it worse by being frustrated or upset that we can’t sleep. As we watch the clock and the minutes ticking away, we do the math on how much sleep we’ll get if we fall asleep right now. In these moment, give yourself a break. Take a deep breath and ask yourself what you need right at this moment in order to relax and let go. Breathe until you know the answer. Often, worry is our mind’s way of telling us that we’re missing something. Give yourself permission to let it go and think about it tomorrow.
If worry and anxiety continue to bother you, consider speaking with someone. There are many caring, effective professionals who can help. Contact me if you’d like to find out more.