You have been exhausted since 2pm (if not earlier)… you get home from work, make dinner, slip into pjs and binge watch some Netflix. You go to lay down and the room is silent. Your brain switches from fog to all cylinders go… You become frustrated in your body and every time you begin to relax, another thought appears. You may try getting up, defusing oils, reading and even getting some warm milk. Around 3am you fall asleep and your alarm goes off at 6am. And you do it again the next day…
What’s really going on here? It can be labeled as many things – anxiety, worry, depression, grief, adjusting… To be honest, the label doesn’t solve the underlying problem or the thought process. The label certainly doesn’t help you return to balance.
As a society, we move fast. We “check out” when we need a mental break. Unfortunately, we are not well trained in observing our own thoughts. We expect that we solve problems at work, create new ideas, work as a team, focus on the physical and mental challenges that are part of our work day. That is acceptable expended energy. What about the energy we put into calming our own concerns, pains, and challenges?
Many things may keep us up at night. Some folks have insomnia… or a snoring partner… or restless leg syndrome. The rest of us don’t. Here are some tips on attending to those pesky ruminating thoughts so YOU can get a good nights sleep.
- Learn about the content of your rumination – Many times we become so frustrated that we are distracted from the thoughts that are keeping us awake. Keep paper and pen by the bed so when the thoughts come, you can write down the thought pattern. Another benefit to this is that you no longer have to remember what you are concerned about… it’s now outside your body on the paper and you can deal with it at another time when you have more clarity.
- Create a mental STOP – This can be a visual stop sign, verbally saying “stop,” or writing the word “stop” when you recognize your thoughts are circulating back to a topic. When the thoughts continue to spiral, it can become overwhelming. You really do have a choice to continue the pattern or putting an end to it. Which do you choose? When do you decide to switch gears? You can do it.
- Prepare for rest by using positive thoughts or imagery – This can be done in a number of ways. Gratitude is an excellent way to prepare for a good night’s sleep. Writing or simply remembering things that went well that day prepare your mind to be pleasant or calm. Looking at photographs on your phone or a photo album provide imagery of a happy day, beautiful scene or an important moment relaxes your mind and body. The power of suggestion will also bring forth some lovely dreams.
- Unplug or power down – A couple hours before sleep, it’s important to reduce electronics use. Set a clear time to stop looking at your phone, computer and tv and stick to it. The electronic visuals keep the brain active and you’re trying to wind down for rest.
- Be open to trying new things to find what works for you – It took me years to figure out that I need to have humor at the end of my day – I need to laugh. Laughter oxygenates the body, relaxes the muscles and overall feels good. In the winter months, I do body scans to warm up because I’m cold at night. I love defusing certain essential oils at bedtime. You may enjoy deep breathing or meditation or certain sounds to help you. I’ve even done thought changing activities like identifying college mascots as I go through the alphabet (I skip if I don’t know…) A-? B-Bulldog C-Cam the Ram D-Duck E- Eddie the Eagle… and so on… Every night can be different. Create a list of ideas that work for you and try them out.
- Expected sleep help reminders – This article wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t reference the over-recommended tips to help you sleep. The reason I still include these is because you may be falling into some habits as you become more sleep deprived. We all know that caffeine intake later in the day may impact your ability to fall asleep – pay attention to how much and how late you are having coffee, tea or soda. Also, alcohol or cigarettes use will impact your ability to fall asleep and quality of sleep. Eating a balanced diet and not eating too late is helpful. Getting some exercise in the day – simply walking helps to calm the body and mind. If you use medications, supplements or essential oils, pay attention to an elevated energy component or effect. Obviously speak to your doctor about adjusting your medication schedule if you suspect that may be an issue.
Your thoughts are so important and the concerns that keep you up at night are needing your attention. Taking back control and addressing these issues during the day will give you more opportunity for more restful nights. Wishing you some well deserved rest, my friends. Calm you minds and your bodies and the dreams will come.
If you find yourself in need of further exploring your ruminating thoughts, a counselor is a great resource to help you through. Sometimes a little outside reflection and support can help tremendously. Chartreuse Center provides specialized support for fertility, infertility, perinatal and grief concerns. Learn more about how Chartreuse Center can be a support for you at www.chartreusecenter.com