Worn out from the holidays? Having trouble sleeping?
Excerpted from Coping with Sleep Issues
By Ester Leutenberg and John Liptak, EdD
What keeps you awake when you want to be sleeping?
Bedtime anxiety keeps everyone awake at times. Below is a set of steps that you can use at bedtime to dramatically reduce your feelings of anxiety and begin to effectively cope with them. These steps are designed to help you cope with anxiety from its onset. Think of something you are anxious about, describe it, and then try these six steps to conquer anxiety before bed time.
- STEP 1 = Reduce physical tension by taking a deep breath and holding it for five seconds. Do this ten more times. How did that feel?
- STEP 2 = Stay in the present by bringing your thoughts to the here-and-now (as if the future does not exist!). How did that feel?
- STEP 3 = Start the calming process by forming a mental image of a calm place. Close your eyes and picture yourself in this calm place. Use your senses of smell, touch, taste and hearing to make the image real. How did that feel?
- STEP 4 = Continue calming your body and achieve a sense of deep relaxation. Start at the bottom of your feet and begin relaxing all of your muscles until you reach the top of your head. How did that feel?
- STEP 5 = Realistically assess the accuracy and rationality of your thoughts. STOP any negative statements and replace them with positive statements. How did that feel?
- STEP 6 = Repeat several positive affirmations that will help you to stay in the present moment. Affirmations might include statements such as “My thinking is peace-filled.”
The truth is that there is no actual stress or anxiety in the world; it’s your thoughts that create these false beliefs. You can’t package stress, touch it, or see it. There are only people engaged in stressful thinking. ~Wayne Dyer
Activities to Reduce Bedtime Anxiety
There are many ways to reduce anxiety before it spirals into a heightened, debilitating state. These distractions allow you to get out of your own head and focus on things outside of yourself.
- Physical Exercise Early in the Day (jogging, walking, etc.)
- Enjoyable, Nourishing Activities (hobbies, family activities, etc.)
- Creative Expression (garden, scrapbook, journal, etc.)
- Relaxing Activities (Yoga, meditation, etc.)
My Negative Thoughts and Feelings
Consider all of the negative thoughts and feelings you are experiencing today. How do you think the above negative thoughts and feelings will affect your sleep?
Negative thoughts and emotional pain get in the way of a solid bedtime sleep. To relieve emotional pain, you need to deal with it!
Explore the various reasons that you are experiencing your emotional pain. (Example: feeling guilty about something you did or did not do.) What is on your mind?
- Step 1: Acknowledge your feelings.
- Step 2: Accept what happened.
- Step 3: Feel it.
- Step 4: Don’t mask it.
- Step 5: Learn from it
- Step 6: Overcome it.
Use these six steps when you are emotionally troubled.
Creative Arts Can Help with Bedtime Anxiety!
The creative arts can help you in this process! Create a poem, write a song, create a short story, or draw something that describes what you’re feeling and going through. Remember, this is for you and only you to read or see. Don’t worry about rhymes or meter, sentence structure, or how professional your art is. Do it for yourself, and yourself alone. Try going through this process a few hours before going to sleep.
Regretful Feelings: True or Not True?
It’s often hard to know whether feelings about incidents one regrets are based on truth, or what one believes to be true. Evaluate your level of responsibility for what really happened.
- What situation do you regret feel guilt, sad, embarrassed, ashamed, angry, or afraid?
- Who else was involved?
- How much control did you have over the situation?
- Were you really responsible?
- What could you have done differently?
- How can you forgive yourself and let it go?
Distractions from Dwelling on Mistakes
All people make mistakes! It’s time to move on from the emotional pain of having made a mistake. Distract yourself from thinking about the mistake by forgetting it and letting it go.
- What recreation-time experiences that bring you pleasure?
- What activities do you like to do that bring you a sense of deep relaxation?
- What activities do you enjoy that bring you a sense of accomplishment?
- What activities do you enjoy so much that you actually lose awareness of time?
- What activities do you feel passionate about, activities that bring you meaning and a sense of purpose when helping others?
When lying in bed trying to go to sleep, distract yourself from negative thoughts by thinking about these activities.
The word affirmation comes from the Latin affirmare, originally meaning “to make steady, or to strengthen.” Affirmations help purify our thoughts and restructure the dynamic of our brains so that we truly begin to think anything is possible. Which affirmations resonate with you? Write them down and keep them in places that you look at it often, on your night stand, mirror, refrigerator, dashboard, etc.
- I will not struggle. I am peace filled.
- I forgive myself!
- I am setting myself free.
- I choose peace of mind.
- I am living in the present.
- I connect with the calm of this present moment.
- Tomorrow I will enjoy each and every moment.
- I am relaxing, clearing my mind, and going to sleep.
Repeat one affirmation of your choice as you are going to sleep.