Anyone who suffers from an anxiety disorder knows that sleeping can be one of the hardest things you do all day. In fact, most of the time it feels like a really bad lottery. Some nights are good; you fall asleep fast and stay asleep. Other nights are very, very bad. But you don’t have to leave everything up to chance, there are some things that you can do to give yourself an edge.
I won’t bother giving you all the old warm milk and herbal tea anxiety remedies. I’m not saying they don’t work, but you’ve probably heard them all before. I want to focus on two mental methods that can help you calm and quiet your overactive mind and reduce your anxiety at bedtime.
Reach for Neutral So, you’re laying in bed when – BAM! – suddenly a thought occurs to you. Something you need to do tomorrow or forgot to do today. It doesn’t really matter what it is, now that you’ve thought of it, you can’t seem to let it go. You’re wide awake and thinking. In this situation, most people try to counter their anxious thoughts by thinking of more positive and relaxing things. That rarely works. Reason being that trying to turn your mind from anxious to peaceful is like trying to stop a freight train that’s already up to speed. It will stop eventually, but it’s going to need a little time. The best thing that you can do in this situation is not to reach for peaceful thoughts. Peaceful is too far away, reach for something closer. Reach for neutral thoughts. Don’t try to think about anything at all. Spend a few minutes trying to think of nothing. It doesn’t really matter how successful you are at clearing your mind. Even just a few quick moments of silence can be enough to slow down that anxious freight train of thoughts.
Turn it Over to Your Notepad If your anxious thoughts just won’t give up, it may be time to stop trying to silence them and start listening to them. They might be trying to tell you something worth listening to. I suggest that everyone who suffers from anxiety disorder should keep a notepad and pen next to their bed. Whenever anxious thoughts are pestering you, take the pen and pad and start writing down the things you’re worried about. If you’re worried about money, write that down. If you’re worried about work, put that down too. Write down anything that’s bothering you and then take a look at your list. Tell yourself that you’ll pick these worries up in the morning, but for right now you don’t need to consciously think about them. That’s what you do for general anxieties, but let’s say you’re not worried about something vague like money or work. Maybe you’re worried about a specific project at work, or worried about getting that job interview. If that’s the case, use the time you’re awake with your notepad to come up with a plan.
Normally if something specific is keeping you up, it’s because you don’t feel happy or confident in that area of your life. The best way to build confidence is to come up with an actionable plan. Jot down some notes about how you can finish that project at the office or how you can get the attention of your prospective employer. A plan of action will give you the confidence boost you need to feel comfortable and get some rest.
As always, I encourage you not to rely on drugs to help you fall asleep unless you have no other choice. Your anxiety isn’t an accident, it’s telling you something. It’s the red flag pointing to areas of your life you wish were different. If you want to learn to get a great nights sleep with anxiety disorder, you need to work with your anxious thoughts, not against them.
Jonathan Masters is a writer and former anxiety sufferer. In 2008 he partnered with http://www.EndofAnxiety.net to share his knowledge and his story about how he cured his anxiety and panic once and for all. Visit End of Anxiety for more of Jonathan’s insights on how to cure panic attacks from home.