Can’t Sleep? 3 Steps To Quiet the Racing Mind
It’s 2am. I’m writing this post in bed with my boyfriend quietly getting his zzz’s next to me. He’s 3 hours deep into a good night’s rest and I’ve spent the past 3 hours listening to two meditation apps, checking Facebook and responding to emails. I usually sleep well. Too well. But tonight is not one of those nights. I can’t sleep.
Tossing. Turning. A slight ping of anxiety that I can’t place. Frustration.
‘Was it the 3pm coffee? Did I get TOO much sleep last night?’
After a good hour of possible sleep inducing activities (okay okay, Facebook probably wasn’t the best one), I did what coaches do best.
I took a step back and asked myself, what is really going on here?
When our minds go a little hay-wire, when our usual sleep schedule suddenly pauses, often there is something happening beneath the surface, under our awareness. I took myself through the 3 steps I would take anyone I was coaching through.
And NOW the only reason I’m writing this post and NOT sleeping is because I didn’t want to forget to share these awesome nuggets with you.
Step 1: Identify the Trigger.
If you can’t sleep and find yourself in bed unable to shut your mind off, you want to identify what got it running in the first place. Was it an event from the day? Is it a particular stressful circumstance you have been dealing with? Did your mind bring up a thought that then got you thinking about another thought…?
As a trained coach and an expert in mindset, I was able to get to this pretty fast just by sifting through my recent thought process. But most times this doesn’t work- we need to get OUT of our heads. I would recommend you try just writing down whatever comes up. Grab a piece of paper and pen and just start writing. Eventually your brain will throw something out there and you’ll feel something. That anxiety. That discomfort. Yup, that’s the trigger.
For me, tonight, a thought popped into my head about my evening call with my accountability partner, best friend, and fellow entrepreneur Cheryl (check her out: www.cbemusic.com). We were talking about our business plans for the New Year. This had me then think about an upcoming workshop I’ll be attending to further train myself professionally in marketing my business.
DING DING DING. That was the trigger.
Step 2: Distinguish What You Can Control and What You CAN’T control.
Anxiety really is useless. That is not to invalidate that its grip is REAL. We have all experienced that ‘impending doom’ feeling. What is valuable to know is that this is just our brain wreaking havoc and we can have power over our minds! How?
ANXIETY IS KILLED BY ACTION.
When we aren’t in action around something or don’t feel in control, we experience anxiety. As soon as we start to take some sort of action, the anxiety will begin to disappear. But first you need to distinguish which things you CAN take action on and those that you CAN’T.
Take out more paper with the pencil, divide the paper in half with a line. Write all the things that are out of your control ( i.e. I can not control my family member being sick). On the other half write all the things you CAN control and can take ACTION on (i.e. I can reach out to other family members to see how we can support this person. I can focus on my own health so I can be supportive to this person).
Often, our anxiety is from a *perceived* reality that we are out of control, when in fact there are many actions we can take.
For me, I realized that there were some things that weren’t clarified around this workshop I was attending. I saw I had an expectation (and some past disappointments) that were creating this anxiety. What I saw as an action to take was to reach out and communicate directly to the person leading the workshop (who is a dear friend and mentor). I could express myself authentically and get very clear on my expectations and the agreements of the partnership.
Step 3: Plan the Action & Breathe
For some, taking some sort of action immediately may be the needed relief. Yes, you may steal another hour of sleep away but if that is what is needed, so be it. One sleepless night I spent 2 hours going through every corner of my finances because my mind was racketeering about expenditures. But I slept like a baby once I finished even if it was 3am. You have to be the judge of what works.
Ideally, plan out the actions you can take the NEXT day. List them. Schedule them. Put in reminders in your phone. This puts your brain at ease. Nothing creates even more anxiety than that thought of ‘Will I remember to do it all?’ Put it into a visible (right brain) structure.
For me, I put it in my auto reminders to reach out to this contact the next day via phone (no sense in writing an email or reaching out so late if I wasn’t going to get a response that would offer the clarity I wished I could have in that moment. Plus I knew it would make a bigger difference to take it off email and into a phone conversation).
Then breathe. Turn off the screens, the lights, and nestle back into bed. Lie on your back. Take deep diaphragmatic breaths: Inhale deeply into your stomach making it rise, exhale deeply letting your stomach fall. This type of breathing further reduces the anxiety still lingering in your body and quiets your brain into sleep.