How I taught myself to worry less at night.
I have been thinking about this all day and it has spilled out in to a blog post as it’s too long for a regular IG post
When Gav was diagnosed with blood cancer, 5 years ago, I remember feeling like the world had fallen off it’s axis. Everything had been called in to question, nothing was certain, no plans could be made and no one could say ‘it’ll be ok’
I feel like everything that is happening in the world right now, is similar. No one can say it’ll be ok, no one knows what will happen, plans are being cancelled and life as we know it is on pause.
It is a really worrying time and anxiety is creeping in.
I thought I would share how I taught myself to stop the worries from sneaking in at night. The worries that quite frankly took the liberty and filled my head with their noise, playing out worst case scenario to worst case scenario over and over again. Catasrophising everything. It was master of me, and I just let my mind carry on – indulging it’s dark thoughts. Letting it take over. Laying there wide awake in the dark. worrying. And crying a bit.
Initially I didn’t mind. Sometimes the best time to process something is in the quiet dark at night. You can allow your mind to wander and think about what is happening, replay conversations and PROCESS.
Other times however, your mind just wants to play mean tricks on you. It won’t let you sleep, and you find yourself panicking that it’s 3am and you’ve not slept a wink, and then working out how many hours it is until the alarm goes off and panicking about that too. Not to mention the anxiety about whatever it is that’s filing your mind and keeping you awake.
Sometimes I would dread going to bed because I knew what would happen. Sleep, or lack there of, is debilitating.
I am not qualified in any way to write this. I have no right to write this and tell you what to do – all I know is that it worked for me. It took ALOT of practice. Many failed nights Many failed attempts when I would just end up giving in to the anxious thoughts, letting them consume me and then blooming googling stuff at 3am !!! CARDINAL SIN!!! However, I would try agin the next night. Night is inevitable after all, and go to bed we must.
So here is my Sleep Plan – I promise it works – but it took me a while to work it out – It can start helping you TONIGHT!!
Now, if I feel anxious I don’t have to go through the whole thing. I can just bat those thoughts away. I know how to do it. And off to sleep I go. YASSSSS!!! The worries will all still be there in the morning so I can worry about them then, when I can actually do something about them. Worries are ALWAYS worse at night, right?
You are laying there trying to drift off and along comes an anxious thought
You are going to build a wall.
Grab a brick and start building a wall to protect you, in your mind. Think about where you are – I am ALWAYS in a dark room – but you might prefer to visualise an open space, in daylight
Think about your bricks – are they just regular brick coloured bricks or are they coloured? Mine are always the size of breeze blocks and in neon bright colours – yours might be black and white, or pastels, whatever you like. You are in charge of your own wall.
When your mind wants to consume you with a worry – DO NOT LET IT. Build more wall. Refuse the thoughts. Point blank. You are busy building your wall.
Are you building it in a square around you? Maybe a circle ? Or is it just in front of you?
How are you constructing it? I NEVER do the hard work. My bricks are magic and float up to where I want them.
Are you making a pretty pattern? or going random? (Random for me)
BLOCK every wave of anxiety with a brick. Build that wall.
When you tire of building the wall, you have it as your shield.
It’s lovely! Well done!!!
Now is the time to implement the second phase.
Imagine yourself safely behind the wall. It is Impenetrable.
BUT the worries are still coming and shouting for your attention?
Imagine them being delivered by courier to the other side of your wall, in parcel form. No matter how tempting the parcel, DO NOT venture to the other side of the wall and NEVER open the parcels. DO NOT let them in
Here is how I do that.
From my comfortable sun lounger on the safe side of my neon wall, I now fill my mind with NONSENSE.
- How many flavours of crisps can I think of. What order is the biscuit aisle in, in Sainsburys, what moisturiser shall I try next time I’m shopping
- Can you eat a badger, that bloke off the telly would know – how would you cook a spaniel if say, you were out walking and got peckish (if you know you know haha) Shall I do a Tough Mudder – would that be fun? Tell you what was fun, that waterpark on holiday – where was it again? Wasn’t the apartment lovely , what was the floor plan – how was it decorated – ooh I might try that at home – which room would I makeover – how would I do it – I’ll need paint –
- What would it be like if I painted X in bright blue- grey- pink – what’s my favourite colour, what colour eyes has my best friend got – haven’t seen her for a while – lets book to see each other – oh haha remember when we used to roller skate to each other’s houses, how old were we>10?
- If I could invent a new flavour Club biscuit what would it be, maybe mint in dark chocolate, not milk. I’ll email them about that.
- What would it be like to have tea with the Queen – would she be in the parlour? Must update my National Trust membership ..
- how small is too small to swing a cat. Will it rain tomorrow do we think ….
ETC ETC you get the idea – just absolute nonsense – do not think too deeply about any of it – just allow it to take up space in your mind. The dafter the better – the more random and fluid the better. It doesn’t have to make sense. You don’t have to make sense of IT.
If you feel the dark side sneaking back – stick anther brick on the wall – maybe imagine some bright coloured filler to fill the cracks – plaster that wall if you want to!
Let your mind go to any place it likes EXCEPT what you are blocking out. Immediately block it if the worried thoughts are coming. DO NOT INDULGE THEM. Keep strong and DO NOT GIVE UP.
I promise it works.
I think I can say that I have almost 100% learnt how to not worry at night. And can sleep.
I haven’t shared this, WE haven’t shared this with many people apart from our families and a few close friends, but in January, Gav started suffering some worrying symptoms which eventually led to him needing various tests and a scan. Scanxiety is a real thing isn’t it – the WAITING is the worst. We have been on red alert for abut 8 weeks really I guess and I can categorically say that my sleep technique was a life saver again.
We had the results a couple of weeks ago and the scan showed nothing of concern. The relief was immense (understatement of the year) as he hasn’t had treatment for three years and to be honest, with an incurable diagnosis, well, you just imagine stuff is happening and no one can really tell until they see a scan. So although we know it’s still there -we know for sure, that so far, it’s still sleeping!!!!…. SSSHHHHHH …. Tiptoe please! 🙂 I am telling you because the sleep plan was somewhat tested again!
Anyway – I digress
I also wanted to touch on the right now – If you are reading this after March 2020 – we are knee deep in a worldwide Pandemic. Corona Virus is here and we are all preparing.
None of us know what will happen , no one can say with any authority that it will be ok, but to be worrying about it all day every day is exhausting .
I wrote a blog post about acceptance HERE – it might be useful.
Basically my coping strategy in times of uncertainty, is to let go a bit. To remember that things are happening outside of my control and no matter how much I bargain with God (or whoever) in my head – it doesn’t change what IS. It just makes me tired.
So instead of thrashing about wishing things were different, its about accepting what is happening and going with the flow. Now that doesn’t mean I am doing NOTHING.
5 years ago, I quietly became pro active – I learned stuff, I gently prepared for stuff, I started to take control of the situation by getting a notebook and writing EVERYTHING down, every question we had between appointments, everything that was discussed during appointments (basically the minutes of the meeting haha) and Gav took charge by accepting the diagnosis and making changes to his diet and lifestyle that meant he felt more in control. Like we had a PLAN.
I think that’s what we are all going to have to do NOW too. No panicking and thrashing around swimming against the tide shouting WHYYYYYYYYY WHY NOW< WHY US< WHY WHY WHY
I think the best plan of action is to accept that things are different right now, and TRUST that things will get back to normal. Do our utmost to protect ourselves and each other and TRY not to panic.
I stood out side in the garden earlier – and GROUNDED myself – stood still and closed my eyes and breathed. It all looks the same out there. It all felt the same out there.
It all IS the same out there, in our tiny little bubble.
Shielding ourselves if we feel vulnerable from all but the news on the telly – by not searching on Twitter to the Mail (Fail) on Line . Not refreshing the browser every 5 minutes.
Being aware, of COURSE, but not drowning in it all.
I am SO grateful for my community on Instagram – we are all in far flung places -but we are all together too.
We are NOT alone – we are all in the same boat. Social distancing? NO! We need social! Personal distancing- of course.
Already I am seeing brilliant ideas spring up on line – virtual book clubs, dance classes, all sorts. Of course I appreciate that not everyone is online but YOU are!
The WHO and worldwide advice is changing almost hour by hour – its fluid and we must change when change is needed.
I don’t think it’s helpful to share images of panic- empty loo roll shelves might have been amusing last week – but this week I feel its … SO LAST WEEK. You know? Let’s not make everyone even more panicky.
My default is always humour, even in the most inappropriate circumstances. Let’s be posting support, humour, life of COURSE, but also peonies in sinks!!!
Check our neighbours are ok – wash our hands a million times a day – etc etc
I hope, that after this has passed, we all APPRECIATE our lives as much as we should -I hope it bonds us more -makes us less wasteful and that it teaches us to be careful with each other.
We all need to look after each other don’t we. In real life and on line.
If you are sharing some lovely mundane stuff on your stories – consider adding subtitles so people who watch on silent can stay connected. People who are deaf, can still join in, and people who are awake in the middle of the night can feel included.
Take us with you on a dog walk – those that are stuck at home or are on a well earned break at work might appreciate it if they can’t get outside.
Let’s find ways of lifting each other up, aren’t we LUCKY to be here in these times- we can all connect and that’s a lifeline.
Stuff Corona Virus- if the WIFI goes down we’ve had it!!
If you have any tips for sleeping and not worrying at night – please leave them in the comments
Thanks for reading – stay safe and look after each other