Do you ever have difficulty falling asleep? Or wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep?
When we were kids our parents would read us bedtime stories to help us fall asleep. The stories always started out the same, “Once upon a time……” and ended with “they lived happily ever after.”
If we managed to stay awake until the end, we’d roll over with a smile on our face and happily drift off to sleep knowing that all was well in the universe (or at least our little universe).
As adults we tell ourselves FRIGHTENING bedtime stories that slap us into a state of fear instead of slumber.
Our stories are filled with terrifying characters and plots: the angry boss, annoying coworker, deadlines, endless bills, family troubles, a weak economy…… You get the idea – there is NO “happily ever after” in these stories.
And we wonder why we have difficulty falling asleep!
In the darkness and with nothing else to do but try to fall asleep, our thoughts get louder, scarier and more irrational.
At 10:00am you’re disappointed that a client has cancelled an appointment but at 2:00am you’ve become unglued with conspiracy theories. You envision all your clients cancelling, losing your job, being homeless – frightened and trembling you lie in bed thinking “what will become of me?”
Meanwhile adrenaline is coursing through your veins putting you on high alert ensuring you get more caught up in the drama of the nightmare; and you retell yourself over and over all of the bad things that could happen.
What Can You Do?
For starters, you can acknowledge that in the middle of the night everything gets blown out of proportion: a slightly disparaging comment becomes a berating dress down, a sales goal not met turns into homelessness and an unreturned phone call turns into the worst insult of your life.
Check this for yourself – is it true?
If you agree, then why would you believe any stories you tell yourself at night?
And that’s where the freedom comes from to let go of these frightening and irrational thoughts.
When you see for yourself (in the safety of daylight), how utterly ridiculous and completely blown out of proportion your thoughts become at night – that’s when you know you can let them go. You don’t have to believe the stories anymore because now you know that in the hours of darkness you lie to yourself in the worst ways possible!
So then the next time you’re lying awake at night thinking, “why does Brad always take the last cup of coffee and never refill the pot….. and what kind of psychopath does that?…..how can I be expected to work with someone like that?…….”
You might remember, “oh yes, my thoughts are completely delusional at night, I am blowing up an incident from my day and making it seem 1000 times worse than it really is, oh and I’m also freaking myself out and not going to be able to sleep because of this! Hmm maybe I should stop?”
If you’re able to stop at that point good job! But you need to do one more thing because the adrenaline is still in your body.
You can still lie in bed. But start stretching – one big long stretch to release some of the tension in your muscles.
Then rollover (still stay in bed) and come into child’s pose for 2 minutes (picture below). Bring your big toes together, knees out wide and fold forward reaching your arms out long along in front of you. This is a simple inversion pose that starts to engage the parasympathetic nervous system – the opposite of the stress response.
After 2 minutes, roll back over and relax knowing everything really is fine in your little universe, the scary movie is over.