How to Turn Off Your Brain at Night: Stop the Anxious Thoughts Before Bed
Sleep. That elusive yet wonderful thing that everyone needs and few get. Do you remember the last time you went to bed and fell asleep immediately, not a care in the world?
If not, you’re probably a bedtime worrier. But not to worry! Here are the basic things you need to understand to combat nighttime anxiety.
Soothe the Body, Soothe the Brain
The body and the brain work together. Ever notice that when you’re really stressed you get muscle tension or even headaches? Relieve some of that tension in your body, and you’ll find your thoughts start to relax too.
Here are some ways to do that:
Take a bubble bath or hot shower
Get a microwaveable heat wrap (My personal favorite!)
Get a massage or buy a back massager
Choose at least one thing (or come up with your own) and do it every night. Your body and mind will feel soothed.
The Carryover Effect
Understand that anxiety has a carryover effect. If you’ve been overwhelmed or overstimulated throughout the day, your brain will keep running, even if you’re lying in bed doing nothing.
So please do not try to do work, chores, or solve a problem right up until bedtime and expect to fall asleep.
You need downtime. I recommend having at least 30 minutes to 1 hour in bed before it’s time to go to sleep. Turn the lights off, or use a lamp and do a low-stress activity that isn’t too stimulating. (Yes, being on your phone is too stimulating). Instead, you could:
Read a magazine (Be careful about reading books- certain genres can engage your mind too much, i.e. self-help books or adventure)
*Tip for Journaling: Journal about what’s causing you anxiety. It helps to get it on paper. Then you can take it a step further and pray about what you wrote.
Replace Your Thoughts
It helps to understand that your brain runs like crazy at night because you have allowed it to. I know you think you don’t have a choice, but that’s simply not true.
When a thought enters your mind, you have a choice to either accept it or reject it. If a negative thought causes you to be anxious, you have accepted it as truth. Once you accept one negative thought, it’s easy to continue down that rabbit hole. Reject it instead.
Once you reject a negative thought, you’ll need to replace it with something positive. You can:
Come up with a mantra that you repeat (Ex: “I am going to survive tomorrow, just like I did today”)
Think about a time in childhood before you remember having anxiety. You did not worry about what would happen, but you were taken care of. Bring up those feelings of safety and security.
Think about a relaxing vacation you had as an adult. You felt calm, in control, and like everything would be okay. Try to feel that now.
If you struggle with all of this at first, don’t be discouraged. Taking care of your body, giving yourself time to rest, and replacing negativity with positivity are all disciplines.
You will get better at it if you don’t give up! Now kindly turn off that brain and go to sleep.