Anxiety about Anxiety: 7 things you can do to slow the hamster-wheel speedway in your head (so you can get some sleep)

It’s time to get some sleep. You have a busy day tomorrow. Yet, it seems the mere putting your head to the pillow is the very signal sending your thoughts off to the races. You command your thoughts to stop. But they’re not listening. In fact, they are now in deep discussion with each other about why they won’t stop.

 

“You’re worried about the contract tomorrow. What can I do to make sure it goes smoothly?

“Scott has been distant lately-- I wonder what’s going on with him.

“This stomach pain is really worrying me-- I should call and make a doctor’s appointment first thing tomorrow.

“Sales have been slower than usual-- I gotta find a way to make some more money.

"How are you going to handle that situation with David tomorrow?

“Can you believe what Ellen said today? The nerve of her. What did she mean by that? I wish I had a better come-back.

 

Thoughts- they’re going round and round like a merry-go-round. Like a treadmill. No, like a hamster wheel. Nuh-uh, it’s like the high-speed rinse cycle. Whatever, they’re going round and round.

The thoughts aren’t even individual thoughts anymore. It’s a cacophony of noise, sound and images, all blurring together. You start to feel dizzy. Overwhelmed. You take a deep breath and change positions in bed and smoosh your head further into the pillow.

Ok, this is better, time to sleep….But now you hear your heart beating in your ear..."why can I hear my heart beating in my ear? Is that normal??" You take another deep breath. You still hear your heart:

 

Douj. Douj. Douj…

 

You cannot unhear it. You change positions again. But now you notice your heart beating even faster in your ear. Uh oh. Aaaahh, make it stop!

You get out of bed, stretch and make some herbal tea, hoping to ease the anxiety. But now there’s anxiety about going to sleep. You watch the clock with growing concern that available time for a good night’s rest is quickly dwindling.

 

Anxiety about anxiety. Sound familiar?

 

Anxiety can be a vicious cycle when it highjacks your brain and picks up speed. It can be scary, overwhelming, and paralyzing. Anxiety can prevent us from moving forward and taking needed action in our careers, in our relationship, in our life choices. It can cloud our thinking and judgment and contribute to self-doubt.

 

Often it is worse at night and disrupts sleep, for darkness--the unknown can be especially scary for us diurnal mammals. At its mildest, it is uncomfortable, annoying, and stands in the way of fully enjoying the present. At its worst, with frequent panic attacks and associated with obsessions, compulsions, addictions, and other disorders, it is debilitating, has severe physical health manifestations, and becomes a barrier to one’s ability to participate in relationships, education, and work.

 

While moderate-severe anxiety is an issue that signifies deeper incongruencies and issues in one’s life that are best be addressed with the help of a psychotherapist and the biochemical support of a psychiatrist or a naturopath who prescribes natural anxiety-relieving herbal and homeopathic remedies, there are some things you can do each day that can help bring some relief.   

 

7 tips to help ease the symptoms of anxiety:

  1. Adjust your diet. Avoid or significantly reduce your caffeine intake. Especially if you have trouble sleeping. If you can’t completely cut it out, drink your coffee or caffeinated tea before noon. It really makes a big difference. Also, eat more healthy, lean protein. (while reducing simple carbohydrates and sugars). Avocados, nuts, protein sources with high Omega 3 fatty acids. Protein is grounding, calming, and helps steady the blood sugar spikes, crashes which affect your mood.
  2. Incorporate a consistent bedtime routine. This might include a bath with calming essential oils and/or epsom salts. Prepare a cup of calming herbal tea. Read, listen to relaxing music, or look at beautiful photographs before bed. Disconnect from electronics at least 30-60 minutes before going bed. Avoid anything with a screen. No news or emails. Visualize or remember your favorite places and imagine the sounds and scents as you close your eyes.

  3. Move your body, even if it’s just a 20-minute walk around the block. Yoga is also centering and calming. Get into downward facing dog, child’s pose, or any other favorite pose on the floor of your bedroom when you can’t sleep.

  4. Go outside in the fresh air. Head to the beach, trees, or a park for a half hour. Take in some free Vitamin D from the sun. Or take in the light of the moon. Breathe deeplythe fresh air, imagining your belly is a balloon that you completely fill with each inhale.

  5. Get grounded. Connect with the ground. Sit or lay flat on the ground or floor. If you are not able to, bring your attention to your feet, feel your feet inside your shoes, and feel the sensation of the ground beneath your feet. From this place, you might try some mindfulness meditation as well. 

  6. Accept your thoughts and feelings, intrusive and unpleasant as they may be. Let go of the judgment of what is happening. Instead, notice your thoughts, the sheer amount, the cyclical nature of them, the content as if you are an observing reporter, maybe even with a sense of humor "aaaand, the races have begun.... Worry about work is pulling ahead in the lane number 5, while worry about the dishes piling up is lagging behind..."

  7. Journal your thoughts, feelings, dreams, to-do lists. Your brain can take a load off when it has a container to record all the thoughts so it doesn’t have to keep spinning them round and round trying to remind itself.

 

These tips are not a substitute for medical care or psychotherapy. And there are many more. However, these are some basic, supportive, complementary coping strategies that you can easily begin to incorporate in your daily life to help you feel more at ease and grounded, while taking the edge off the symptoms of anxiety. 

 

If you find that anxiety is interfering in the quality of your life, sleep, mental or physical well-being, work, or relationships, contact me about setting up an appointment. You can also book online. Sign up on my list to get more helpful tips & resources  ----->>

I look forward to helping you bring a feeling of ease and enjoyment back into your life.

 

 

Angela DeVita, PhD verified by GoodTherapy.org