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An Anxiety Trick

An Anxiety Trick

Recently, my bedtime ritual has gone like this: Brush my teeth, climb into bed and…

…freak out.

As soon as my head hits the pillow, whatever is on my mind — the boys, work, marriage, politics — blow in like a hurricane. Often I’ll want to discuss things in dramatic detail, but Alex will soothe me. “Baby, everything is fine,” he’ll say. “Your mind is spinning. Close your eyes, try to sleep.” Of course, my brain is like THANKS I’M GOOD.

Are you the same? Well, the other day, I stumbled upon a post by an Austin-based artist about a simple rule that serves him well:

“Don’t think too much about your life after dinnertime.”

Deal with problems during daylight, he recommends, and try to chill at night. Otherwise, your worries can seem much more intense than they actually are. “Most parents know about the ‘witching hour’… that weird block from 4 to 6 p.m. when your kids are more prone to meltdowns,” he points out. “When my oldest was young, we white-knuckled through those hours with beer and Seinfeld reruns. There’s also a thing called ‘sundowning’ that happens with to people with dementia. As the sun goes down and the shadows fall, patients tend to get more confused and anxious.”

It’s nice to know I’m not alone! At night, your mind can really play tricks on you, don’t you think? There’s a funny line in Catastrophe, after Sharon finishes her first session with a therapist. She has this good-natured exchange with her husband:

Rob: Hey, how was that?
Sharon: It was good. It was fine. It was good that you didn’t come in with me, though, ’cause I was really able to rip into you.
Rob: Well, that’s great, honey… Did you get it all out or will I still get to listen to your nightly screed at 11:15 p.m.?
Sharon: Well, that depends on you, cowboy.

It made me laugh. Busted.

“I give my anxiety a name,” Kaitlin, a Cup of Jo reader, once wrote in a comment. “His name is Alexander (like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), and I visualize him walking away and closing the door behind him.”

“I’ve also given my anxiety a name — Eunice,” added a reader named Kristin. “She’s a grumpy old lady whose always trying to hook me into worrying about something. When it gets too much, I can say, ‘Enough, Eunice! I’ve got this! Now, go to sleep!'”

Although I’ll always still worry, I love the idea of trying to ignore late-night anxiety — or at least not launching into a deep discussion at bedtime. When the sun comes up, you’ll be much more clear-headed, well-rested and ready to handle whatever comes your way.

Thoughts? Would you follow this very simple rule?

P.S. On happiness, and how to be present.

(Photo by Troy Hewitt/Flickr.)

  1. Why are we so anxious all the time? Is it modern life? The pressure to figure everything out at once? Do we have to have all the answers? I believe that simplifying was a great thing in my life. Do less. Let things take time, allow for free time with nothing to do. Not feeling guilty over the hour I spent not being productive. Be more present, and . not so much in social media helped me too :)

    Cheers!

  2. I’m the most chilled person during daylight hours, dealing with my freelance business/being sole mortgage payer, managing time with my husband & 6 yr old with what feels like total ease. And then I lay my head down on the pillow and my brain starts screaming at me that I absolutely don’t have this juggling act nailed, that I’m going to crash my business, that I’m going to miss mortgage payments and/or tax payments – and before I know it I’m having palpitations and difficulty breathing. Ugh.
    I’ll take the advice of giving my anxiety a name to try to keep it in check – it’s going to be the biggest, baddest expletive, and I will not speak kindly to it…

  3. Nique says...

    I rearrange my furniture in my head (something I do in real life several times a year). It relaxes me, I usually quickly fall asleep, and I have inspiration for the next time I rearrange things.

  4. Amazed to hear about this trick since it is actually pretty proven to be effective. When my mind wanders like this I use anchors to hold on to so I don’t wander off too much into anxiety driven thoughts. I discovered interactive meditation that works as a great anchor because standard meditation and mindfulness just seems to strengthen my wandering; it’s not a very goo anchor. Mindfill is a good interactive meditation I’d strongly recommend to people like me. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mindfill/id1396126240

  5. Love this! I very recently started to have anxiety. I have never struggled with it before, so I wasn’t even sure what it was. I felt like I was overreacting and needed to just calm down. But my friend described it to me like this. “Anxiety is that feeling when you’re walking down the stairs and you miss a step. You’re pretty sure everything will be ok, but that moment of falling and uncertainty is anxiety.”

    It was such a relief to know that I wasn’t the only one who was feeling like that at times. I also like to idea you said about naming your anxiety and watching it walk out of the door. I strive off of visuals so that’s another helpful wording I’m planing on using the next time I feel like that! Thank you!

  6. This is an interesting take! For me, I’ve learned (and worked hard) to find my off-button. This came after the realization that worry (for the most part) is such a big waste . It eats up your time and your energy, and in the end, the likelihood of your worries being true is little to none.

    When I catch myself in a big wave of panic, this is what I say to me: “And if your worries do come true, what of it? Will it end the world? Will it end YOUR world? It may feel like that for a while, but you know you’ll bounce back.” Almost instantly, I find a little bit of confidence.

  7. MVS says...

    This just absolutely made me cry. I had a total meltdown last night after dinner and the aftershocks have been with me into the afternoon of the next day…so seeing this article feels like a gift. Thank you for sharing the advice of personifying the anxiety. I’m going to try this!

  8. The reader comment toward the end made me laugh because my daughter’s name is Eunice and she couldn’t be LESS anxious (she’s almost two, and snuggling her is the primary way I ward off anxiety).

  9. katie says...

    Yes, I love this and will so be using it from here on out. Also. I started a thing ages ago – as a kid, maybe? – where I like to have the happiest thought possible before bed to just switch gears in my brain and not go to bed too worried or sad. In my mid-30’s this morphed into watching some portion (if not all) of the Knightly/McFadden version of Pride & Prejudice. It’s a background wind-down that totally Zens me out.

  10. Margaret says...

    Love this – I’ve been more able to tell myself – it will be easier to know what to do in the morning. It’s so true.

  11. a dig says...

    4-7-8 breathing is everything to me! it stops a panic attack dead in its tracks. breath in through your nose for four seconds pulling the air into
    your belly (sometimes i even poof my tummy out and put my hands on to feel it expand), hold the breath for seven seconds (keep the tummy poofed out), breath out through your mouth drawing to air out while pulling your tummy in. do this for about 10 cycles. i downloaded the gym boss app and i set the time to go off on a loop for the counts so i can just close my eyes and listen for the beeps.

    i have always been an anxious person but three years ago i had a terrible panic attack (came to find out months later it was amped up by some medication i was taking) and i was in a car in traffic and i felt stuck, like i couldn’t breath and like i was dying. after that all i had to do was focus on my breathing and boom i’d spiral back into an attack (sweaty hands, tingly fingers and toes, pounding heartbeat, short breaths) it was awful. i went to therapy and somethings helped (mantras, meditating, medication etc) but the 4-7-8 technique just worked for my kind of attacks. it helps to keep your breathing in control which in turn keeps your heart from feeling like it’s going to beat out of your chest.

    anxiety has been horrible in so many ways but i’ve become a much more open, understanding and compassionate person bc of it.

  12. Guest says...

    I just want to say that you all have made me feel semi-normal and I greatly appreciate it. This morning I called my mom and told her I just had to get some of these things out of my head. When she was like, yeah, I do that, too, I laughed because then it didn’t seem ‘crazy’ or ‘scary’ but rather…annoyingly normal.

    Thank you all for sharing your tips. I’m going to take time later to read through all of them (could we get an option to make comments into a printable document? ha!). Thank you, Joanna, for being willing to be vulnerable and for starting the dialogue.

  13. Margaret says...

    Hi everyone – Thought I should quickly share my story in case it helps someone here. I had significant anxiety arise in my late 20s and struggled through much of my 30s. Lots of things helped a bit – therapy, yoga, getting a little cuddly dog. But long story short, I eventually learned that it was at least aggravated, if not entirely caused, by a thyroid condition. I’m under treatment for that now, and have been 100% free of anxiety disorder for years. Consider asking your doctor whether you should have your thyroid levels checked.

  14. Elaine says...

    A super useful (and research-based) trick for evening anxiety is scheduling worry time! You set aside 20-30 minutes daily (or a few times a week if you can’t swing the time) to sit somewhere and just let yourself worry about stuff. That way, when the worries come up later, you can practice telling yourself, “I don’t need to think about this now, I have time set aside to worry about it.” Just don’t do your worry time in your favorite chair — it’ll become associated with anxiety and become your least-favorite chair!

  15. elli siedner says...

    This excerpt from a book I love has carried me through a lot lately…
    “A strong emotion is like a storm. If you look at a tree in a storm, the top of the tree seems fragile, like it might break at any moment You are afraid the storm might up-root the tree. But if you turn your attention to the trunk of the tree, you realize that its roots are deeply anchored in the ground, and you see that the tree will be able to hold… You too are a tree.”
    Thich Nhat Han, You Are Here

  16. Marily says...

    I’ve been through a stressful time at work lately and had great difficulty sleeping through the night. When I wake up at 2 or 3 am, I listen to a great podcast called Sleep With Me. The host, has a very unusual voice and tells stories in a meandering, hard to follow way, with a fairly slow cadence. It takes my mind off my to-do list and puts me to sleep in minutes.

  17. Cassie says...

    Love this post. My counselor taught me a little mindfulness trick that I use when I’m trying to quiet all the anxious thoughts that flood my mind when I lay down to go to bed, try to take a nap or go back to sleep after nursing my baby in the night… In my head, I list 5 things I see, 4 things I hear, 3 things I feel, 2 things I smell and 1 thing I taste (usually toothpaste or morning breath, depending on time of day ha). Can’t wait to read through the comments for more tricks!

  18. Holly says...

    Ever since I became a mom, I’ve found it harder to settle my mind at night. When my first daughter was less than a year old, I realized I needed to get a handle on my anxiety. Do you know the song Frank Sinatra sings…”Late at night when I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep…” I started making it my nighttime ritual when the lights go out to walk through my day in my head, even the hard parts, and find what I was grateful for from each moment. It is so incredibly satisfying to fall asleep this way. Now I usually fall asleep before I get to dinnertime. :)

    xoxo

  19. lina says...

    These comments are such an amazing resource! I’m a regular sufferer of nighttime anxiety and I seem to be prone to catastrophizing when my head hits the pillow. I spin quickly from a head full of to-dos to a dark depressing place where everything in life is totally pointless. Cue misery and insomnia. Like many other commenters, I find that reading or listening to ASMR videos on youtube helps to distract me and if, nothing else, just recognizing the fact that I’m often catastrophizing helps. Invariably, I wake up the morning perfectly fine with a sense of renewed hope and anxiety at all.

  20. Emily says...

    I will always thank Liz Lemon for helping my marriage through a hard time. I was pregnant with our second while our son was a young toddler, my freelance work suddenly slowed down, and my husband’s job was on the rocks. Stress is not the word. At night, if one of us started to talk about anything involving a bank balance or resume, the other one would say, “Want to watch a 30 Rock?” Total avoidance, but it saved us. You have to give yourself a little breathing room at night, otherwise everything caves in. Discuss stressful things during the day. At night, hang out with Tina Fey.

  21. Chrissy says...

    My husband recently created a rule where we don’t talk about anything important after dinnertime. We both work full time, have a 3 year old and an 18 month old, have a few acres of unruly land, and have a dog that refuses to listen. Any conversations after that hour just led to arguments, hurt feelings, and weariness. I am the worst version of myself after a long day with all that going on. Any time a real conversation about something important starts to happen, one of us shuts it down real quick. It’s made a huge difference in not going to bed with anything on my mind and has kept our marriage a lot more harmonious.

  22. Adrienne Michelle says...

    When my worrying reaches disruptive levels, it helps me to write down a quick list of anything and everything that’s bothering me at that moment. I just let myself feel the worry and jot down whatever comes to mind – no matter how random. I often find a bulk of the list is just to-do items that I’m burning brain power trying to remember. Even larger concerns can usually be assigned a few action items – which helps me feel the control in need. Most of all, I try to follow some advice I once read here at COJ and have held as a mantra ever since: take gentle care of yourself.

  23. Christina says...

    One of the things I try to tell myself when I get anxious with different thoughts late at night is, “This is not a problem I can solve tonight.” It reminds me that nothing can be done about these thoughts between that night and the next morning and I can’t actually do anything about it. It kind of releases me from trying to come up with a solution late at night and it allows me to calm down.

  24. Giovanna Lima says...

    Headspace has a new sleep package! You should check it out!

  25. Jesse says...

    I recommend Sarah Wilson’s book, “First, We Make The Beast Beautiful.” She has anxiety, OCD, and is bi-polar and she’s learned how she needs to live in order to have an enjoyable life. For example, she has to take a shower before bed, and bedtime is no later than 10pm. She can drink one glass of red wine, no more. And, she quit eating sugar (and you can also read her book, I Quit Sugar). She makes a great distinction between the normal every day anxiety that most of us struggle with, and the more terrible debilitating destructive sort. For me it’s “the dark place,” where everything is wrong and horrible. She also speaks directly to loved ones of those with anxiety. It’s a great handbook, and a reminder that we can all (must!) make some simple choices and live by them, no matter what.

  26. Molly K says...

    My “what if” worrying is way more under control nowadays. I saw a counselor for just a few sessions. She trained me to tell myself that whatever I was worrying about, while it is a real thing that could happen, it isn’t happening right now. Right now I am safe (or healthy or whatever is helpful to remind myself). And then to use mindfulness techniques to really be in the moment instead of worrying about the future. Life changing. She recommended this book, which I also recommend wholeheartedly: https://www.amazon.com/Dialectical-Behavior-Therapy-Workbook-Anxiety/dp/1572249544/ref=mp_s_a_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1539311815&sr=8-2&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=the+dialectical+behavior+therapy+skills+workbook&dpPl=1&dpID=51TIN%2B6FDwL&ref=plSrch

    Thanks to everyone else sharing their strategies! I want to read through them all.

  27. Lorange says...

    The best thing I ever did for my anxiety was get medication. I resisted it for decades. It’s been life-changing.

  28. Anamaria says...

    Usually when anxiety strikes just as I’m getting into bed (or worse, when I randomly wake up during the night), it takes a few minutes for me to be able to get a hold of myself. Once I realize the anxiety needs to stop, I take a seriously big, deep breath, and exhale slowly but powerfully. As I’m exhaling, I imagine thoughts of clutter, worry, fear, etc. being blown away and out of reach. Then I can calm myself and fall back asleep.

  29. Andrea says...

    This may be somewhat controversial: but I once (and only once) did mushrooms and it brought on a terrible trip where I had one of the worst anxiety attacks ever. Going through that and ‘coming out’ of it okay somehow made my anxiety much better afterward. This piqued my interest: I found a bunch of articles from reputable sources confirming the link between mushrooms and the treating anxiety, PTSD, depression etc. Interesting how ‘fear based’ anxiety is, and when you face those fears, even unwillingly, they then step aside.

  30. Rue says...

    I’ve had a big problem with *morning* anxiety in the last month or so. I’ve got big life changes taking place, and it’s felt like I just can’t handle facing another day when I get up on busy days.

    This week I realized that I can at least take the edge off by (wait for it)… eating breakfast sooner after I get up. Such a simple thing, I know. But I actually think my brain was misinterpreting some of my hunger signals as anxiety/danger signals. Now I make sure I eat a real breakfast before I shower, and my world feels a little less out of control.

    I also heard an explanation yesterday during my Headspace meditation session that I found helpful: your anxiety feeds off your feelings, and if you can let your brain focus on something else, like sensory input, then you stop feeding the anxiety loop. I’ve already learned some techniques that help disrupt the loop by focusing on your five senses. Most of these techniques I learned in the course of my ongoing therapy for PTSD, but I suspect others would find them helpful too, even without the specific burdens that come with PTSD. (But also, small PSA: PTSD is a common diagnosis for people who have survived abuse. I honestly thought it was something that only happened to soldiers, until I was diagnosed a year ago.)

    One exercise I use a lot: find and name five things that are red, four things that are blue, until you get down to one thing that’s yellow. Doesn’t matter what colors you choose, just follow the 5 4 3 2 1 format. This redirects your brain to focus on visual input for long enough that it quiets whatever else is going on in there.

    Also, if you’re not yet following Mental Health League on insta, those folks are doing great work!

  31. I have this problem mostly when I’m pregnant and I noticed that reading fiction before bed helps, even if a little. I recently came across a study or something that says that reading fiction even only 6 minutes before bed has the biggest calming effect than anything else.

  32. Sarah says...

    When I can’t sleep it’s usually because I’m worrying about some negative interaction from my day (or year, or 20 years ago). A friend recommended a simple exercise that let’s me focus on positive things and I love it! Gets me out of the negative spiral. Go through the ABCs and think about something or someone that starts with each letter that you are grateful for. I do this so often that now I give myself themes for different nights. Like happy memories or places or things from childhood, etc.

    • Molly K says...

      Omg I am going to use this! Sometimes I get insomnia, during which I always start to dwell on negative things! I’ve wished so many times for some strategy to get out of that loop. I think your trick is the strategy I’ve been looking for!
      By the way, I do a gratitude journal where I write down three things I’m grateful for (I meant to start doing this nightly but I usually forget), and it’s so uplifting to read back. I’m sure I’m not the only one doing this, but figured I’d mention it anyway. This practice has been shown to help anxiety too.

    • Karen F. says...

      Fantastic idea!! I’m going to try that trick tonight.
      It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only person who has anxiety at bedtime.
      Karen F.

  33. I have OCD. It’s legit, not the funny, charming kind that people say they have when they must prepare a perfect apple tart. It’s really awful, and it happens only at night, just before bed. I start checking things. I’ve been on my hands-and-knees, looking under my bed, crying because I can’t get back up and just go to bed. I check and re-check. And re-check. What helps is that I say to myself: “Oh…that’s your brain playing tricks on you, Amy. That’s all that is. Now get up and get in bed.” It really works. I separate myself from the behavior, and in that way, I’m able to see it more logically rather than emotionally. Also, for anxiety, I write. You can’t believe the power of making a list, even of just words. If you feel anxious, if you’re struggling with an issue, sit down and write (by hand) a list of 10 words related to the problem. I promise: you’ll get a very clear idea of the back issues. #anxietyisreal

    • Jamie says...

      Thank you for sharing and describing the distinction between legit OCD and the phrase people throw around! The 10 words list is a very helpful idea.

    • Ashley P says...

      I FINALLY went to a therapist and yup OCD. I hate people posting lovely photos of their closet with #ocd. My mind gets me around this time too. I go into spirals thinking I shouldn’t be relaxing, I don’t deserve to relax, why haven’t I done this or this or this. It’s been helpful to name it and just say “Hey, remember that’s your ocd”.

    • I had chronic OCD as a teenager, my brain would tell me someone close to me would die if I didn’t do the routine over and over again – I had to do 8 sets of 8 things and if I did one wrong I had to start all over again. The irony was I had to do it in order to go to sleep but I couldn’t sleep after I’d finished cause of the stress and length of time it took. One night, I said no, I’m it doing it anymore. My head was screaming at me ‘your dad will die!!! your dad will die!!!’ it was such a horrendous experience but I refused and the next day, my dad was still alive. Something within me clicked that day and I can honestly say that while I still have the odd tap her and there it’s barely there. I hope you can continue to manage it and keep learning new techniques because it’s debilitating.

  34. Meredith says...

    I suffered with nighttime anxiety and resulting insomnia for a long time. I started listening to audiobooks on my phone when going to bed. When you are being read to, your brain just can’t focus on ALL. THE. THINGS. I would set the timer on my iphone for about 30 minutes, because I usually would have drifted off by then. After about a year, it seems to have broken the habit of concentrating on impending doom as soon as my head hits the pillow, and I can just go to sleep normally most nights. But I always have an audiobook on the ready just in case.

    • Alisha Pogue says...

      This! As a life-long anxiety and panic sufferer, audiobooks have been my salvation. I started with cassette tapes in high school and am loving the variety available online now. That and stretching or a quick yoga Youtube video helps my body relax before sleep.

  35. Anxious about anxiety says...

    I know anxiety is a real struggle. I know how important it is to be able to sleep in order to function and be happy. What I don’t know is how to be a good friend to people who DO suffer from anxiety.

    I don’t mean to be callous, but being a loved one to someone who is incapable of going a full day without having a melt down is really difficult, and draining. Two of my very best friends since childhood have developed anxiety that only gets worse and worse. I want to be supportive and loving and helpful, but being on the receiving end of constant complaining and fear…well, it’s no fun. I know life isn’t always a picnic, but it’s gotten to the point where being around them is rarely enjoyable because they can’t just “be” without overthinking everything and fearing the worst, even though the worst rarely happens, if ever. Every conversation feels like a therapy session that I have to mentally prepare myself for because I know it’s going to be draining to take on all of their pain. I find myself putting distance between us because I don’t know what else to say or do, and the negativity it brings into my life seems less and less worth the effort. I want to love them, I want to help, but more than anything, I want my fun-loving, happy, carefree friends with the “fuck it, we’re all going to be ok!” attitude back.

    So while I have a full audience of anxiety sufferers at my disposal (who might get very angry with me for asking, and if you are, I’m sorry, I really don’t mean to be disrespectful) can you please offer some advice on how your loved ones should handle this? Or is just being the constant listener and soother, like Jo’s dear husband Alex, the role we’re left to play…forever?

    • Pigeon says...

      Hi! Do you ever read the advice column Captain Awkward? I feel like she has a lot of good advice around stuff like this–to wit, it’s good to be there for your friends but you also need to care for your own mental health. There’s a tag, “boundaries,” and she offers some good scripts for saying hey-I-love-you-but-my-anxiety-card-is-full-let’s-talk-about-cats!

    • Anxiety adjacent says...

      I have nothing to offer here but I would love to know the same information. I have a couple of people in my life who are struggling right now and I would love to hear about some ways in which I might be a better friend while they are dealing with anxiety.

    • D says...

      Can you point your friends to a therapist? It’s admirable to care so much about your friends’ mental health, but if every moment with them feels like a therapy session, they probably need a therapist. And your mental health is just as important as theirs! :)

    • I’m really glad you posted this. I have anxiety, and I’ve done exactly what you describe to people in my life – hijacking the friendships with my obsessive thoughts, complaining and being negative. For me, I find this is a habit, and it’s one I have to be aware of and retrain myself in. I write when I feel really negative, which helps immensely in processing feelings. Talking doesn’t process feelings in the same way. FMRI scans show the difference between talking and writing in the parts of the brain. Anyway, I’m going off topic here. What helped me was when people stopped hanging out with me. It hurt, but I eventually realized that if I wanted healthy friendships, I couldn’t make it all about me, couldn’t drag other people down and couldn’t complain. I also stopped hanging out with people who did that to me. I decided that if I was going to become a more positive person, I had to hang out with people who reflected that attitude. It has helped a lot. The less I’m around catastrophizing, the less I do it myself. I think it’s okay if you pull back a little. Maintaining friendships doesn’t mean we have to be unhealthy. Also, with relationships I care a lot about, I talk to the person. I talked to someone recently about the fact that I just don’t have room for a ton of negativity right now, as I’m focusing on being more positive. It really helped. It made a noticeable difference in how we relate and communicate. I think it’s okay to be honest. Good luck.

    • Janna says...

      I dunno man… my anxiety is mine to deal with. It’s nice to have a sounding board but “constant complaining” sounds awful in any friendship. Your friends sound super self-centered and they shouldn’t be dumping everything on you in this way. Maybe you can suggest therapy to them and just let them know it’s too much for you to take on.

      P.S. you can have anxiety without a “melt down” every day. For me it’s just an annoying background noise – semi-constant worrying about stuff I know logically is fine. It’s more like “ugh, I wish I could stop fretting that my car’s going to get broken into.” I’m not sobbing and refusing to walk away from the parking lot, or talking about it constantly during dinner.

    • Alisha says...

      This is a tough one. On one hand, I find it pretty selfish of your friends to unload on you every time you are together. I’m not saying this lightly. I’ve suffered from panic disorder and anxiety my whole life and you really need to be able to self-assess and not demand so much from your friends and family. Ultimately, it’s my (and their) problem to deal with. On the other hand, they clearly value your friendship and feel comfortable sharing very private feelings with you. I have a deal with one of my best friends that we are allowed a full vent when issues arise, but no more than 3 repeat performances. If you aren’t willing to seek help and do the work of trying to manage your issues, you certainly can’t expect your friends to do it for you. Instead of nodding and trying to figure it out with them, I’d strongly suggest counseling, self-help books and support groups. Might sound like tough love, but anxiety can take over your life very quickly if you allow it room to fester. My first therapist put it like this: you’d immediately go to the doctor for a broken arm, right? If you can’t leave the house or sleep without a full-blown panic attack, you’re in broken arm territory. Best of luck!

  36. Rosa says...

    I use two tricks:
    Worry time: designate a time of day and give yourself 20 minutes to worry, jornal or talk about it. Have a notebook and when a tought comes write the noun and say you will think about it at worry time.
    Mantras: i find that it is hard to ignore thoughts or to blank them but your mind cannot think 2 things at the same time. Find mantras that work for you and then repeat them to replace the negative thoughts “I am safe” “there is only now” “I am enough” whatever helps you.. repeat with intention so that your other thoughts get quiet.

  37. Maggie says...

    My therapist had me schedule a time to worry – it could be once a week or every day depending on how anxious you are and how much is going on. For someone like me who has always worried, it seems impossible to just push the thoughts away permanently – but feels more possible to push them away temporarily so they’re not interfering with sleep/work/family time/fun. So if your worries come at bedtime, maybe schedule a 4pm worry, and list everything that’s on your mind on a piece of paper. Then move some things onto your to do list, some things look just silly written down, and some are a big deal but are out of your control. Then if the thoughts start coming at 11pm, think – I’ll worry about this at 4pm tomorrow. It’s not perfect, but it helps.

  38. Tshego says...

    After my breakup from a narcissist I discovered that sunset was the most emotionally dangerous time for me to think about the whole ordeal. It would always go down hill from there and I’d end up not sleeping at all. Since then I’ve made a decision to let things go when I start dinner prep.

  39. Kate says...

    As a Christian, I used to feel ashamed of my anxiety. Church friends would tell me I needed to lean in more, and let God take control. Which is a great theory, until you actually suffer with anxiety on any scale. I have found that falling asleep holding my husband’s hand helps me feel loved and comforted. I also read lighthearted fiction before bed, it takes my mind away from the realities of my life into a happier world. My favourite is a book called Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. Her books are comfortingly far away from the reality of modern life.

    • Kate – I was raised in the Mormon church and felt this way in a suffocating way; I felt like my anxiety was almost like a sin in not appreciating God’s will and the abundance around me. Also, I never read anything heavy before bed. I read certain books at certain times for this very reason. I’ll have to try some Pilcher. I read ‘The Road’ this year, and I could only read it very early in the day. :)

  40. Madeleine says...

    Hi all – I used to suffer from debilitating panic attacks (and regular ol’ run-of-the-mill anxiety). The attacks could hit at any time, including walking down the street. Hyperventilating, sobbing, shaking, you name it…right there on the sidewalk. It was awful. One time I felt an attack approaching and I called my sister. As I unravelled, she started to sing the black gospels that our dad used to play on vinyl. I tried to sing with her and little by little, I could make out a word here or there and then, eventually, I was singing the entire song with her. I continue to sing these gospels when life is hard. It is helpful because 1) you know that if you are singing, you are breathing, and that is something someone experiencing a panic attack needs to know and 2) it gives me perspective on my issues as many of these songs were written by slaves, whose lives were beyond horrific and yet they were singing about hope and love. Powerful stuff. A note to supporters: If you choose to support someone in the same way my sister did, know that by her singing I did not interpret that to mean she was dismissing my situation (she knew it intimately) but rather, I figured that if she was singing, she must not be scared for me and so then I didn’t have to be scared for me. And that was comforting. I would highly recommend The Malcolm Dodds Singers “The Beat and Soul of the Gospel” album to everyone who might find comfort in these beautiful gospels (I’m not religious; I really think it will move anyone from any path). Take good care.

  41. Rebecca | Seven2Seven8 says...

    I visualize. I get into something closely resembling shavasana, calm my muscles from head to toes, then imagine a border collie in a sheepdog trial where the sheep represent the things I’m worried about or imagine them as blocks or something tangible I can pack into a box. I calmly name and collect every concern and tell myself they will stay, safely, in the box/pen until morning, when I can deal with them. It works surprisingly well.

  42. Amy says...

    Check out Martha Beck. Her books, columns in o (Oprah) magazine, newsletters. Also magnesium and no screens before bed.

  43. Lisa G says...

    This is such a relatable issue for many dealing with nighttime anxiety and excessive worrying. I have been scanning through the comments and tips have been really helpful. Here are some strategies that helped for me.

    1. Journaling- Writing your worries/fears/doubts can help relieve stress and work through those anxious thoughts.
    2. “Worry Jar”- this idea I know is helpful for some children with anxiety but it can be beneficial for adults too. Write down your worries and fears onto slips of paper and then put them into a “worry” jar or container. Then come back to them after awhile (few days,a week or month etc) then you’ll see many of your worries/fears have passed and didn’t amount to anything and you’re still standing. Then throw those worries away and repeat as necessary with new worries. It’s therapeutic to write and release those stressful feelings on your heart and mind.
    3. Lavender oil/spray- Especially at night this has helped get my mind in a more relaxed and calm state and keeps anxious thoughts at bay. I use a lavender spray on my pillow and Lush’s “Sleepy Lotion” has been a staple to help me fall back asleep. When I do get the middle of the night panicked thoughts, I usually apply some of the “Sleep Lotion” on my neck/pulse points and the soothing lavender scent is so soothing it lulls me back to sleep.

  44. Tara says...

    I say to myself, if this same “problem” bothers you at 10:00 in the morning it really is a problem and I push it to delay. Then when I think about it the next day it usually seems to shrink in the light of day and ten a.m. sensibility!

  45. Ali says...

    I’ve recently started listening to bedtime stories on the Calm app (just the free ones for now haha). They put me to sleep so fast that I’ve never heard the end of the story! Having something else to focus on & listen to has really helped to stop my night time anxiety.

    • Samantha McCann says...

      Same! I was just about to comment and recommend the calm app. It is incredibly soothing — basically a bedtime story for adults.

  46. Molie says...

    I highly suggest Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anyone with severe anxiety. Anxiety is always looking for loopholes, so when we try to reassure ourselves, “Everything is okay. I’m a good (mom/wife/friend). My (kids/finances/health) is/are okay,” our anxiety finds loopholes to those arguments to convince us, “NO! Things are not okay.” So you need to expose yourself to those scary thoughts so they become more scary. Index card exposures are surprisingly effective. Write an index card, or a note on your phone, with one of your fears. For me as a teacher, one example is, “Students don’t like being in my class.” This probably isn’t true! But by exposing myself to that “scary” thought, once on the hour every hour, in about a week it no longer makes me anxious. My mind is like, “Oh wait! She isn’t worried about this! It’s not alarming.” So the thoughts come and go but they don’t bother you. As others have said, we first need to welcome our anxiety like a passenger in our car that may annoy us, but that we can’t kick out. I love the Eunice idea (haha). By saying, “Hey Anxiety! You’re welcome here” but not jumping on the train with it, it loses power over ourselves.

    Tl;dr- find a good CBD therapist. Dr. Sahar Hussain in NYC is AMAZING if you’re looking for someone :).

  47. t says...

    my anxiety driven insomnia was greatly helped by The Power of Now. There isn’t anything exceptional about the book for me but for some reason the lesson on being present while trying to fall asleep really helped. I now force myself not to think about the future or the past and just feel the now. I feel myself sinking into my pillow; i hear my spouse breathing; i hear the wind outside; i feel my heart beating. When my mind starts to wander I consciously bring it back.

    And if none of that works I eat some marijuana edibles (it’s legal where I am so I can write that I think).

    • Lisa says...

      Eckhart Tolle! Yes I’ve read “A New Earth” and that started me on my mindfulness journey. I also try to bring the mind back to the present by not jumping in the future or reliving the past. Just focusing on the “Now” and the presence of my body, my breath, or the feel of the blanket etc. can help me get out of the cycle of anxious thoughts/feelings.

  48. Andrea says...

    What wonderful comments and suggestions and nothing is silly whatsoever, it’s all in finding what works. I suffer from horrible anxiety and my husband is so sweet! I literally go to sleep with Grace and Frankie playing on my phone. Every. Night! And most of the time it’s the exact same episode. Every. Night! My husband knows what a great source of comfort it is to me and says hey, if it works that’s all that matters.

  49. Amy says...

    I don’t deal with anxiety on a regular basis, but I do follow this rule. On the nights I feel myself starting to stress as I’m trying to sleep I focus on relaxing for sleep and tackling problems in the daylight. I also used to stress about not getting enough sleep – if I was awake after 11, I’d start to freak out. Now as a mom of 2, I remind myself that I’ve survived on very little sleep before, and promise myself a nice breakfast and coffee in the morning, no matter what happens with my sleep. It helps!

  50. kay banks says...

    as a fellow insomniac and anxiety sufferer, I would say this: I like the idea but the as I’ve read in mindfulness and compassion therapy books, ‘that what we resist persists’. (I of course only mean when it comes to emotions, not to politics or social change!!). In other words the more we fight or try to ignore it, especially at 4:00 a.m, the more our cortisol rises keeping the anxiety and sleeplessness going. So while I like the idea and get the concept I have been hearing the thing to do is simply label your emotions as they show up and ‘allow or accept’ them. There is a Rumi poem that indicates we are a guest house where all types of emotions come and go and we welcome all of them to come through ( but hopefully not stay too long :)) So it goes like this, “oh hi sadness, I accept that I feel sad right now.” :oh, there are you fear – welcome, I accept that I feel fearful”. The key is to not attach the narrative that we are prone to doing and just welcome it, label it and then notice what’s around you in the present moment- the feel of the sheets, the stillness or breathing sounds in the room, or the chirping of birds outside, whatever brings you back to the present. It takes a lot of practice but eventually it seems to help and teaches us to notice with compassion and then move on….

    • Megan says...

      Yes to this! Acknowledging and trying to accept the feeling also helps me think of it as something I am experiencing, that is moving temporarily through me but it is not the essence of who I am.

    • Nicole says...

      I can relate. Having a mindfulness practice is great. When anxiety pops up at bedtime, it’s easier to react to it mindfully with acceptance. Plus, if my hubby is in the bed with me, I focus on the sensation of our bodies touching wherever we come into contact. It reminds me that I have him here to love and protect me and I feel reassured.

  51. Nade says...

    Meditation is the only one thing that really worked for me.
    I’m using Headspace app and there is beautiful advice to pay attention to your natural exhale when you are overwhelmed with a strong feeling.

  52. Dana says...

    It’s silly, but I’ve been falling asleep to the Harry Potter books since I was a little girl, listening to my father read the books aloud to me and my brother. I listen to the audio books now, but there’s something about falling into a familiar story that feels really soothing on my anxious heart, and I tend to think the empathy and compassion expressed by the characters helps me remember there is good in the world.

    My favorite chapter to skip to on particularly stressful evenings is chapter 37: The Lost Prophecy, so I can listen to Dumbledore tell Harry the real story of his life – about how the love and protection his mother and Dumbledore have provided him has shaped him in ways he never before realized.

    I highly recommend it to all who struggle with sleep and anxious dreams :) (Specifically the Jim Dale version)

    • Kate says...

      I too can recommend the Harry Potter books at bedtime – have done this on and off for years and they are so comforting. Agree re the Jim Dale version too – I like Stephen Fry but there’s something about Jim Dale’s voice and delivery that’s very calming. Loved this comment Dana : )

    • I says...

      I do this too, been doing it for years, except I love love love the Stephen Fry version. Its gotten to the point where I cannot watch TV shows if he’s talking in them anymore. I get sleepy. Haha, I think I somehow trained my brain to think its night time whenever I hear his voice. But the Harry Potter story really is a good way to soothe an anxious brain before bedtime, and also – the story is so great.

      (This isn´t really a tip for sleep, but possibly anxiety release (because you will be laughing. A lot and likely in public, I have laughed loudly on the tram several times..) Listen to Binge Mode Harry Potter, a podcast where two diehard fans discuss everrrrrry aspect of the Harry Potter books. It truly is amazing!!)

  53. Jennifer says...

    I so relate to this post, and to so very many of the comments. Thank you all for the excellent tips.
    My version is not while trying to fall asleep, but falling into dead sleep at 11 only to wake up up in a cold sweat at 2 or 3am. During particularly bad periods, I have laid in that state for a good 3-4hours, generally until about 20 minutes before my alarm (of course). After running myself mentally ragged like this for a while, it was almost as though some corner of my brain decided this had outlived its purpose (whatever the purpose was…) and I was able to see very clearly that in order to solve the issues before me, I above all needed to be well-rested. Along the lines of “no big life decisions after dinner,” I developed a 3am mantra: “If you just let yourself fall back to sleep, you will see it all more clearly with the dawn.”

  54. Leslie Sitzman says...

    I say “you can’t be grateful and anxious at the same time” I think about all of the young mothers who are out there wishing they could be in my shoes, healthy, happily married, healthy kids, steady jobs, comfortable home…. and suddenly the oh shit where’s this money going to come from? Or that friend was such a b to me! Or my boss is such a f&@$ing masogynist! -Rhetoric is quieted at least for awhile, usually replaced with sadness; but after a quick cry for the mothers struggling out there I can find some peace and rest.

  55. There’s this therapeutic technique called Internal Family Systems. In the most basic form you think of all the different parts of you as one big family in your head. Whatever part of you is most active at any given moment is “in the living room” of your mind. Once you identify the part, you can ask yourself “what does this part need?” and ask another part of yourself to step into the living room for help. (Eg. – more anxious parts may need a “protective part” or a “care-giving part” to help it feel safe and soothed).

    I think it’s such an interesting way to think about ourselves!

  56. Katie says...

    My husband and I refer to our anxiety as our “brain hamsters.” It’s comforting to think of a little guy running on his wheel, but eventually he’s going to need to take a break and sip from his suspended water bottle.

  57. I find that when I try to ignore them, the worries and fears just come knocking harder. Instead I try to feel where in my body I feel the effect of the anxiety (very often my throat and I’ll notice I’m not breathing easily) and when I find that I kind of talk to it “Hey thanks for being here, I know you think there’s a tiger about to attack me and my life in under threat but there actually isn’t and these thoughts are not serving me. I appreciate you trying to take care of me, please do feel free to come back when there actually is a tiger or a shark”. Honestly its the hardest thing to catch yourself in the middel of it but once I started recognizing the pattern I got sucked into I could start going over this piece of text that I have memorized. This in combination with focussing on my body and breath is sometimes enough to pull me out a bit, sometimes I can even laugh at myself the moment I go “please do come back”. But there is a part of me that apparently needs to be heard and needs compassion, so I am learning that I can hear it but choose not to go along with it.

  58. Ashley S says...

    It felt like something miraculous happened when my husband and I made a “no talking about anything serious after 8pm rule” years ago. It made us realize how many of our stresses and arguments were purely a result of the time of day, and had nothing to do with the subject at hand or how we really felt about each other. A long tearful conversation at 10pm would transform into a quick easy chat when had at 10am. Over the years, the rule has gotten earlier as we get older (6pm is more like it now!) but it’s been our little secret to a happy marriage and life! It makes me reflect on my childhood and how many fights could have been avoided with my mom if we knew the rule…

  59. I love Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and the idea that you first figure out what’s important to you and then step forward toward your values, even if anxiety or unwanted emotions decide to come along for the ride. The most dangerous part about anxiety is avoidance and missing out on what makes you come alive. And, it’s so easy to want to put those things on hold until we’ve figured out how to manage or control our anxiety. That day never seems to come. So, may as well get out there & live a big life just as you are right now. (easier said than done, right?)

    That was my comment in the post about naming my anxiety Eunice! So fun to see!

    I have a blog about anxiety called “The Adventures of Anxiety Girl” at http://www.theanxietygirl.net Check it out if you like and there a bunch of resources on the top menu – both websites & books & how to find help. I only write a few times a month, but I’m pretty passionate about sharing resource info!

    A post like this and the following comments makes you realize how many of us are working with anxiety every day. I’m glad to see it talked about where people can say – I get it & that sounds like me, too! Thanks!

  60. Claire says...

    Anxiety can be so paralyzing, especially at night. Your brain wants you to do something to solve all the problems with the kids or work but your body won’t let you. I have found mine to be triggered by certain things. I had a rough go early this summer when two family members were struggling with mental illness and it was effecting my home life. It seemed like my helplessness and anxiety about what was going on was trapped in my body with no outlet. Eventually rational thought overcame for me but I know it doesn’t for everyone. It’s so important to get help when it becomes too much and to talk about it. Find your village and rely on them.

  61. maïa says...

    I’m in awe with all the tricks you guys share here. Thank you very much Jo and this reader’s (and writers’!) community!!!
    Also, I would like to say to all people feeling alone with their anxiety that it is a normal and useful feeling!
    If we manage to welcome it (one of the best way to do it is to focus on the feelings in the body: Is it cold or hot, in the tummy ? In the chest ? Is it itching, tingling…?) its a good start (of course its not always a good moment to do that, sometimes distraction is a better option).
    Every emotion is useful as it informs us on our needs (you can find lists of needs on the web. It can be really useful) and then we can plan actions to answer to these needs. We can also ask ourselves if we feel in harmony with our values on an everyday life and what we can do to get closer to that feeling ?
    Also I’m French and I often think about the 2nd world war when I’m feeling very alone with my worries : Some members of the resistance hid in psychiatric hospitals. And they realised that they were a lot more sane than the word around them going into craziness and hate. I think it’s “healthy” to feel anxious and depressed right now with the world we have. But we can learn to get more confortable with these unconfortable feelings, and take care of ourselves to not get too affected from it, and draw from it to voice, protest and voice for changes!

  62. K says...

    I (think) I understand what this post was trying to get at and I appreciate the effort but to me it just read as a very flip way to address a very serious issue. So many people struggle with (myself included!) anxiety disorders. All I could think about while reading this was ‘if only it were that easy to just ‘not think about’ away my anxiety disorder’. I wish some kind of disclaimer that if you were suffering from severe anxiety please try to reach out and see a professional had been included. Sometimes ‘don’t think about it’ is not helpful or safe.

    • jr says...

      i think there’s a difference between an anxiety disorder and simply feeling anxious about politics, your to-do list, a dentist appointment, a big presentation or meeting, etc. this post is directed towards the latter. no one is suggesting you can tell a disorder to just “go away”.

  63. Kali says...

    Fellow sufferer here. After years of troubleshooting, what works for me is to tell myself, “See you how feel about it in the morning.” That’s it. Seems overly simple but sometimes simple is key. As an extra bonus, it’s also what works best with my 7-year old’s nighttime worries. It doesn’t dismiss them but it doesn’t give them more weight then they deserve either. It simply says, let’s readdress this at a time when we’re more equipped to channel some perspective.

  64. I’ve found a way to deal with my anxiety with these two steps and since then falling asleep became so much easier:
    Step 1 is naming 5 good things that happened that day. Sometimes it’s very hard, other times I easily get to 10 good things. It can vary from ‘that new recipe worked out really well’ or ‘the weather was good’ to ‘I’ve won the lottery’. Although that last thing is still to happen.
    Step 2 is a quote I once read on Pinterest: ‘Give it to God and go to sleep.’ I am not religious, but this simple sentence has helped me a great deal. I just list things in my head I’m worried about and ask for strength or guidance to guide me through. I also ask every night to keep my loved ones save. I have no idea to whom I’m talking but that doesn’t matter at all. For me it’s about addressing the issue, realizing there is not much I can do about it while lying in bed and ‘giving’ my worries away so I can sleep in peace.

    And if all the above doesn’t help, I imagine how I would decorate or remodel my friend’s or family’s houses if I were to live in them.

    • Lisa G says...

      I also use “‘Give it to God and go to sleep.” It’s a powerful and affirming statement. Another quote I like from Rumi is “Put your thoughts to sleep, do not let them cast a shadow over the moon of your heart. Let go of thinking”

    • Kate says...

      My husband started the same thing with me early in our marriage (less than six months ago) when I was dealing with some anxiety. We now name 3 good things each about our day before we go to sleep and it’s a lovely way to share the little moments of our day and reflect on the fact that there’s always something positive that’s happened, in amongst all the other stresses you may be dealing with.

  65. L says...

    I love and smile at the idea of giving our anxieties a name! Such a good way to detach from them and observe them rather than live them. It is a lot like the premise of “The Untethered Soul” by Michael Singer, which I’ve been reading at bedtime – though suuuuper slowly – for this exact reason.

    • Lisa G says...

      I am also slowly chipping away at a “The Untethered Soul” by Michael Singer. I have to read it short installments because the information is so profound and meaningful that I often have to reread passages for deeper understanding.

  66. Abbe says...

    These are all great! A technique that I’ve used since I was a kid that always helps distract my brain from nighttime worries (thought I still get into those spirals from time to time) is imagining stories. As a kid I would imagine characters from books, or make up characters on my own, and come up with adventures for them — in my teens a lot of these “characters” looked suspiciously like a (much more glamorous) me and whoever I had a crush on at the time, haha. It sounds like a lot, but a lot of the time I would base the stories off books I was reading, and I’d usually repeat plots over and over. I’d get distracted on imaging the character’s outfit, or what the world looked like, etc. It generally works and nowadays it’s the only time I get to indulge my imaginative side!

  67. Marie says...

    My nightly mantra is: “There is nothing to do.” I meditate for at least 4 minutes (the NYT Well Guide has a fantastic meditation guide with 1- minute, 4-minute, and 10-minute guided meditations) and end with that mantra and a deep, cleansing breath. It gets my brain to stop planning and worrying and just…. relax. I swear I’ve been falling asleep quicker and sleeping deeper since I started this.

  68. Sarah says...

    I meant to comment yesterday. When the babies were born, the best advice I received is to take it easy during the nights. Whatever problem we faced overnight (baby wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t sleep, was sick, etc.) would seem so much more simple in the daylight. Nights are like a breeding ground for panicky thoughts.

    • Kate says...

      Totally agree Sarah! The nighttime with young babies is a terrifying time because you’re awake and the whole world is asleep and every problem seems huge. I had to put my phone on airplane mode so I wouldn’t get sucked into the online vortex of anxiety-inducing parenting articles and news which would make the cycle even worse.

    • Cait says...

      Yes, yes absolutely! Being awake with a fussy baby (or even just a nursing one) can make everything seem ultimate. It’s helped so much with my later children to be able to put it in perspective and know not to take anything too seriously, especially about my mothering or the baby’s health. The same can be said for the first trimester of pregnancy for me….I see it as a black hole that eventually I will come out of!

  69. Kimberly says...

    My teenagers told me about ASMR sound recordings that are meant to calm the mind. (Sounds are recorded using two microphones, which makes the sound more 3D like.) The sound of rain and distant thunderstorms are comforting and relaxing for me. I found the perfect one that has helped me fall asleep for the past two months: https://castbox.fm/episode/The-Thunderstorm-(Binaural-Recording)-id356618-id90737921?country=us
    I listen to it with my earphones. I had to play around with how loud or soft I found beneficial for me, but now I look forward to sleeping at night! The distant thunderstorms are very occasional, and I do experience the slightest “tingle” of the ASMR sounds, which relaxes me. If I ever wake up in the middle of the night, instead of racking my brain with the endless loop of worry, I just replay the recording, and I fall asleep in less than 5 minutes again! I focus on the sounds and imagine rain sweetly pattering outside.

    • Erica Nicksin says...

      I was going to suggest this too, it’s the only thing that can make me fall asleep so quickly and somehow makes me try so hard NOT to fall asleep while I’m listening. When I don’t think I will have trouble falling asleep and I am just laying there, wide awake THINKING as always, I either picture myself laying in bed at my grandmas house which is the best place on earth, or I do this weird “brain net” thing I made up as a kid. I visualize all the things going through my head flying outward. There’s a large imaginary net above me that catches everything I don’t need to think about and only lets in the nice things on their way back toward my mind. (It also discards useless things, and saves important things for tomorrow.) hard to describe, but it works!

  70. Leah says...

    I have designated my bed as a no-worry zone; if I start to worry, I say to myself, “Hey, you’re not allowed to do this here! If you want to worry, you’ll have to get up and do it someplace else!” It usually works because I am so reluctant to leave my cosy bed in the night.

  71. j says...

    just saw on facebook …
    “I don’t “fall asleep” – I overthink myself into a coma.”

  72. Gabriella Doob says...

    My mom always says, “The morning is wiser than the evening.” :-)

  73. g says...

    Audiobooks. I listen to an audiobook on very low volume and set the sleep timer to turn the book off in 30-45 minutes. Works like a charm. And if I wake up in the middle of the night I listen to a little more, again on low volume. Something with a slightly droning plummy British accent works very well, as do books I have heard before… focusing on the story is just enough to drown out the running chatter of to-do lists in my head (also the unpleasant contemplation of my mortality at 3 am). And I think it probably taps into some latent comfort system coded into my brain from when my parents used to read me to sleep at night as a child…
    Many libraries have audiobooks for free rental online, and some have thousands of titles available.

    • Anna says...

      This is my tactic too. BBC radio adaptations of Poirot and Marple soothe me off to sleep. I’ve to listen 100 times to actually find out whodunnit, but very much worth it for a peaceful send off to nod!

  74. Lili says...

    Nights can be the worst! Especially once all the lights are out, but for me my anxiety really shows out before a trip (Pre-Trip Anxiety, PTA). I was recently talking to my therapist before going to visit my mom’s side of the family in Quebec. These trips, while sometimes magical, can often leave me feeling anxious and weird and definitely not myself. My therapist reminded me, in his wise, calm tone, to ‘accept the good and the bad’. Even though it’s pretty simple advice, it really rang true to me and helped me to realize that even though we often want things to be perfect (a trip, job, family, relationship, etc.) that there is good and bad in everything and we have to learn to accept both, within reason of course. The trip was super fun and stress free as a result. Thumbs up to feeling well-rounded!

  75. Julia says...

    I always make sure to list out things that are making me anxious or clouding my brain in a journal or piece of paper during the day. Through therapy I can feel when worries are starting to pile up and fog my mind, so I take the time to actually write everything out before bedtime. Sometimes it’s a list and sometimes it’s a free-write journal entry, but I’m always amazed at how effective it is at quieting the late night worries. It’s important to get anxious thoughts out into the world, so that they don’t seem all-encompassing.

    • Nadege says...

      Mine is similar. When I am middle of the night half awake rolladexing through my anxieties and undone to-do items I calm myself by saying “I am going to put this on a list tomorrow at 10am” for some reason, it cues my brain to remember a few things: 1. lists calm me down 2. i can’t do ANYTHING about this at 2am 3. I am a calmer more capable person at 10am, I’m going to pass this off to “10amMe”.

  76. I like to read before bed. But I find it so exhilarating, lately I’ve been staying up too late! So in favor of better, longer sleep, I’ve been skipping the book and turning out the light immediately. And sure enough the worrying creeps in. I learned this trick from Leslie at Cupcakes and Cashmere: To calm my brain, I think of a place (the grocery store, my apartment) and I go down the alphabet and pick an item that be found in that place starting with A, B, C, etc. I have yet to get past H. It’s just challenging enough that it’s the only thing I can process, but it’s not so challenging that the excitement keeps me up late. Can’t recommend it enough!

  77. My husband and I find the best way to silence relentless worrying (or scaring!) voice at bedtime is to listen to a medium-boring podcast at a low volume. When we allow our minds to become distracted from the escalating inner freak-out, often we fall asleep in minutes. We’re always comparing notes-
    “Did you listen to the most recent episode of Splendid Table?”
    “…Maybe?”

  78. Sarah says...

    Thank you for sharing!
    I shared the article with some of my college-age students who are starting to learn how to cope with anxiety and believe it or not, bedtime is a real challenge for many of my students and colleagues.
    Cant wait to try it myself as well.
    Merci!

  79. Kathleen says...

    A helpful trick that works wonders for my very visual brain, is to imagine a large black chalkboard. On the chalkboard are chaotic scribblings of your frantic thoughts, to do lists, and social anxiousness. Walk over to that board, and with a (slightly damp, because we all know those are the best) chalkboard eraser ERASE everything. By the end it’s a gorgeous blank, black chalkboard. And girl, walk away. Your work here is done :)

    • Julia Schachnik says...

      I do this too! But I actually now imagine a whiteboard since once in an anxious state I started to imagine the sound of nails on a chalkboard and quickly switched to whiteboard :)

      I also sometimes imagine all of my anxious thoughts filling up a bubble, and then watching it burst once it’s full. It’s relaxing to envision my worries vanishing into little droplets.

  80. Rachel says...

    One of my things is not to open mail after close of the business day. One late evening I opened a statement that had a fraudulent cell phone purchase and I went into a tailspin trying to get something corrected I could not have any impact on until the next day!

  81. Marlena says...

    There are so many amazing tips here in the comments! Cheers to all of us doing what it takes to keep standing up while feeling the wounds of the world right now.

    I like to look around myself when I start getting panicky to take note of where I am in that moment. “Oh, look Marlena. You’re breathing in right now. And your hands are under the pillow. And look again, here you are breathing out. And you have an itch on your elbow. And the fan is making a whirring sound. And your cheek is on the pillow. And you’re breathing in again. And……” etc etc etc. It sounds so ridiculous writing that out but to mentally ground myself firmly in where I am has such an immediate affect on my heart rate and breathing and helps tremendously when I start feeling like I’m slipping into that panicky place.

  82. Jessica says...

    I also get a case of the bedtime or, even worse, middle of the night worries. Something that’s been helping me a lot is that right as I turn off the light (or even a bit before) I begin a list in my head of “all the things I appreciated today”: wearing my favorite pajamas, reading a chapter from a really good book, a funny episode of “The Good Place,” a co-worker who lent me a hand, the utter quiet while sipping an extra hot cup of tea that morning. That way, my focus is on all the good parts of my day as it comes to an end–and even the worst day has some good in it, even if it’s just, “thank goodness that is over!” It’s been teaching me so much gratitude for all the simple, good things I have in my life, and reminds me that everyday gives us something to worry about, but also something to enjoy.

  83. Rebecca says...

    My sister went to an aniexty doctor recently who had a simple reminder I often say to myself now. ‘Breathe.’ When he first told her that she replied ‘I am breathing!’ And he said ‘No your not. Actually feel your lungs fill and let the air flow out.’ He made her realize how often she tenses up with worry and forgets to breathe. It’s so simple yet useful. When I find myself drowning in worry I stop and focus on simply breathing. It brings a lovely sense of calm. Even if the calm lasts only a moment, I’ll take it!

  84. Meg says...

    Similar to naming my anxiety, I’ve starting acknowledging mine as if it a separate being. It sounds kind of crazy, but its made a huge difference being able to say, “hey, I see you there and that’s okay.” It’s usually followed by a few deep breathes, and a look around for something beautiful nearby. My husband has always been really good at this with me, and it is one of the things I am most thankful for about him. When I voice all the crazy thoughts in my head that I both worry are totally insane and totally possible, he always responds with “Okay.” It’s amazing how therapeutic it is to have some accept your anxiety, and I’m trying to do that for myself, too.
    Another thing that has helped when I wake up stressed in the middle of the night is to, again, accept that those things are stressing me, then tell myself that it’s okay that I’m worried, but I’ll dig into them more tomorrow at lunch, or when I call my mom. It doesn’t always work perfectly, but it helps. Much love and peace to you. xx

  85. Sara M. says...

    An always advice: don´t think about lists if you´re trying to get asleep; so, what are you thinking about? Yes! Lists! So, a few years ago, I decided that my mind can think about everything when it wants. I´ll just allow those thoughts come to my mind, and just I realized the are not welcomed, say them bye. But I don´t force my mind to avoid them. You know, “don´t think about a pink elephant…”.

  86. Ashley says...

    Thank you for sharing this! I didn’t realize this was a thing and I thought it was just me. I’ve learned from reading a book on Aruveydic lifestyles that we have an internal body clock where our bodies like to do things at certain times of the day. 6-10am is where we should be doing physical tasks like working out or cleaning the house. 10-2pm is where we naturally want to get our most challenging tasks done. 2-6pm is where we feel most creative and is a good time to study, read, or be creative. 6-10p is where we should be relaxing. Anxiety was passed down from my mom to myself and my siblings. We all struggle to sleep through the night because we have so many thoughts going on. I work really hard to plan my day so that I’m not doing anything after 6pm so that I can start relaxing and slowing my brain down after working with 100 eighth graders every day. I also plan and journal at night which is part of my winding down routine. In addition, I try to devote 20-30 minutes at night for a bath. I only watch TV shows that I planned on watching so there’s no mindless flipping channels. If I don’t have a show to watch, I try to read to make me sleepy. It allows me to plan all those worries I have so I have an action plan for the next day. Investing in a good planner has also helped me manage anxiety and blocking in tasks according to my body clock has also really helped me manage. I’m proud to say I manage my anxiety by my own “behavioral therapy” and I use medical marijuana. No more prescriptions for me!

  87. E says...

    This is a great tip, Jo! I actually have a reminder set on my phone for 8pm that simply says: “Simmer down”… its my daily reminder to let go of starting up stressful or difficult conversations, turn off screens, turn lights down and light candles, get into PJs, etc.

    Another thing I wanted to suggest to people waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble going back to sleep– blood sugar balance can play a huge role in mood and sleep patterns. If you find yourself consistently waking around 2 or 3am, try eating a little more protein at your evening meal or an easy-to-digest protein snack before bed. Half a baked apple with cinnamon before bed also provides a slow, steady burn through the night to keep your blood sugar balanced and help you sleep. Maybe worth a try?

    Another thing I’d love to share… I had debilitating anxiety, depression, and insomnia throughout my teens and 20s, to the point of not functioning and being near in-patient care. I hooked up with a functional doctor who tested me for food allergies and helped me adjust my diet and lifestyle, and it totally changed my life. Of course everyone is different, but a huge amount of the neurotransmitters in our bodies are located in our digestive tracts, and nutrition and gut flora can REALLY affect these things. I recommend this book as an entry-point into looking into this, if you’re interested. Big love and calming vibes to everyone out there struggling- you’re not alone!! https://www.amazon.com/UltraMind-Solution-Depression-Overcome-Anxiety/dp/1416549722/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1539186295&sr=8-1&keywords=mark+hyman+brain

    • Heather says...

      I’m totally stealing “Simmer down!” as a phone reminder!

    • Liz Velasquez says...

      I downloaded this book. Thanks for the recommendation!

  88. laura says...

    If I purposefully try to ignore anxiety or push it away, it makes it worse for me. What helps is to acknowledge it (“yes, I’m thinking these thoughts”) and not dive into their rabbit hole. I acknowledge them with the understanding that they’re only thoughts, not necessarily truths.

    • I needed this right now. Totally love the phrase “they’re only thoughts, not necessarily truths.”

  89. Julie says...

    I really needed this yesterday, thank you!

  90. Amy says...

    I had really bad sleep anxiety and mild depression in my 20’s and 30’s and still do sometimes. Tried a lot of things natural remedies, reading, writing, things to trick my brain and dr. superscribed things. I found yoga and exersize helped my body relax but not so much my brain. Now that I am in my 50’s I don’t worry as much but I do find my mind still wonders and can’t quiet down-more insomnia I think because of my age. So sometimes I have CBD oil or marijuana before bed. It may still be controversial but I would rather take that than medication. I find it helps shut my brain off and help me to fully relax so I am not worrying about things I have little or no control over.

    • Valerie says...

      I’m with you Amy! I didn’t try marijuana until the year I turned 40, and it was such a game changer as far as easing anxiety and helping me to relax. I had always stayed away from prescription medications for my mild depression/anxiety because the side effects just weren’t worth it. Trying weed for the first time near middle age was a blessing! The positive effects it had on long-married sex life were an added bonus ;-)

    • Liz says...

      I just bought some CBD oil to try because I have been struggling with this also. Happy to hear it’s helping you and hopefully it will help me!

  91. dana says...

    I’m in the same boat as so many others who have posted. It is heartening to know that so many people have these issues and have found so many different ways to cope. Therapy and a SSRI have helped me to the point where most of the time, I can quiet my thoughts using some tricks, like trying to focus on my cat’s steady purrs while I fall asleep or imagining that I put my worries into a bottle and watch it carried into the ocean by the waves. But other times the tricks just don’t work and in that case, I have to rely on xanax to keep the anxiety and panic at bay. I’m interested in cbd, like so many have mentioned, but I don’t know where to start. What brands are reputable? How much to take? Any help would be appreciated.

  92. Jeannine says...

    On the recommendation of my nutritionist, I just started taking powered magnesium mixed in water. I drink it about 20 mins before going to sleep and it really works wonders. A quick deep sleep without the mind spinning.

    • Danielle says...

      Yes! Magnesium is such a game changer. I was so restless at night and for years also had a terrible upstairs neighbor. Taking a magnesium supplement before bed really relaxes me and I get a way deeper sleep. I take a combo supplement Magnesium, Vit D, Calcium in greens from Trader Joes’s but I like the powder for anxious moments during the day or anytime more immediate winding down is needed.

    • Brooke says...

      Oh my goodness yes! I started taking a magnesium sleep supplement and I’ve never felt so powerfully sleepy in years. Natural Vitality makes one that sleep MD’s recommend.

  93. Isabelle says...

    This issue is all too real for me. Beyond doing wind-down yoga before bed to try to calm my mind, my therapist gave me a great trick that can work anytime but I find it especially helpful when I’m lying in bed with my head spinning. Picture your anxieties as a book that you’re holding up in front of your face. Your anxiety is blocking your view of the world and your future. So instead of just pushing the anxiety away, where it will still be in front of you and blocking you, lower the book to your lap. You’re not ignoring your worries, you’re just setting them down. They may still be there, but they aren’t preventing you from seeing around you and what’s in front of you.

  94. Twyla says...

    I’m naturally a very anxious person, and I’ve found a routine that really works for me. I take two B Complex in the morning, and a big scoop of Magnesium citrate powder in warm water right before bed, and I can’t say enough about how much it has helped me with anxiety, stress and sleeping. I’m waking up in the night with racing thoughts less and less, and when I do, I try to do EFT tapping while lying in bed (there are tons of great videos on YouTube on how to do it). Then I can breathe normally, lower my heart rate, quiet my mind and get back to sleep.

    • Erin says...

      EFT has helped me so much with my anxiety! I’ve been trying to do it more when I’m not anxious, too, so I can get ahead of the game. I think about something that makes me anxious and tap, and it feels much lower pressure to do it when I’m not in the middle of an anxious episode.

  95. Rachel says...

    I like the idea of giving your anxiety a name and imagining him/her walking out the door. I started meditating with my parents when I was really young (10?12?). I don’t remember a lot about it other than that there was a lot of visualization involved.

    Even though I don’t regularly meditate anymore, I’ve found visualization techniques really helpful. Miss my husband? I imagine where he is in the world and visualize an invisible string connecting our hearts. Feeling sad about my dad dying? I listen to Wildflowers and imagine him walking in a field of flowers in heaven. Feeling generally negative or can’t forgive myself for something? I imagine an invisible plane moving from my head to my toes, gathering up the negativity. Then I visually ball it up and toss it out the door.

  96. Colleen says...

    While speaking with a friend, I told her that I envision my anxiety like a train. It abruptly stops my path, it’s an inconvenience, but it will always end up passing and the gates will reopen.

    Not say dealing with anxiety is a passive act, but that I know my thoughts/negative emotions are not permanent.

    I’ve been having a really tough time with my anxiety this year. I still nearly jump out of bed in the morning, ready to start my day. But nighttime comes and I spend at least an hour being terrorized by my worries while trying to fall asleep.

    I have an outrageously priced healthcare plan through the Marketplace (over $300 a month) and the benefits are terrible. I’m looking forward to having the privilege of an employer-offered plan next year. I gross over $50k a year, but still can’t manage the cost of therapy sessions through my current health insurance. It’s disheartening that even with a decent salary, Americans still struggle to prioritize their mental health.

  97. Kim W says...

    This could not come at a more perfect time. Just the other night, my fiance and I were lying in bed–having just giggled about something silly–when he brought up politics and it was a complete shift for me. We agree on most everything, but I shut down the conversation and he was hurt. The next day I had to text him (in daylight) that, while I enjoy engaging conversations and that I don’t shy away from big topics, when it comes to the state of the world these days, I CANNOT do it right before bed.

    Who would have thought that in just a year my version of self-care would go from face masks and a glass of wine to knowing when to unplug from the anxiety about our political state?

  98. Sarah says...

    I struggle do the nightly “anxiety unload” too, and then wake up with panic dreams a couple times a night. Though of course it is different for everyone, things that have helped me are:
    – a low dose of medication (this took me years to get over the stigma, but I finally decided to try it earlier this year for three months and never looked back)
    – reading quietly before bed. While I have my “fun” books, I try to read a chapter of something slower and more spiritual. Right now I’m reading “Help, Thanks, Wow” by Anne Lamott. Next on my list are the books recommended by the female pastor whose beauty routine you featured!
    – making a list of things I am grateful for from that day

    • Mara says...

      What kind of medication?

    • Amanda says...

      I had to get over the stigma of medicine too (I, too am on a very low dose of medication for sleep anxiety). Once I realized that a tiny little pill (sometimes even half of that tiny little pill) makes my whole next day possible I think it’s definitely worth it. If I can’t sleep, the anxiety carries into my next day along with exhaustion. I can’t be great at work, I can’t go to the gym I love, I can’t properly interact with my loved ones. It’s very important to get over our stigmas and accept the help that is available to us. I’m glad you’ve done so!

    • Sarah says...

      Mara–
      I worked with a nurse practitioner who specializes in psychiatry within my health practice, and it took 3.5 months of trying 5 different medications to finally discover that my body doesn’t respond to SSRIs, so I am on a very low dose of Buspar (half the normal low dose). Is it the “best”? No. Sometimes I doubt it’s strong enough, but I don’t have any side effects and it works for me right now. I wake up less often at night, have fewer day anxiety symptoms, and can actually fall asleep on airplanes now, which is a necessity since I just moved a 6 hour flight from my family :)

  99. ACS says...

    I have never posted a comment on CoJ before, but this post resonated with me so much. The biggest thing I can recommend? MEDITATION!
    Sitting (or preferably laying) quietly and mindfully right before sleep has helped me infinitely. When you meditate, you often float off and re-enter the world of worry, but you simply acknowledge that is happening, and gently and non-judgmentally guide yourself back to stillness and breathing. Guided meditation is especially helpful: I recommend Tara Brach’s gentle, compassionate podcasts and talks, which are available free on her website: https://www.tarabrach.com/guided-meditations/. When I’m really struggling, I put on one of her meditations from my phone, with or without headphones (they can range anywhere from 10-40 minutes) and often have fallen asleep before it’s over.
    Hope this helps for someone.

  100. Sleepless in Chicago says...

    This may not resonate with everyone but I’ve found that prescription sleeping pills have made my nighttime anxiety routine one million times more manageable. For years my anxiety would keep me awake ALL NIGHT with head-spinning thoughts and worries. After existing on a few hours of sleep per week, I broke down and asked my physician for help. I still have anxiety at night but I am a different person with a full night of sleep and am better suited to handle the worries.

    • Em says...

      Yes! Thank you for sharing and helping to dismantle the stigma of medication.

  101. Annie says...

    I love this so much and I LOVE the the idea of naming my anxiety. Lately my anxiety has been through the roof. At night, I’ve been re-reading (for the 100000th time) Harry Potter until I really, truly cannot keep my eyes open for another moment. I’ve always read before bed, but I think reading something I’m comfortable and familiar with has really helped take my mind off life. I’ve also tried to worry less about what time I fall asleep and really let my body tell me “ok, seriously, enough now.” I’m still probably not getting enough sleep, but at least the sleep I am getting is restful and complete.—which is new for me.

    • Em says...

      I do the same thing! I also have the Harry Potter audiobooks that I’ll listen to when I’m feeling anxious. Jim Dale’s voice is like a tonic, and its helpful to have something comforting and mindless to occupy my mind and keep it from spinning.

  102. Karyn says...

    Just seeing the title of this post makes me anxious!

  103. MJ says...

    Joanna — Thank you for helping to destigmatize the issue of mental health — I have similar anxiety issues and appreciate the support of this community so much. Thanks for your honesty and humanity. Wishing you peace.

  104. Christina says...

    When I have anxiety and can’t sleep, I play this game in my head. I pick a letter in the alphabet, and have to name 50 words beginning with that letter. The rules? Common nouns only (desk, dirt, decimal, etc.). No proper nouns, adjectives, adverbs, or verbs (Daniel, dainty, discreetly, dispose, etc.). The rules make it harder than you think- takes some time to come up with 50 common nouns. I hardly ever move onto a second letter before I’m asleep. At night, I just need to tune out the whole world and give my mind a breather, and this game always does the trick!

    • Kathryn Sarkis says...

      I love this!

  105. Sam says...

    Thank you for this post. My mind is INSANE just before bedtime, and particularly bad on Sunday nights. I have literally laid in bed and thought, “What would happen if there were a volcanic eruption in Manhattan and we had to emergency pick up the kids? Would we be prepared?”
    Insane. But glad to know I’m not alone!

  106. Heatherr says...

    Just try laughing at yourself if you feel your mind spiraling. It really works! Life is not always so serious. Try to find the humor in everything, and give yourself a break. We, as humans, tend to magnify everything and blow things out of proportion. When we step back, put it into perspective, and laugh at ourselves, things seem a bit smaller and more manageable.

  107. Mara says...

    I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life, and have also never been a sound sleeper. Every night I have 2 choices: lights off at 10:30pm but plan to be up from 3-5am with anxiety/racing thoughts and then doze lightly til the alarm goes off at 6:30am…OR, lights off at 1:30am and be up with the alarm with hopefully nothing but a bathroom in between. I should probably mention that I have a long commute and stressful job that I’m at from 8:30-6pm. It’s “funny” to me how nighttime is such a challenge, but I could go to sleep at any other time of the day! (and do, during my commute or nodding off at my desk at work) I’ve tried everything but CBD and look forward to reading what you all have to say about it!

  108. Tania says...

    I’ve managed anxiety from the time I can remember but I’ve never heard the idea of naming it — I love the idea of calling it Eunice, such a perfectly silly and somehow kind of lovable name. What a great way of separating it from yourself — I often pile judgement and anger on myself for being anxious (isn’t it often those feelings about feelings that are the hardest to bear?) and now I’m going to just say Oh, Eunice!

    • Brooke says...

      Tania, I love this! I agree the name Eunice does seem perfectly level and silly, and feelings about feelings always seem like the sweetest point of healing.

    • k says...

      I actually know a really smart, cool, lovely woman named Eunice…

  109. Lauren says...

    This is so common! When my head spins, I take out a piece of paper or journal and just write a list of everything that’s making me anxious. I don’t go into great detail or try to solve it on paper, just write things like “medical bills, job hunt, that thing joe shmoe said to me…” Offloading these help me stop my brain from spinning or worrying that i’ll forget to worry about these things. I make a mental promise that I’ll pick it up in the morning when i’m rested and reset- usually they don’t bother me as much then!

    • alycia says...

      Yes! I do the same list-making style of offloading what is weighing down my mind. I recently found an old scrap of paper from four years ago with my list, and I found deep comfort in seeing that many of the items listed either I didn’t even remember or they simply took care of themselves at a later time.

  110. Ashley says...

    I don’t deal with anxiety or sleeplessness too often, but reading this made me think of the book I JUST finished reading, called “The End of Night” by Paul Bogard. He addresses the environmental, ecological, medical, emotional, and overall impact of humanity’s increase of light at night (LAN). It’s SUCH a fascinating, accessible read– I learned so so much, but I bring it up because there’s a few things in it that I think apply here.
    For one thing, he talks about the theory of “two sleeps”, and the anxiety in modern humanity about waking up in the middle of the night. There’s also a passage near the end of the book where he talks to a minister about the meaning of darkness and he has this eloquent bit about how we fear the darkness, but that’s when so much of our dreamy/romantic/imaginative side comes out. That can be both positive & negative, but I loved the idea of reclaiming the sacredness and dark holiness of the night.
    I can’t recommend it highly enough — it changed how I saw the two parts of my life :)

  111. Patricia A Perez says...

    I do two things that have helped me:
    1) I imagine a clean whiteboard. I close my eyes and focus on the whiteboard and keep that image to return to when a sudden stressful thought invades.
    2) When #1 doesn’t work, I tell my mind: “I’m going to think about everything now, but for no more than a few seconds. If I can do something about it now, I’ll do it, and if I can’t, I won’t.” More often than not, it’s things that can wait until tomorrow. I think about it, acknowledge the thought, and then tell myself that I’ll deal with it tomorrow. I do this with everything that comes up in my mind until I’m lulled to sleep.

  112. Ann says...

    I experience the same – feels good to know I am not alone. The intrusive thoughts can be tricky sometimes. When distractions don’t work, I try writing the negative thought down in one column and an opposing positive thought in the next column. I find this helpful to visually counteract those spinning thoughts by allowing me focus on the more logical and clear-headed thoughts I would have eventually discovered when the sun came up. :)

  113. Laura C. says...

    I can’t sleep. Since we moved, the noise of the street won’t let me sleep. After one month and a half, some people have started to see me bad. I have started to take anxiety pills and oill for sleeping. Today is World Mental Health Day and I’ve read something about swimming is good against depression. So I went to the pool this morning instead of studying for my exams and I had an anxiety attack because I was bothering people in the fast lane and the slow lane. The lifeguard has been nice to me but I have had an anxiety attack.
    Just been diagnosed with depression an my husband, unlike Alex, can’t cope with that. My own mother doesn’t believe me when I speak. If I say that I cannot sleep because of the noise outside, she says “go and try, you have to do your part”. Basically she blames me for my illness.
    I’m not sure if I will get out of this, but certainly visiting this blog helps.
    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express myself. No one is a prophet in his own land. I feel so alone.
    Anxiety is bad. Depression is bad. Please don’t tell us “cheer you up” o “put yourself together” or “just be happy”.

    • Neile says...

      Laura, I hear the pain you’re expressing here. Good for you for taking the steps of trying swimming and medication and talking with loved ones. Please hang in there and know you are not alone.

    • Nicola Schnurr says...

      Hi Laura, I am so sorry you are feeling this way. I have had bouts of depression and anxiety for a long time. It can feel like you are in a deep hole that is impossible to get out of. It sounds like you need more support to get out of that hole. Have you been given any medication? Anti depressants were the only thing that worked when things were really bad. They do take a few weeks to work though. Have you someone you can talk to who understands how you are feeling and doesnt simply dismiss the issue? My mother wasn’t great either, she just expected me to ‘get better’, asking me ‘are you better yet?’ maybe its a generation thing. Changing your diet, doing gentle exercise. Go for a walk (nothing stressful like swimming!) it is great for boosting your seratonin levels. There are online CBT courses that could be useful. I could go on and on but I just wanted you to know that you are not alone, this is an illness just like appendicitis or a broken leg. It needs fixed and there are people and things you can do to fix it. Best of luck to you Laura, big hugs, Nicola xx

    • Maureen says...

      I’m sorry sweetie. I believe you. It sucks that the people around you are not supportive. Ihope you feel better soon. Exercise can help, I hope that you can get back to the gym or pool or even go for a walk.

    • MG says...

      This sounds terrible- i have a practical suggestion that might help. As a very light sleeper who just moved into a new apartment with a lot of street noise, a fan (pointed elsewhere in the room, not at me) has *really* helped mask the noise. Not sleeping really compounds everything you are feeling. Sending you calm vibes.

    • Loesie says...

      Dear Laura,

      I’m so sorry to read what you’re going through.
      When I was at a very low point, my hubby once told me ‘just smile more’, ‘just be happy’ , and I felt very lonely whenever I heard that (other people said it too). I found out though (after quite a while), that at the same time, he could still comfort me in other ways that really helped me (just a simple arm around me felt sooo good). In hindsight, if I look at his upbringing, his comments make total sense (unfortunately).

      For me, running really helps. Even though I look like Phoebe Buffay when I run. Thing is, I felt so miserable I couldn’t bring myself to go outside at that time.
      Now, a few weeks later, I look forward to running in the chilling cold again.

      Having had multiple episodes when I felt very depressed, I know that, even though it might not be today, tomorrow, the day after that or even weeks after that, it will get better at some point. I will feel better at some point. I will feel stronger again.
      I try to give myself time.

      My therapist told me that I start to feel depressed when I just plain forget about my feelings. Either because I push them away, or because I won’t allow them to be there (or because they’re not allowed by other people). There are signs I get when I am getting depressed, like getting less talkative, more moody, and many other signs.

      Now, whenever I feel those signs sneaking up to me, I try to get more in touch with my feelings, either by playing music, talking more to other people or being more into creative things. For me, those are ways to get more in touch with my feelings.

      I would like to say to you that you are definitely not alone (even though it can feel that way). Allow yourself all the time you need to feel better. Find a good therapist if you can. I know that my story can be totally different from your story or anyone else’s story. I just wanted to let you know you are not alone and that I am rooting for you. You are very brave and I salute you for taking the courage to go outside today.
      Wishing you so many sunshines ahead.

    • Laura C. says...

      Neile, Nicola, Maureen, MG, Loesie,
      You have really made my day. I don’t know who you are or where you are from, but I can tell you, from yhe bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.
      Last June due to the continuous exposure to my lovely daughter’s cries and yelling (because she, my sweetheart, has Asperger’s) I got some tinnitus and since then I can’t use earplugs. That’s why now I cannot stand the noise. I am trying to do my best and you are truly lovely people. If you want to, you can ask to CoJ for my email, only if you want to. No commitment. ❤️

    • laura says...

      Laura C, I have the same issue with sleeping with noises outside from time to time. Either the traffic, or my neighbor’s TV. Earplugs have helped. Also, “fan” noises. I’ll either turn on my AC or fan in the summer, or heater in the winter. There’s an app called White Noise with a variety of sounds as well, though “fan” is my preferred one. My AC luckily has a timer so it turns off on its own. The app also has a timer, so your phone doesn’t have to be on all during the night, or it can be! It all depends on your preferred method.

      Sending you warm wishes! There are more communities you can explore to find comfort outside of your family <3

    • Laura C. says...

      @Laura, thank you so much my dear. I do have that app, my otolaryngologist told me that I should be hearing white noise for four hours a day just to get used to my tinnitus.
      What is waking me up is the front door of the building closing heavily and since I live on the first floor I jump off the bed.
      But you’re so kind my dear. Thank you.

  114. Last night after being up for a little while at 4:15 am, I remembered a comment on this post and started listing all the things I love about Christmas starting with A. I was asleep before the smell of Pine. Thank you!

  115. My husband is a licensed clinical social worker (and so is my dad!) so I’m fortunate to learn lots of helpful mental health tricks all the time. The biggest one that helps me with my anxiety is thought switching. When you start to feel your mind wander into a dark space, just try thinking of something else. Literally say to yourself out loud (or maybe in your head), “thought switch!” For example, if your in bed, think about the softness of your sheets, or try to imagine what the sky looks like. ANYTHING. Keep switching your thoughts, even quickly and on the second until you either transport yourself enough away from your anxiety or until you land on something that you can think about as you fall off to sleep. It works throughout the day too. If I find myself worrying too much, I think
    or say, THOUGHT SWITCH! I usually start with the weather, the blue sky and hot heat (I live in south Florida). Anything to distract me from myself.

  116. I love this idea! Bug off, Eunice. I do something similar: I imagine writing down each worry that’s keeping me awake in a big book, then gently closing it so I can’t see the words anymore. Then I imagine putting the book away on a shelf. I tell myself I’ve written my worries down so I won’t forget to do something about them, and I can pick up the book to read my worries over and over in the morning if I want to try and solve them then.

    • Elle says...

      I just went down a serious Betty Gilpin internet rabbit hole. I had never heard of her, but loved the article you linked to and then all her interviews on YouTube are so wonderfully quirky, but also so honest and thoughtful about what it is to be a woman in the film/tv industry (or a woman in general). Plus her openness about mental health is so refreshing and needed in the world. So thank you for introducing me to her, and also where did my day just go?

  117. Brooke says...

    In high school I stopped being able to sleep because I worried so much at night. Finally I started giving myself 10 minutes before bed every night to just worry. I listed everything I was worried about and really fell into the worrying and focused on every worry over and over again. Then after 10 minutes I said “time’s up. You can worry again in the morning.” And then stopped. It really helped. And during the day if I got anxious I would say to myself “save it and worry about it tonight during ‘worry time.’” You would think over-worrying for 10 minutes would make it worse but having a reserved time JUST to worry (and knowing my brain was only allowed 10 minutes) made me feel so much better! Now I can fall asleep without it but during really difficult periods I will start “worrying time” up again until things settle down.

  118. Nina says...

    Hmmm…I never thought of if I think of them especially at night.

    Worries seem to hit me all day.

    My son (almost 11) is also a worrier. What I taught him to do is take his worry and give it a shape, then throw it up in the sky (in his mind) then make it super small, then make it super big, then decide – do you want it big or small? and then he takes whatever weapon of his choice (usually a rocket) and blows it to smithereens. This seems to really help him.

    I have similar techniques for him and others (I’m a coach so help people with this) if that doesn’t work. We also give it a ranking 1-10.

    The other thing that is super duper helpful – we call it the hook up. This usually gets him to sleep in minutes. Take your pointer fingers and put one in between your eyebrows and the other gently resting in your belly button. Then pull both up gently. This is useful in any stressful situation – job interview, performance review, giving a speech, etc. Try it…it really does help.

  119. Cristina Mauro says...

    When you gave your anxiety a name you stumbled onto a clinical technique that narrative therapists use called ‘externalization.’ This places the problem outside of you so you don’t identify yourself ‘as’ the problem. When you do this it creates space and makes it possible to bring in allies (partners, friends, therapists) to join you in the fight ‘against’ the problem. Its a subtle distinction but it’s wonderful that you (and several readers) stumbled onto it intuitively. When you align yourself too closely with your problems then going after the problem can feel like fighting against yourself.

    This also works wonders as a parent. You can externalize any unpleasant emotion with kids like the ‘worries’ or the ‘wanties’ or the ‘sads’ and commiserate over it rather than lapse into a conflict. It can make for some funny conversations with little kids…i.e. Mom also gets the’ wanties’ for shoes and stuff and it feels so intense I could just cry if I don’t get the shoes I want. Or I had the ‘sads’ yesterday and cried about it but today is better. My kids would be flabbergasted that I was struggling with some of the same emotions they struggle with…and it begins the gradual process of allowing them to see your human frailty.

    • Elisabeth says...

      This is such a great comment — thank you!

    • Emily says...

      Wow – I love this helpful tip. Thank you.

  120. Melanie says...

    I have a method about what I ‘allow’ myself to think about when falling asleep that I’ve been using for a few years now – when I find myself going to something serious (the climate, my 2 year olds safety, whatever) I go to one of my ‘flakey’ (aka happy) things – I plan outfits, mentally reorganize my closet, re-arrange gallery walls, plan my daughters future bedroom, future trips to wherever – safe, easy topics. Never fails me. I’ll get through about 1 week of outfits, maybe 1 room of redecorating and i’m out. If I find myself going to something serious I push myself back to something light.

  121. Stacy Chaloupka says...

    When I was pregnant with my second I was so uncomfortable for most of my pregnancy I felt like I couldn’t breathe. It caused massive anxiety attacks at night because I would be so tired but felt like I was going to suffocate if I fell asleep so my mind would be racing all night. I would walk our one flight of stairs for hours in the middle of the night just trying to calm down and catch a breath. Since this went on for most of my pregnancy I learned a few tips that really help…lay next to someone breathing deeply and follow their breath pattern. I would lay right next to my dog and let his breathing drift me to sleep. Have someone read to you in bed until you drift off. My husband would read me mindless news articles (no politics) or David Sedaris books. I also read this book by J Ruth Gendler called The Book of Qualities that gives our emotions genders, personalities and faces. It’s like an emotions book for adults and it’s very comforting. The page about anxiety says: “Anxiety is very secretive. He does not trust anyone. Not even his friends Worry, Terror, Doibt and Panic. He has a way of glombing onto your skin like smog and then you feel unclean. He likes to visit me late at night when I am alone and exhausted. I have never slept with him, but he kissed me on the forehead once and I had a headache for two years…”

  122. Kate says...

    My favorite trick for this is “pile of small but good things.” (There was a post about this the other day!)
    It works best to visualize them, and also list them in minute detail, because that’s what keeps my brain busy. Like “I’m grateful for the way my cat sits on my lap during morning coffee, the cable knit sweater I got to wear yesterday, the bowl of apples on my table, etc.” Thinking of new things is enough of a brain challenge that I can usually distract it from worrying, but it’s a pleasant enough task that it doesn’t cause more anxiety.
    Variation: “Pleasant fall things, pleasant Christmas things, etc.”

  123. Rachel says...

    I read this last night, and then when I woke up in the middle of the night and started worrying I remembered this and it actually helped. My anxiety always focuses on how I am failing at work. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that by mulling over how I will eventually screw up, it will help prevent it from happening. I don’t have to give into my anxiety in order to do well at my job.

  124. Emi says...

    I have OCD and after years of therapy I discovered that A.C.T. (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) works best. The type of OCD I have is obsessive thoughts about hurting myself or others and my compulsion is to do ‘research’ in order to assess whether these are relevant fears or not. Acceptance entails welcoming the anxiety and labeling it as OCD obsessions. As someone with OCD, I can tell you that you intuitively deep deep down know the difference between a genuine worry and an OCD fear, but your OCD will do everything in its power to confuse the two. So when an intrusive thought comes in, I label it as ‘anxiety about X’, and welcome it (often by literally saying ‘welcome X’) and then I analyze it: this fear is felt in my chest, it feels ‘dark and heavy’, and then I try to breathe around in order to give it room. It’s important to note that it is not just about anxiety; it’s about all the feelings that accompany it: shame, guilt, hopelessness, etc. You welcome those too: ‘hey, judgment about still worrying about X, join the party.”
    The commitment part is a whole other thing and important as well. In short, you choose what you value in life and make a commitment to pursue those values despite your fears. If you fear heights, for example, but love hiking, you purposefully choose to do the thing you value and confront your fears – through acceptance.