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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. Hannie says...

    Something that helps my anxiety when I’m trying to sleep (thinking about all the things I need to do, the day’s interactions, and just general worrying) is remember that my most important task right now is to sleep. At this very moment, the number one best thing I could be doing for my past, present, and future self is: sleep! And do it well. This helps calm my mind and help me focus on just that.

  2. Megan says...

    Jo, thank you, as always, for sharing this. I was telling my husband this very morning that I need to do something about My Nighttime Anxiety. And let this post be a reminder (as if we needed another one) to us all:

    READ THE COMMENTS.

    Your readers are so wise, and I get some of the best tips and mantras from the comments. Thank you for fostering such a beautiful, vulnerable discussion on The Internet, no less.

    • Laura C. says...

      Megan you are so right. I wish you the best.

  3. Ruth says...

    Here’s my question though: when DO you have the dramatic detailed get-it-all-out discussion? We have two young kids and we work full-time and after 9 pm is the only time my husband and I have alone together… thoughts? Advice?

    • Lisa says...

      I would suggest keep it to a designated time frame to get into those ‘dramatic’ full out discussions so either half an hour or twenty minutes etc. “Don’t think too much about your life after 10pm”. Then after that you can try to unwind and “chill” for the remainder of the night.

  4. shopgirl says...

    Sometimes they said that you have to leave all the worry at the bedroom door in the evening ….This can be visualized too.

  5. Lisa says...

    I started seeing a therapist after I developed PND and anxiety and she gave me a number of tips to deal with anxiety. It would get really bad – my head would just spin and I would obsess about worst case scenarios. There’s a couple of things she suggested –
    1. Set aside a specific time of day when you worry. So for eg you can only worry about things at 10am so when you start worrying, you can think “not now, I only worry about stuff at 10am”.
    2. There’s a thing called a worry tree, https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/worrytree.htm And I’ve found the most helpful question on it is “can you do anything about it now?”

  6. Mona says...

    I’m the same – my brain just won’t shut up when it’s time to sleep. I worry about everything, my family, money, career, life. I’m pregnant and due in 4 months, I don’t feel at home in our apartment or neighborhood and can’t imagine bringing a baby home to it and starting my new life as a mother in it. Thank god for Mash reruns and the soothing pill my doctor gave me.

  7. Loesie says...

    I once realized that, even though I will always be an anxious person, my anxiety really likes to sneak around when I am really, really tired.
    Now, whenever my mind keeps spinning and spinning at night, I blame it on a lack of sleep and go to bed. In the morning I do feel a lot better about it. Usually still anxious about whatever it was I was worrying about, but feeling a little lighter, as if my sleep took away the tip of the iceberg.
    I realize though that this will be different for every person.

  8. Katherine says...

    This is the kind of content that keeps bringing me back to Cup of Jo. You always manage to identify things which I think no-one else has to deal with. With such a light touch you make make it universal and something that actually makes me feel connected to the world rather than separate ! Thank you xx (and I love Catastrophe too!)

  9. Rachel says...

    Oh my god, I had a meltdown last night about seriously everything and my poor husband had to deal with it. Somehow, it was good that we talked about it because it was important. But this also makes a point for- don’t wait to talk to your husband about important things RIGHT before bed. (Face palm)

  10. Lillian says...

    I started doing this same trick about 24 months ago and it really helped me. Just the realisation/recognition that when I am tired I am more anxious helps me say to myself, “Go to bed, go to sleep, this is not rational and you will feel better in the morning.” For some reason it really resonates with me, and helps me avoid spiraling out of control and picking a fight/writing an unhelpful email/etc etc. Now when I’m tired and upset I just accept that my rational self is no longer control and I try and treat myself like a small child that needs soothing and putting to bed. Anxiety management is so personal, and things that work well for one person don’t work for another. This, thank goodness, works for me :)

  11. Jen says...

    It’s 2:30 am and I have been trying to quiet my thoughts… for hours. How is it that you always seem to know just what I need to hear? ;)

  12. Juana says...

    We just got the children’s book, “What do you do with a problem?” By Kobi Yamada, and it’s helping my little boy with his anxiety and me too! I also heard someone on Oprah’s supersoul sundays speak about mindfulness. He explained that a great way to calm a racing mind is to lie down and try to find your hands, feet, etc. with your mind. This simple exercise brings you back to the present and helps you relax. It’s really helped me! Also, a lavender cream or oil with a lovely calming scent, that reminds me of lavender fields in Provence :) Although my best remedy, is snuggling my kids necks and inhaling deeply. Their smell instantly relaxes me and makes me realize that all is well with my little world in that very momet, bliss!

  13. I don’t have night anxiety but I have ‘In the middle of the night anxiety’. I usually go calmly at my bed after a hot shower and a cup of chamomile. It strikes me about 4 or 5 pm. I wake up with a vivid bad thought, or anger or worry which usually takes bigger proportions than it should. And the fact is that most of the time its not one of my serious worries. It’s like a flash … why somebody told me something. What does it mean. And usually everything seems terrible.
    I can’t stop it from happening but now I know that it comes and goes. I try to relax, breathe and kick it away. I sleep a little more and when I wake up it is like a bad dream. Lately I don’t even recall what was so seriously bothering me in the middle of the night.

  14. Pearl says...

    I am the kind of person who walks home several blocks to make sure I locked the door, turned off the gas … After several hours lying in bed spinning about some problem I knew exactly how to fix and could do so in the morning, I realized my night-time worries were an extension of worrying about had I locked the door, turned off the gas, etc. My brain was trying to make me think I had something to worry about when in reality I did not. After that realization, I have been sleeping much better. Also, having a cool, dark, and quiet room is important for good quality sleep. Invest in whatever you need to make sure your bedroom is comfortable for sleeping.

  15. Rebecca says...

    My husband came up with an amazing way to deal with that kind of head spinning anxiety about everything, years ago. He gets me to write down literally everything that was worrying me, however small (the first list spanned everything from the fact that my grandma was terminally ill to the fact that my houseplants needed watering). Then we cross off anything I can’t do anything active about at the moment (death, for example, or Brexit). That cuts the list down significantly. Then we highlight the things that can be dealt with 5 minutes or less, and do one each, and commit to doing the others in the next few days. It sounds so simple, but it removes from my anxieties the things I can’t alter (“It’s okay to be sad or angry about them,” he always tells me, “but WORRY about things you have power over.” Then the five minute fixes help to break the paralysis of the anxiety, which is also ridiculously helpful.

  16. I’ve been taking adaptogens for about 3 months and they make a HUGE difference in my low-level anxiety and how much life’s stress impacts me. Since taking adaptogens, I’m just less reactive & worrisome. Adaptogens have been used for centuries in Eastern medicine but have made a splash here in the US only in the past few years – They are dried plants & herbs that improve your body’s ability to adapt to physical and mental stress.

    The brand that I love is called http://www.drinkgoldmine.com (disclaimer – she’s a client of mine but I SWEAR I am hooked!). Rachael, the founder, puts it like this: Taking adaptogens are is like upgrading the suspension system of your car. You still go over the bumps, you just feel them less.” 🙌🏽 I love Goldmine because they adaptogens are organic and grown in the US in the Pacific Northwest. Lots of the bigger “beauty” companies who sell adaptogen blends don’t share their sourcing information, which makes me pause.

    Anyway, another natural remedy that you might try!

  17. Beth says...

    Definitely prayer! As a practicing Christian, prayer is such a source of peace for me in my times of overwhelming anxiety. Exercise helps significantly. If I let more than 2 days go by without exercising, then my anxiety level is noticeably higher. Also, make sure you are eating a balanced diet, especially for your last evening meal. Sugar and caffeine can exacerbate anxiety greatly.

  18. jane says...

    “Do not think about your life after sunset” is a rule I find lifechanging! Amazingly, I can do it. I think it’s because I have another similar rule about only working at work, and not on days off if possible. The idea is that I am then super focused at work and really entitled to the rest on my days off that makes that kind of focus efficient while at work.

    I think it will easily prove true in this case too – giving myself permission to not worry at night allows the mind time to rest so that the day time will be fresh for problem-resolution.

  19. As a therapist and as an individual with anxiety I am on board with the above tip. Something I do AND recommend to clients is to carve out a time of the day (that works for you) to be anxious. The brain likes habits and it can be a relief to know that you have a time and space set aside to attend to those feelings of anxiety.

  20. Lindsey says...

    I have no idea where I read this, but a trick I’ve found helpful for coping with anxiety is to ask myself, “If what you’re worried about happening actually happens, is that something you could handle?” Almost always, the answer is yes. It sounds funny saying it, but asking myself questions in a calm, unemotional tone normally puts the worry into perspective.

    • Sisu Garcia says...

      yes! i do this too! my anxiety typically comes in the “worst-case-scenario thought spirals” variety and asking myself “if this worst-thing-that-could-happen happens, will it actually be as awful?” 9 times of ten it wouldn’t
      even for the “i could get fired!” usually “well, you don’t love this job and you could get a new one, so if it happens you deal with it” works fine =)

  21. Kate says...

    If I start worrying when I first lay down, I’ll often picture my favorite vacation or happy place in detail (what book I’ve read, drinks I had etc.) and fall sleep to a happy memory. Or sometimes I go through the plot scene by scene of a chick flick (happy ones only) that I’ve seen a ton. My big problem is the 3 am waking up and worries. Recently, I got out my stuffed animal, Don, from college days and he joins me for the 3 am wake up (we are an animal free house). There is something so comforting about wrapping up in a snuggle when you are stressed. It doesn’t always work, but I swear I am falling back asleep faster now. Plus it’s a sign of bad sleep to my husband and he’ll make me coffee or tea unasked :-)

  22. Kelsey says...

    It’s so simple but when my anxiety is keeping me up at night I gently tell myself “You don’t have to solve this right now.” Because who solves a pressing problem at midnight? No one. It’s the well-rested woman who can handle life’s biggest curveballs.

  23. Abby says...

    My sister is a psychiatrist and when I get into my anxious, down-the-rabbit-hole thinking, she advised me to just picture a STOP sign. Somehow this physical representation helps me cut the whole thing short (at least for a time!).

  24. Jen says...

    A friend once equated worry with sitting in a rocking chair- you can work really hard but you aren’t going anywhere. Remembering that sometimes helps me.
    For the middle of the night insomnia, when I am thinking of all of the things I need to get done, I repeat the thought “your only job right now is to sleep.” It seems simple but often works.
    I have recently acquired a new type of anxiety (yay!), which specifically happens after one of my kids wakes. I find myself too nervous to fall back to sleep because waking back up to crying and running down the hall is so startling/stressful, my brain doesn’t want to let me put my guard down. Does anyone else experience this?

  25. Melinda says...

    thanks for this Joanna., i was also just having this conversation with workmates. i am HIGHLY anxious In bed at night, It sucks. So much so that I was prescribed anti-psychotic medication and even that doesn’t work sometimes! But thank you for making me feel not alone.

  26. Brooke says...

    Oh! Looking at other comments I see people have trouble with waking up at night… I cannot recommend the yoga pose “legs up the wall” more for any kind of body and rest. I learned it from studying insomnia and a number of MDs recommend it for how it turns off the sympathetic nervous system if you do it for at least 6 to 10 minutes. I put a pillow under my head and play a couple songs myself.

  27. Brooke says...

    This was so perfect it made me laugh out loud with delight! Thank you for being such a real person on here Joanna and offering both your authenticity and your encouragement. I think recently with all the political unrest, I almost feel normal with a low level anxiety but it’s such a neat reminder that we can shut the door on it like “Alexander and Eunice” 😆🙌🏽 and save our strength for another day we can actually do something. Gratitude. Life is better in community including with everyone here.

  28. Recently, I have begun composing haikus in my head when my thoughts are spinning out and all I want is sleep. The structure, simplicity and size of a haiku make it the perfect distraction (and doesn’t disrupt my partner – no need for lights). Trying to count out syllables and repeating the lines over in my head as I work it out take my mind off the panic and anxiety. Once I have composed a complete poem I say it to myself a few times before I inevitably drift off. Not only has it helped me fall asleep but it’s lovely to think of these little poems drifting around my bedroom night after night calming and reassuring me that everything is just fine.

  29. Meg says...

    I love these strategies! Something else that helps me when I’m feeling anxious is to remember that anxiety is an “inhibitory” emotion distracting me from a more true “core” emotion. E.g. “I’m worried about the big presentation tomorrow” is creating churn to cover up the more authentic emotion of “i’m afraid failing at work.” If I can be still and get down to the core emotion and acknowledge it, I find that the inhibiting anxiety can fade down. This book elucidates that angle, and I highly recommend it!! https://www.amazon.com/Its-Not-Always-Depression-Authentic/dp/0399588140/

  30. Hilary says...

    I’ll paraphrase a quote I heard years ago that went something like, “Your brain is like a bad neighborhood at night, don’t go there alone.” So true, right!? Years ago I also named my anxiety, Nellie, like the mean Nellie Olson from Little House on the Prairie. Now, I have another name as well, Nelson, like the bully from the Simpsons, who is a worst-case-scenario little PITA I now have to contend with after a bad concussion/PTSD. I love this post, thank you for talking about this. <3 Lots of love to everyone! We are all on this crazy planet together and sharing our own little tricks with each other is so so helpful. <3

  31. Anna says...

    When I was little I would get really homesick if I was away from my mom, especially at night (like most kids). She would nod knowingly and say, “don’t worry, things always seem worse at nighttime.” It always made me feel better to think that things aren’t necessarily worse than they were earlier in the day, I just feel it more because it’s dark out and it’s hard to feel hopeful when the sun is gone. Morning always comes around in the end :)

  32. Amy says...

    I tend to get stuck in my head a lot. I’m not always worrying, but I don’t generally have a very positive outlook on life. I was recently attending a few therapy sessions with my daughter (we didn’t end up clicking, but the therapist did give me one useful tool!).

    Name four things you can see (ideally out loud, or at least “say” them in your head. I find it helps if I’m specific, like “the blanket my grandma crocheted for me”, rather than just “blanket”). Then four things you can feel. Then four things you can hear. Follow up with some long, slow breaths.
    It anchors me into the present, physical world, and helps give me perspective.

  33. Lydia says...

    I have two daughters and both are prone to tears and worry right before bed. I tell them, “loves, problems always seem larger at night. You’re tired. If you wake up in the morning and you still need to talk to me about whatever’s bothering you then it’s probably something we need to discuss.” Kiss and a hug and lights out. Rarely do they talk to me the next morning about their “huge worry”! But if they do, I know it’s real and needs attention. I wish someone would have told my young self this.

  34. Tammy says...

    I love it. Giving my anxiety a name…what a genius idea actually and I feel like it would lessen the tension of the predicament I’m stressing out over. Such a great post …it’s so nice not feeling alone on this haha

  35. Sasha L says...

    I started doing push-ups to treat my anxiety about five months ago. I work from home so realistically I can drop and do pushups pretty much anytime. Wherever my anxiety starts catching me up I do pushups, as many as I can. When I started I could only do five, I can do twenty five now, and a hundred a day. Getting my heart rate up, having to focus on a difficult task and tying something negative (anxiety) to something positive (getting stronger) is really helpful to me. I have visible upper body muscles for the first time, and tonight I lifted my cast iron skillet, full, with one arm! I also don’t panic when anxiety hits like I used to, I know what to do now and it truly helps it clear for me, at least temporarily.

  36. Caroline says...

    I was having trouble quieting my mind—running through to do lists, replaying situations from the day over in my head (why does the perfect comeback always come to you hours later?!)—and I could not fall, or sometimes, stay asleep. I started doing crossword puzzles in bed and it really helps distract me from my monkey brain. The puzzles make me think hard enough to override the to do lists and I give myself permission not to finish them and pick the same puzzle up tomorrow!

  37. Peggy says...

    I left Facebook a week ago and almost immediately could breath more deeply. I will miss the connection with far flung family members but the political pot being continually stirred had stressed me out to where the negative it far outweighed any upside the site offered. I am now old enough that this may not turn around during my lifetime. I could no longer be reminded of that every minute. The worst part was the political vitriol spewed forth by a sibling. I can’t say if my departure is permanent but I can get the information I want by reading the same newspapers and magazines that were in my feed. And I do. And I am sleeping better.

  38. Clou says...

    I’m controlling, a bit OCD, a Virgo, and what I think of as a no-nonsense realist. When the lights go out my mind spirals. However, I can often slow down the spirals by telling myself that, realistically, “You can’t do anything about [fill in the blank] because it’s the middle of the night. Take care of it in the morning.” Usually by morning the midnight devils have flown away.

  39. Ashley says...

    I tend to be kind of wired and prone to depression in general, but I was completely unaware of my nighttime meltdowns until I started to date my husband! Bless him, he never batted an eye, just held my gaze and stroked my hair. It’s funny to me now as I can regularly feel my ‘weather’ change steeply about 9pm, but I didn’t know it then!

    On the other hand, I can’t entirely ignore those anxieties. Nighttime is just when the buffer is the thinnest. I did have some relationship trauma and paranoia when we first started dating, and they really showed their colors in my evening meltdowns.

    I wanted so many answers and reassurances, and at night my anxiety swelled so big. But sorting everything out takes time, so much more time than I want. On my late-night worrisome calls to my mom that I still make (okay, so I haven’t REALLY learned yet) she always says, “everything will become clear.” And then she says, “go to bed.” She’s always right!

  40. This is going to sound crazy, but I used to give myself a “worry” time. Any crazy thought, self-doubt, or irrational worry that would pop into my head during the day. I would say to it, “I can’t think about you now, I will save you for my worry time.” After a week of sitting down to think of all those things I had pushed from my mind felt silly. I think God used this strategy to help me realize that I zero power to change anything about my life by worrying about it. I am learning to pray more and worry less!

  41. Allison says...

    This exercise brings my worries into perspective:
    “Even though…
    The truth is…
    I choose…”

    “Even though I sent an aggressive email that is going to raise eyebrows.
    The truth is, it needed to be said.
    I choose to trust my instincts.”

  42. Hanna says...

    Before bed I make two lists. The first is a list of stressors, worries, anxieties, and to-do’s for tomorrow. I really treat it like a brain dump, and just get everything down. The second is a list of “solutions” for the items on the first list. If a worry or anxiety doesn’t have a clear “solution”, I write down a way to re-frame that stressor in my mind, have a more positive attitude about it, or be grateful. Sometimes a solution is as simple as “clean your room”, when my anxiety is about my room being very messy. Sometimes the anxiety is less black and white- but getting it down on paper keeps it from being that nebulous, constant thing whirring in my mind, and I begin to develop real solutions.

  43. Megan says...

    I’ve struggled with anxiety for years and I’ve tried every trick in the book at one time or another. Some things have worked and then, almost like my anxiety knows just when he needs to rush in and shake things up, they just don’t anymore. Currently, what’s really helping me is trying not to judge myself when I’m feeling anxious at night. I used to say things to myself like, “snap out of it!” or “there’s no reason for this!” or “WTF MEGAN!”. Then I thought, “would I ever say those things to a friend who is struggling? No way. Now when anxiety creeps in, I meet him at the door. I call him by his name and welcome him in (because we all know he’s gonna come in regardless). Then I pick up my mala I recently made and with each breath, I move my fingers to a new bead. Eventually, anxiety gets bored and decides I’m a terrible hostess and lets himself out, and I fall asleep with the mala beads entwined in my fingers. But most importantly, I don’t feel as guilty/weak/angry at myself in the morning because during my time of need,I treated myself kindly instead of being a terrible friend to myself.

  44. Jaidy says...

    Just get a therapist. That’s what I loved about living in nyc- everyone had them. It’s so important to have someone to talk to who isn’t your husband or friend and all you have to do is pay them a ton of money but it’s worth it.

  45. Karin says...

    This is a fantastic rule! I am generally able to talk myself out of middle-of-the-night worries by channeling Scarlett O’Hara and forcefully saying to myself, “Tomorrow is another day,” but I like the idea of not even STARTING to dwell on your life after dinner.

  46. Jessica says...

    The psyche can’t fight back. It’s mental fatigue masquerading as insight.

    And with that I shall go to sleep.

  47. Lucy Hynes says...

    After grappling with insomnia after my twins were born, I began meditating. I use the Headspace app and it offers a Sleep pack that teaches you skills for going to sleep. I do them during the day when I’m fully awake, but learning the visualization and breathing exercises make it second nature when it’s time to close my eyes. I’ve found this really helpful to keep my mind from racing at bedtime.

  48. lauren says...

    My evening anxiety can often turn into sleep anxiety, where I stress out about not being able to function with only 6,5,4….however many hours of sleep that are left before the alarm will go off. The one trick I’ve found that really works is to tell myself, “Well, you’re only going to x hours of sleep tonight or less. But you are a seasoned bad sleeper, and you have successfully performed above average on many days in the past with basically no sleep the night before. So who cares?”….and then I pass out. Literally every time.

  49. I believe anxiety has momentum that has built up and, to get from 0 being anxiety to 60 being filled with a sense well being is for me to be aware of what “channel” of self talk I am tuning into during my day . I have begun using the alphabet and thinking of as many positive words for each letter. Like: A for appreciation, awesome, alignment ,allowing etc. It’s fantastic. I feel as if I am communicating with my cellular intelligence and reminding my trillions of cells of the wellbeing that flows through my life. I usually fall asleep before getting to z! ( for zest, zing, zippy :))

  50. Stephanie says...

    Yes! While I’m usually so exhausted that I’m asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow, I’ve recently taken the practice of not turning my computer back on after dinner and putting our son to bed. Instead I catch up on reading something I want to read, maybe a few small chores, or watching a show with my husband. I try to get all other to dos done during the day, even if it means taking a few minutes out of work to order something online, or make a quick phone call. All other to dos can wait until tomorrow.

  51. Kim says...

    The easiest way to fall asleep is to count everything you are thankful for in your life. Works like a charm every time.

  52. Jenny T says...

    An older friend of mine has a helpful way to handle this type of thing. When something is bothering him and he can’t stop thinking about it, he gets out his calendar and schedules a block of time to think about it. It helps him let go of it because he knows it will be dealt with Tuesday at 2:30.

  53. Anna Vitale says...

    I’ve recently done something I never thought possible in my adult life with young kids: I gave up coffee. It has been TRANSFORMATIVE in reducing my nightly anxiety and improving my ability to just….fall asleep! I always thought ‘Oh, as long as I drink my coffee by 9 am it won’t affect me at night.’ But it totally did.

  54. Amanda says...

    I find reading fiction to help with anxiety at night so that I can sleep. Fiction from a different time period or fantasy like LOTR is good to detach from reality long enough to sleep.

  55. j says...

    I could have written this article x1000. Seriously though. I’ve started doing a Headspace meditation about 30 minutes before going to bed. It makes my legs feel like lead and I become so incredibly relaxed. I also put lavender essential oil in a diffuser. I’ve really stopped reading about politics as much as usual. In the past two years I haven’t heard the words “GOP” or “Trump” and not gotten angry … so I’m just trying to limit my exposure (while still caring and voting!).

    • 100% agreeing with the “(while still caring and voting!)” portion! It seems like if you don’t want to constantly interact with it, people peg you as not caring/being horribly insensitive, but some people (like me!) just cannot be inundated with negativity all the time, and right now it’s hard to escape from it. Just yesterday I went through and “snoozed” a number of friends and groups because I need a break.

  56. Laura says...

    I have no problem falling asleep at night. (I AM SO TIRED.) But how to quiet my mind when my thoughts wake me up at 3 am? (Or when a child wakes me up at 3 am, and the thoughts won’t let me fall back asleep.) I have taken to reading on my Kindle so as not to wake up my husband. Suffice to say, I’ve gotten through a lot of books.

  57. Kat says...

    Author Rachel Hollis says you can’t be anxious and grateful at the same time and I’ve found that to be true. When anxieties bubble up and my mind spins I list tiny things I’m grateful for (warm fuzzy socks, reading a book on a rainy day) until I fall asleep or feel better.

    • Rona says...

      Love this! It also makes me thinking of ‘raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens…’ from the Sound of Music!

    • Mimi says...

      What a gorgeous way to keep the anxiety hounds at bay. I am so trying that!

  58. Cate says...

    I have started listening to sleep stories on the Calm app (www.calm.com). It has been life-changing. I have never fallen asleep so quickly and peacefully (and I was not able to fall asleep to music or t.v. before). It’s magical and they have kid stories, too.

    • Nik says...

      I second this. I never knew how much I loved the Magic of Yurts. I was able to stop taking sleeping pills by listening to these stories.

  59. Sarah says...

    My husband made a rule that we don’t get to talk about anxiety before bed. “Leave that out of the bedroom,” he says. He’s happy to talk for hours about what is on my mind as long as it’s in the living room. That way you don’t lay awake at night, no bad dreams. The bedroom is safe and relaxing. (Also I like winding down with some wine because I just want to be totally inconherent these days. My anxiety is so strong, I need outside help.)

    • Liz says...

      I encourage you to get that help, Sarah. I know that using wine vs. anxiety is not a great idea always. Or it wasn’t for me.

  60. Megan Miles says...

    I use CBD oil (Lord Jones lemon tincture), Ease Magnesium spray, ASMR videos on youtube, Calm app sleep stories and I have a little game I play if I wake up in the middle of the night. I pick a topic: Christmas, restaurants I love, favorite things, whatever comes to mind – and I start listing them going through the letters of the alphabet: A = angel, B = bells C= creche, etc. It helps calm my mind and soothe me with homey, comforting thoughts.

    • Sigrid says...

      I would like to know how many drops of the CBD Oil do you take and what is the potency of the oil? I can get 5% CBD Oil in my place and after having tried different kind of natural sleeping aids I am kind of desperate to find something that works for me.

    • Owl says...

      My mom does the alphabet thing with capitals and swears by it! I guess I might give it a try! Lol

    • Eva says...

      Thank you – this game helped me fall back asleep at 3am after twisting myself in knots about work for an hour!

    • Megan Miles says...

      Sigrid – I use 1 dropper full of Lord Jones tincture. It is 10mg CBD per dropper. I really like it.

  61. Lindsey says...

    My husband frequently calls out my sundowning (he’s a doctor and has always used that term!). Sometimes it’s emotional—going through Google photos and looking at my photos of my children when they were younger—and sometimes, I pick a fight with him over some measly little grievance that I would’ve blown off at 2 pm. Sometimes it’s anxious thoughts: “Is the oven off? Is my straightener off? Did you check the windows? If someone breaks in, which child should I grab first?”

    The first thing he does is take away my phone. The second is look me in the eye and hold my hand. Those two things go a long way—human connection is the antidote sometimes. Then he tells me to write it down and it will be there in the morning if I still want to worry/fight/cry about it. Of course, 90% of the time, I don’t (and if I do, I know it was really important or at least important to me.) Then I watch Friends or Gilmore Girls (only happy things!) until I’m sleepy enough to drift off.

    • Lauren says...

      Lindsey, I just had to comment because you are my emotional twin! I could have written this verbatim. Yes, to the crying over old photos of my boys on a FB feed or after checking on them and watching them sleep, yes to picking an inconsequential fight about laundry with my husband at 11 pm, yes to anxious thoughts about which child to save first in a fire or break in (Arggh, Sophie’s choice). And of course only happy things before bed. Anyway, you’re not alone. It’s a bear sometimes just laying there waiting for it to pass but good to know we’re in it together…

  62. Anna says...

    I find it helpful to keep a paper and pencil by the bed to write things down. My mind WILL fill with To Dos a soon as I get in bed to read, but whatever it is, it’s not getting done at bedtime. When I write it down, it leaves my head, to be dealt with at the appropriate time.

  63. Roxy says...

    Wow! It’s so simple, but after reading this, the idea of separating anxiety from one’s self is so profound. Like, It’s not me, it’s just something that effects me. I feel so much more ready to shed it off if I think of anxiety as something I can get through, rather than something that is concretely a part of me. Let’s see if I can fall asleep tonight! Haha.

    • Erin says...

      Along these lines, I find it helpful to notice the physical reactions that go along with anxiety (getting that sinking feeling in my stomach, for example, or feeling my pulse race) and think “OK, those are physical signs of anxiety. I’m noticing them now.” Just thinking: this is part of the *phenomenon* of anxiety, which everyone experiences sometimes, rather than “this is me” helps me calm down and feel less overwhelmed.

  64. Kate says...

    When my son was an infant, as soon as the sun started to set the anxiety ramped up. Was he breathing? Was he breathing too much? Was he too hot? Too cold? Hungry? Thirsty? Wait… do babies even get thirsty?! My best friend, Emily, dubbed this time “the night time scaries” and to this day, when I feel myself getting stressed and anxious as darkness falls, I remind myself it’s not me, it’s just those pesky night time scaries. Then I tune in to Netflix, comfort re-watch The Office and tune out those thoughts. Thanks for the laughs, Michael Scott.

  65. Amy says...

    When I find I am especially anxious, I give myself one or two 20 minute windows a day to completely freak out. I think about every detail, every possible scenario that did or could go wrong, …just whatever it is that I need to obsess about. But then, when my twenty minutes is up, I put it away and move on. When my mind starts to try and tiptoe back into the whirlwind, I remind myself that it’s not time for that yet. I have to wait until my next designated 20 minute interval and then I can stress ALLLLLLL I want. But I have to wait. It’s incredibly helpful to me when I remember to use this trick.
    Until I typed this out, I’ve never thought to try and apply this to my depression bouts. Hmmm…I’ll have to see if that helps.
    Also, hugs to everyone who is stressed with the political situation right now. (Including myself) Things are swinging “to the right” right now. But the beautiful thing is, it will swing “to the left” next. There is SO much left to do but I think we are progressing. It is a slow undercurrent…..but I feel it.

    • Jennifer Berg says...

      Thank you, I am so stressed about the political situation we’re in and it helps so much to hear your words of comfort.

    • MB says...

      I had counseling for anxiety and my therapist recommended this tactic, and I agree that it’s incredibly useful. Tell yourself you can only worry for 20 mins a day at 4pm, and outside of that you can write down your worries to be reexamined during ‘worry time’. I find it very effective in stopping my brain from running away with itself.

  66. Kelly says...

    I always want to worry as soon as my husband gets into bed with me, like I’ve been saving them up.

    Something that helped me was setting aside five minutes in the daylight to worry my heart out.

    I go for a walk after lunch, five minutes in any direction, and worry the whole way. When five minutes are done, I turn around and stride purposefully home, pumping my arms the whole way. If I do this with a coworker, we call them “rage walks,” and nothing is off-limits, but as soon as we turn around to go back the way we came, it’s on to positive thoughts.

  67. Jodi says...

    I rely on my therapy cat :) No, really. At night, I grab my sleepy cat and she snuggles in with me and begins purring away. No matter what is going on in my brain, she makes me relax and fall asleep. I have even gotten up out of bed when I’m struggling to sleep or have had a bad dream to bring her to bed with me! It works like a charm.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      awwwwww :)

    • I totally agree, Jodi. Having a purring cat in my bed or sitting on my lap is so relaxing and always makes me smile.

  68. Dawn says...

    Don’t try to avoid your anxiety. Makes it worse. Sit with it, learn to tolerate being with the discomfort, watch the thoughts and feelings. Be true to your emotional state, honor it, allow it to move through you. It will. All emotions are temporary.

    • Liz says...

      I love this response.

    • Hannah says...

      Yes to this comment! I am a therapist and find it quite worrying that the advice in this article is to ignore anxious thinking. There is definitely a time and space to utilise relaxation and mindfulness techniques, but pushing anxious thinking down is not addressing any of the triggers.

    • diana k. says...

      I believe this. I like to remind myself “The only way out of this feeling is through it.” It’s very calming to know that any particular anxiety has a shelf life.

  69. Joanie Lamb Callahan says...

    “Nothing good happens after midnight”…grandma/mom mantra from my growing up years. There is some truth to this (except for some fabulous times in my formative years when I could sleep till noon) because our executive frontal lobes shut down at night. It is the time of night when we often don’t make great choices or give into the heebie jeebies. It is refresh and renew time for that functional part of our brain, which leaves us with wary, imaginative, emotional brain on the loose. The parent part of our brain has gone to bed for a well deserved rest. For most of us, the sun will come up, parent brain will get up, it will sort out our mess and we will wonder what was so worriesome. So many of the techniques mentioned trick the emotional brain into more fun projects, just as we would try to distract our kids when they are falling apart. Maybe just the awareness that we have to give your parent part of our brain a break, and be a good babysitter will help. Understanding this also supports the thought that “overnights” or pj parties for kids (or available night time social media) are not such hot ideas, but that is another thread.

  70. Court says...

    This sounds crazy and I can’t believe I’m typing this but there are these scenes in the Harry Potter movies where Dumbledore/another character will put his wand to his head and essentially extract a memory and store it somewhere else. AGAIN-THIS SOUNDS CRAZY! But I will imagine myself extracting a memory or nagging thought that’s giving me anxiety and I imagine I will store that somewhere outside of my body and review it later, but now is not the right time. Somehow giving my brain the relief that eventually I will get to thinking about this anxious thought almost makes me feel better. But imagining getting it out of my head immediately helps.

    • Emily says...

      I use the exact same image from good ol’ Harry Potter! Love it.

    • Court says...

      Emily-we must be soul mates!

  71. Holly says...

    I will try this! I have the same problem and struggled to fall asleep last night only to wake up at 4:45 am and couldn’t fall back to sleep. I meditate, exercise, read and journal (not all at once) and I still have issues with sleep. Thanks for the tip!

  72. Kate says...

    So, I say my prayers every night before bed, and they’re usually just “hey big guy or whoever might be out there, please watch over so and so, and also so and so and please send so and so some peace.” I’ve been doing this since I was a kid and it was always this really nice, reflective calming thing. But there are so many people in my life who are going through difficult things right now and our country is so stressful and I’m in a long distance relationship so I’m praying that he gets watched over and we get watched over. And whereas in the past I could pray and then move on, now I just lay there and ruminate endlessly on all of these scary things.
    And it has just absolutely wrecked my ability to fall asleep.

    I don’t want to give up the praying completely but nothing about this is healthy or helpful. Reading this post and all the comments have helped me brainstorm a new solution: a quick little morning prayer! Leave bedtime for a calm mind.

    • Why don’t you give thanks instead? = positive prayers :-)

  73. Robin says...

    I just wanted to echo the comments about CBD oil… (and apologies if this somehow reposts my comment from earlier! I tried commenting earlier, but don’t see it, and I feel strongly enough about this to type it again!) My sister is a pharmacist (and thus has a wealth of knowledge re: medication) and has been going through some health issues. She’s working with her doctor as well as a holistic practitioner to try and get well. By far the best thing that has worked for her autoimmune issues is CBD oil. She told me about it and the added side effect/benefit of having no anxiety and I just had to try it. I already meditate and try and exercise regularly, but truly this is revolutionary. There are certain situations where I know anxiety should be coming (as a mom to a 3 and 6 year old, these situations are frequent!) and you brace for it, but it doesn’t come. Everything is fine (it was always fine, the anxiety just didn’t let you see that). It’s made such a difference!

    • Nik says...

      I agree! I have been using it for a couple of months now. One day I realized my head had been really quite…. it dawned on my that for a few weeks, my anxiety had been gone! The same, repetitive thoughts were no longer swirling. It’s a miracle.

    • Mara says...

      How long do the effects of CBD oil last?

  74. Jenny says...

    I have experienced quite a bit of trauma in my life. By trade, I am a trauma room nurse. I love my job, but I’ve seen quite a bit in my 23 years of service. I am the empathetic one of my group who deals with families really well, so I help in many of the death notifications.
    In my personal life, I have survived metastatic cancer at 30, and then living, and now divorcing, an addict while raising 4 kids on my own. Many people have said, “How have you survived all of this? ” I would just smile and think to myself, ‘What other choice do I have?’ … and keep moving forward. But I was anxious, I just chose to ignore some of the signs.
    I had my tipping point several months ago after helping a patient who had been violently attacked (not my typical trauma) and it all became too much. All the symptoms of anxiety/PTSD came flooding in all at once in the middle of the night with a horrific panic attack. The collective bag of years of trauma just spilled out. Today I am beyond grateful for that terrible night because it caused me to stop and get help. I now am receiving EMDR and it has been life changing.

    Just know that sometimes the night time pep talks and imagery don’t work. Know that it is ok to not move forward, fight, or keep going. Sometimes it is best to stand still and say, ‘I just can’t take anymore’ and then get help. We all will need help one day – even if you are typically one of the helpers.

    • Liz says...

      Vicarious trauma is a very real thing. I hope you get the help and support you need to enable you to keep doing your important job with joy.

    • Maya says...

      Thanks for this Jenny. I had my tipping point a few months after my son was born last year. He started sleeping through the night at 3.5 months, and I (oh so ironically) stopped sleeping. Literally could not fall asleep for almost 2 weeks. I ended up going to a post-partum inpatient program and that experience was life-changing for me as well. Like you, as terrifying as those two weeks were, I’m beyond grateful that they forced me to get help. I never saw myself as a person who falls apart, and my body needed to stop functioning before I was able to.

      I went to the motherhood center in NY, and the therapist I met there has helped me and my husband in ways that I start tearing up in gratitude just thinking about. Jenny — really glad you came out the other side and could share this.

    • jess says...

      Amazing! As a therapist, your transparency is so appreciated. EMDR can be absolutely life-changing, people often have no idea what PTSD symptoms look like or just how many people can be affected by it. Love love love your last paragraph, too- we all will need help one day. Sending you positivity, keep doing amazing work.

    • Allison says...

      I am sorry you’re going through this, but this is so good to hear, thank you. I think there is a tendency to dismiss anxiety, until it becomes impossible and one needs help. All the best to you.

    • M says...

      Thank you for sharing this! I also feel that EMDR has changed/ is changing my life. The free-floating anxiety I have always felt at night goes all the way back to an infant terrified to be dependent on an unstable situation. There comes a point when we can’t control ourselves anymore…and as inconvenient as that might feel, it is also a gift.

    • julie k says...

      Just want to acknowledge what you’ve done, accomplished and given, Jenny. Feel good and proud for all the healing you’ve given. Blessings to you.

    • Paula says...

      Wow, Jenny! Power to you! You are strong and awesome. Thanks for sharing

    • Lilj says...

      Yes – this. Thank you!

    • Emily says...

      Thanks for sharing your story, and glad you’re doing well.

  75. Amy says...

    Saw this New Yorker cartoon on Instagram today. So appropriate – Ha!
    https://www.instagram.com/p/Bot6y07juca/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=1l8l0kjipc33y

    I’m a 2-4 am insomnia worrier. Every. Single. Night.
    Two things that help me refocus my mind. Creating an image in my mind of the most relaxing, peaceful place possible. Might be a beach house, maybe a room open to a garden with a fountain; each night differs. I imagine myself laying there relaxing and trying to sleep. Also, it helps to have two mantra words that are meaningful to you. One to say in your mind when you breathe in, one to say in your mind when you breathe out. When your mind is focused on a beautiful setting and two words, it has a hard time focusing on all the worries.

    • Kate says...

      I also struggle with the middle of the night waking and worrying. This podcast has REALLY helped: https://www.sleepwithmepodcast.com/ It sounds silly and IS a little silly but it distracts my mind just enough to lull me to sleep. I highly, highly recommend it.

  76. Michelle says...

    For kids (and tired parents who need a break at bedtime!) Check out the Peace Out podcast. She’s awesome, tackles real feelings and difficulties and appeals to all ages.

    • Amy says...

      Yes! My daughter’s been listening to one of the Peace Out podcasts every night after lights out for the last two weeks and we love it. Her voice is so mellow!

      I noticed someone above mentioned that the Calm app has sleep stories for kids so I’m going to check out that when I run out of Peace Out episodes.

  77. Kelsi says...

    I wish I had some tips but I just don’t know how any thinking citizen is NOT deeply anxious right now. I have never in my life suffered from anxiety, but in the last year it had become acute. When the daily news cycle is like watching a slow mo train wreck on repeat…and you just think “it can’t get any worse” and then it DOES…well, it’s hard not to be anxious. Lavendar oil on the feet, valerian in the tea, high potency CBD oil on the tongue might be a cocktail to try.

    • Eva says...

      Same here, Kelsi. I feel like I can no longer sleep, and I am certain the current situation has something to do with it. Hang in there, you are not alone, if that is any comfort at all.

  78. Carol says...

    Bedtime or 3:00am can be really anxious times for me. I will literally start thinking about current problems but then slide all the way back to my childhood! It is so absurd sometimes that it is almost funny.
    Thank you for sharing all your great tips Joanna!

  79. Caraboa says...

    My dad was pretty tough while I was growing up and called me “too sensitive” a lot..
    As we’ve both gotten older and established a deeper relationship we’ve talked a lot about anxiety, etc.
    One day, speaking about a family crisis that was causing everyone a particular pain he said to me, “Is there any worse problem than one at 4 in the morning?”
    For me, it was a bit of a revelation that when we are tired, stressed, anxious none of us are at our strongest. Even dad.
    I still regularly wake up in the middle of the night but I’m more gentle with myself.
    And, btw, my dad now counts my sensitivity as one of my best qualities. He says to me, imagine how you must see the world. He’s convinced we anxious people are experiencing things that escape others- painful as that sometimes can be.

    • Lisa says...

      ” He’s convinced we anxious people are experiencing things that escape others- painful as that sometimes can be.” I found that line so moving and its true some anxious people can be the most sensitive souls who deeply feel all things.

  80. Cynthia says...

    I have anxiety and I’m on celexa which seems to keep me on an even keel. I’ve learned that 99% of the things we worry about never happen. I find that prayers of thankfulness before I go to sleep help relax me.

  81. Robin says...

    I actually recently tried something new for my anxiety that has been sort of revolutionary… I already try to meditate and exercise regularly, and I definitely feel better when I do that, but my sister recently turned me on to CBD oil. She’s a pharmacist, but has been having some health issues and is working with doctors and holistic practitioners to get better. By far the best thing she’s tried (better than steroids!) for her autoimmune issue is CBD oil. I was thrilled it was working well for her, but then she told me about the wonderful side effect of also not having anxiety and I had to give it a try. Sure enough, it works and kind of amazingly well! It’s nuts, I’m mom to a 3 and 6 year old and there will be these moments where I know the old me would have been really anxious (like if your 3 year old starts having a really loud melt down in Trader Joe’s), but I brace for the anxiety and it just doesn’t come. No flashes of stress sweat, everything is just fine (it was always fine, but the anxiety didn’t let me see that). I’ve been recommending it to all my mom friends ;)

  82. Katie says...

    All of these posts – all of the ideas – and the sharing – just made my heart come to ease. My anxiety has been at an all time high this past week. And this year I’m completely on my own (in terms of living situation) having gone through a divorce in January. Sometimes at nights, now that I don’t have my husband next to me, I feel so lonely having the anxious thoughts. But this community of responders, reminds me that I’m not alone and that i’m not weird or crazy – and that my anxiety is just another part of my common humanity with all of you. thank you all for sharing. and my tip, journal and journal and journal some more, get all the thoughts out and let them have a place in the world outside of my head, instead on paper. thank you again

    • Steph says...

      I agree. And it is reflective as well, because when I see what I was so worried about on paper the next day, I can sort through it more thoughtfully and rationally. My journal is more prayer based, so with perspective I can see how my prayers are answered to encourage my faith, and I can see patterns of worry.
      Also, breath prayers helped me tremendously when I was pregnant and my anxiety was an all time high. Breathing in ‘peace’ and out ‘fear’, imagining it coursing through my body and around the baby, and all the worry getting expelled away from her.

  83. I definitely wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling asleep on occasion due to anxiety.

    My trick is to focus on ONE really good thing I am looking forward to and then go over every tiny little detail about it in my mind. Sometimes that one thing is a new pair of shoes and I think about their color, what the new leather smells like, what I will wear them with, how they will feel on my feet. Other times it’s about a trip that’s been planned and I visualize the sites I will see, what the air will smell like, what the foreign language will sound like in my ears. Nothing is too big or small!

    This exercise not only makes me happy but pushes the anxiety right out of my mind and sends me off to a peaceful sleep.

  84. Nade says...

    I don’t sure where I got a tip that helped me a lot. Actually, there are two of them.
    The first one points out that anxiety comes when one is trying to control (of course, mentally) some situation which is outside of one’s control. True, right? I never worry about things I have control over.
    Second is a bit controversial and assumes that feeling of anxiety won’t grow big if it was accepted. Anxiety is painful so we try to shut it down but when we do so it just multiplies.
    I find it helpful to embrace anxiety fully. As it’s my best friend trying to say something important to me but I don’t understand him yet. And try to think what’s behind, what’s that anxiety trying to tell me about?
    I can’t say I always manage to understand the reason why it hits me but when I do so the feeling of gratitude almost splashes me

  85. Hilary says...

    Yes I couldn’t agree with this more. Growing up my Mum would tell me “Gran always say that things seem much worse at night” which stays with me. Thinking practically, I think that is simply because at night you can’t really do much about anything where is in the morning you feel empowered by having a day in front of you to take action.

  86. I also gave my anxiety/inner critic/inner protector/worry wort self a name: Janice. I teach this to my coaching clients all the time. So often we want to push our worry away or ignore it, when really this part of us is our biggest protector. It wants to keep us safe and loved and it wants us to have everything we want most in life. Our anxiety is the same part of us that triggers our fight or flight response and would make us run if a tiger were chasing us. However, the inner critic/anxiety/worry thinks that being late on a bill, or offending a friend, or setting a boundary is the same as being chased by a tiger. I also like to say “take your inner critic to tea.” Invite her in, hear what she has to say (best done during daylight hours), thank her for trying to protect you, and reassure her kindly, like you would with a little kid, that everything is OK and you are safe. My inner critic is loudest during this time of year, and every month during the luteal (pre-menstrual) phase of my cycle (of which I’m in both right now – yay!).

  87. Erica says...

    Good tip, Joanna! I’ve got the same problem :-/ For me, it helps to write down my worries and schedule a time to address them (during daylight hours!).

  88. Cheryl says...

    I “give” my worries, fears and dread to my guru during meditation. He’s happy to take it. Things I can’t control at all I trust will get better and they always do. Recently my daughter was diagnosed with a chronic life threatening incurable disease. That was hard to let go. But the minute I realized I’m on a rollercoaster I’m not meant to control and that God wants us to surrender our fears to Him, I had no choice. It was a relief.

    It’s like that saying, “let go and let God”. Letting go is the best thing ever. Besides, all I ever seem to do is mess it up. God doesn’t.
    Of course if you’re an atheist this doesn’t work. Lol

  89. Gen says...

    Gosh, thanks Jo. Especially with recent political events, this is really timely advice.

  90. Jillian says...

    I feel as though at least 1/3 of this is from a COJ comment from years back, but when I get to that mind-racing state I:
    1) drink a glass of ice cold water (since you almost have to focus and you have to drink cold water more slowly)
    2) remind myself something from one of my favorite authors: “just the next right thing,” as in “just the next right thing, one thing at a time: that’ll take you all the way home
    3) running your wrists under cool water for 60 seconds– this works on little kids, people in that gasping stage of sobbing, friends verging towards panic attack, when thoughts start to go faster than your soul can keep up. Try it! (and I hope it helps)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, wow, these are great tips, jillian. thank you!

    • Lindsey says...

      I’ve heard a similar tip about holding on to an ice cube! Maybe the change in temperature makes you focus on something other than anxiety?

    • Dee says...

      When my kids get upset or scared or are having a tantrum I’ll always make them drink some water. Calms them down every time! It’s a good trick!

    • diana k. says...

      I love these, thank you. When I feel anxious I put together a playlist of whatever I need to hear at the moment. Some playlist titles include “Getting worked up about the horrors of the world” and “Slow down your brain” and “Moisturizing with the blinds closed.”

      If you’re interested: https://open.spotify.com/user/kokobeats?si=h4Xh5J_nS2yFWCeZZCjxtw

    • Nadege says...

      Ready for awesome? This works because drinking cold water stimulates the vagus nerve – which originates in the brainstem and extends all the way down to the tongue, vocal chords, heart, lungs, and other internal organs – it’s one of the most important element of the parasympathetic nervous system, the one that calms you down. When you stimulate your vagus nerve, you counteract your sympathetic nervous system, the one that causes stress by activating your fight-or-flight response. Sucking on a cut lemon has the same affect! This is my go-to when my anxiety is at a tipping point!

  91. Nicole says...

    This reminds me of something my mom did for me when I was young. She was sick a great portion of my childhood, and I was always so anxious about it. So, my mom got me worry dolls (tiny embroidered figurines) that went under my pillow- she told me that if I worried at night, the dolls would soak up all my worries for me, and I would feel better in the morning. It was true! Things always, always seem worse at night.

    P.S. I still rely on your “stop sign” trick to keep anxious thoughts at bay. It has helped me tremendously. Thanks for addressing this issue so thoughtfully.

  92. Tis says...

    Instead of fighting with my mind and trying to quieten ALL THE THOUGHTS, I listen to something else to crowd out my thoughts. I love the app Calm; it has zillions of meditations on different subjects, but also has lots of Sleep Stories told in soothing voices. I listen to one every night, religiously, and there are 12-minute stories I’ll never know the ending to because I don’t make it to the end!

  93. Carrie says...

    I am so thankful I am not a worrier so I don’t suffer from this problem, but I am plagued with generalized anxiety and have been for a long time…so basically, my stress happens during the day. Enter Ashwaganda. I take half a dose at night along with magnesium. Helps me so much! Getting home after my 10hr day and doing the usual survey of all that needs to be done…that doesn’t get me like it used to. Day to day stuff, it’s all completely tolerable now. It’s wonderful. Can’t recommend enough

  94. Vanessa says...

    I started a gratitude journal earlier this year when I was going through some tough times, and it’s been a wonderful way to end the day. It has a way of centering me!

  95. Sisu Garcia says...

    great tips! but also, can I just say that everyone’s anxiety and stress levels seem to be much higher right now? i have a feeling that the current political climate has seeped into our minds so much that it allows those baseline levels to be higher than normal for every aspect of our lives right now.. at least i know in my case it is true.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      YES.

    • Clare says...

      Lordy, yes.

      We call it Trump Angst in our house. So, we have started binge watching British dramas before going to bed. Preferably those set in another era with beautiful costumes. It helps.

    • Mary says...

      True! Where I’m from, the inflation’s rate in its all time high in 10 years. I’m planning to resign from my office job to take care of my kids (I have a 2-year old and currently 31 weeks pregnant with my second) next year. But I constantly worry about how we’ll be able to do that now with the soaring prices of commodities including fuel. I have made many many Excel files on budgeting and I stop once I realize that it’s really going nowhere. My husband’s diabetes also adds up to my anxiety.

    • Brittany Thurman says...

      Shannon! Trump angst. That’s you! hahaha

    • Colleen S says...

      My sister was worried daily while he was having the “whose penis is larger” diatribe with Kim Jong-Un. She is already on anti-anxiety meds, so this administration isn’t doing her any favors.

  96. Melissa H says...

    My 12 year old tends to be anxious and it is MUCH worse after 9 pm. I have to force her to stop talking and usually she can get to sleep and is 1000% better in the morning.

    • Maiz says...

      One of my kids gets the worries right before bed (like his mother), so I tell him that we should decide on a time to worry about that problem when the sun is out. We’ll decide to work on it in the morning, but the problem is usually gone by then. I always remind him how much bigger and worse every problem seems at night, and tell him that his tired brain can’t solve problems like his rested brain can.

  97. Sarah says...

    My childhood mind had a room full of sweet, smart and beautifully-dressed women sitting around (looking back, in the form of a 17th century salon). I couldn’t see the ladies too up close, but I would visit them in my mind at night when I was frightened in the dark, or after watching a scary movie. We would talk about everyday things and eventually I would fall asleep. That imaginary room of women was so comforting.

    In the last few years there have been moments were I have returned to this room and it has given me such relief. It’s a diversion from the worries and fears in my mind and I am soothed better than any meditation app or mantra I’ve tried so far.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, sarah. that’s so poetic.

    • APaige says...

      Sarah, I would like to invite your ladies to take up residence in my mind for a monthly salon. How wonderful that your mind created this when you were young!
      When my son is daydreaming, I often wonder what sort of little kingdoms he is creating. I’d love to think he’s making up a similarly comforting coterie of imaginary friends.

  98. Morgan says...

    I picture myself – in a coverup, carrying a bag, sunglasses on, walking onto my favorite beach. I imagine setting down a towel, kicking off my flip flops, laying on my back in the sun with my eyes closed. Finally, I imagine the sensation of digging my toes into the sun-warmed sand. There is something so decadent, and so totally pre-kid me about this imagery. As a thought/s creeps in, I gently bring myself back to imagining the sensation of the warm sand on my toes.

  99. Anne says...

    I realized that my anxiety – which is for me is more like crabbiness and anger – is more of a mental habit than anything else. It’s like a rut that my brain falls into when I don’t have anything else to think about. Once I start grumbling to myself, my feelings just spiral until I’m slamming doors and yelling and picking fights with my husband. Once I started framing it as a habit, being angry felt like more of a choice and less like an overwhelming emotional reaction that I was helpless against. Now when I notice that I’m starting to slip into the angry rut, I can sometimes pull myself out by asking, “Why am I doing this?” Sometimes I’m hungry, sometimes I’m legitimately frustrated about something, and sometimes I just mindlessly started fuming for no reason at all. Having a few victories where I was able to head off a bad mood before it even started makes me feel like I can be a better person, and be kinder to the people around me.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow, anne, you have such amazing self-knowledge. i’m so impressed and inspired.

    • Gen says...

      Hear hear. Thanks for sharing, Anne.

    • Marie says...

      Needed to read this comment today Anne. Thank you sincerely. I will be trying this strategy out!!

    • Ruth says...

      That’s so helpful Anne, Thank you!!!

    • Paula says...

      oh wow Anne, same for me! Anxiety is crabbiness and anger! I, too, try to identify problems. A lot of them do end up pointed at my husband b/c he’s the person I’m closest with and sometimes when I get really really frustrated at him, I say, but look, he made you coffee and cleaned all the lunch containers, or, he’s always up for playing with the kids when he can tell you are worn out-I legit have to say good things about him to my brain because then I won’t dwell on whether or not he forgot to take out the recycling, or some other mundane everyday task. I found when I have anxiety not to reject it; I embrace it, I make a list of accomplishable goals on my phone, and say, see, there, I worked it out. Even if I didn’t work out anything, let’s say my anxiety pertains to my career and all I did was made a shopping list and meal plan for the next few days. Life is a crazy ride.

  100. s says...

    a little bit different, but my family has named the grumpy person that comes out when we’re hungry/stressed. when my dad is traveling and gets tired and crabby, we say that “lewis” comes out, his middle name.

  101. Jess says...

    I’m not a tennis player, but I “ball” up my worries and swat them away with a tennis racket. The visual really helps. It works, sometimes!

  102. Kim says...

    My insomnia trick is to get out of bed and do a few push ups, yoga positions, crunches or something else physical. I think it works because I have to focus on something else. Mainly, I wake up enough to realize that my fatigue is amplifying every stress and anxiety that I have. Then again, it might just be my laziness–after 7 crunches my body is like, “Never mind, I’m tired. Let’s go to bed.”

  103. Rose says...

    I love this! And I love many of the other suggestions in the comments as well. I’m a therapist, and often when I suggest coping skills for anxiety, my clients will come back and say, “well, it helped a little bit, but it didn’t make it go away entirely”, or “It worked a couple of times, but it also didn’t work a couple of times”, and they feel discouraged about trying something different. I remind them that even if our anxiety decreases from an 8 to a 6, that’s an improvement. And as humans we are dynamic beings, and there’s no “one size fits all” approach to mental health. Taking a walk one day might help, reading a book another day might be the key, and baking cookies one night might be the ticket in that moment. I think it’s important to be flexible in our approach to coping with anxiety and give ourselves grace in the process.

  104. Sara W says...

    This is so so true. I never thought about all the parallels with the witching hour and sundowners. My night time mantra when the anxiety hits “everything will feel better in the light of day”. Helps me remember how things can feel so so intense in the middle of night but somehow more manageable the next morning. Why is it so easy to work yourself up at night?!

  105. Heidi says...

    I have really been struggling with something for the past year and I don’t even know what it is. Whenever I read a horrible news story or headline, particularly involving child abuse, I just lay awake at night and panic about it. My mind just can’t let go of the sadness and injustice and horror against children that goes on in the world. I just lay there at night trying to understand and worrying about my own children. This only started after I had kids and I assume it is anxiety and it is awful. You are not alone in your nighttime worrying.

    • Laura says...

      This is me too. You’re not alone in that particular anxiety!

    • Amy says...

      Heidi, look into intrusive thoughts. They can come on suddenly, sometimes after post-partum, hormonal changes or if there’s a triggering event. EMDR and exposure therapy help. It was helpful for me to be able to finally define what was suddenly happening to me, versus just wondering whether I had developed a case of generalized anxiety, which didn’t seem to fit.

    • Heidi says...

      Thank you, Laura-for some reason, knowing I’m not the only one is a relief. Amy, I will look into both of those. Thank you so much.

  106. Vicki says...

    I have a guided meditation I listen to that has me focus on my breath and it says the breath centers us at the moment because we know the breath we take in and out is there for the moment and we cannot wish for it back. That sometimes helps me think about letting things go.
    BUT not always (anxiety can be a B*tch!), when I really can’t just tell my mind to be quiet, I listen to a podcast, one that is not tense or mysterious, but chatty, it’s like talking to a friend at a sleepover till you fall asleep. I like the Sporkful (it’s not boring! it’s great, but its not cliffhanger or one that you binge), but I am sure there are many others that would work.

  107. I deactivated my Facebook account and blocked myself from all news sites on my phone (except the local channel app so I get traffic alerts, etc.) last week. This has made such a difference in my anxiety. I subscribed to a newspaper delivery so I still know what’s going on in the world, but the only trolls in the comment section are any drawings that I scribble in the margins. I’m sleeper better and I feel so much saner now that I’m not tuning in to the rage machine every day.

    • Emily says...

      My anxiety went way down when I stopped using facebook. And now when I see people, we actually have something to talk about because I don’t know every little thing about their daily life!

  108. Emily says...

    Another trick for an anxious mind–visualize yourself sitting on the side of a busy road. Each of your thoughts/worries is a car driving by. Package the anxious idea into the vehicle and watch it drive by without passing judgment or giving any one “car” more weight than the other.

    It sounds really simple and kind of juvenile but it works! I’ve taught this simple meditation to my 11 year old son, too. It helps with every worry big or small.

  109. kash says...

    Or: “Everything is worse at night!”

    “Everything is worse at night” was a mantra in my house growing up. This phrase would annoy me and my siblings to no end (DAD, can’t you just let me bask in the throes of late night melodrama?!), but we all knew it was 100% true. Magically, you will not sob with the same intensity about breaking up with your boyfriend once the sun is up. Your math test will not seem as daunting at breakfast. Nighttime has a way of making you feel like the world is ending.

    Anyway, thankful for this post because it reminded me of this helpful phrase. I’ve heard and told myself “everything is worse at night” so much in my life that it’s now like giving myself a little hug. Sometimes you just need a reminder that whatever your going through will feel a whole lot more bearable in the morning.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a good mantra!

  110. Emily says...

    The only thing that has ever helped my anxiety is a good talk therapist. The best one I ever had helped me learn that to overcome my fears I had to name my fears. I have since learned many people do not like this! For instance, I have a fear of dying while traveling for work and leaving my son and husband alone. I don’t know why, but a huge help to me is to say to myself when I buckle into my airplane seat, “I’m afraid the plane is going to crash. If it does, it will be terrible but my family will survive and everyone who loves me and them will help them make it through.” I don’t say it out loud but I say it in my head. Just naming the fear–(mainly for me once I became a mother my fear became my own DEATH)–eases the burden of the worry around the fear. I don’t think that will work for everyone but it has helped me tremendously. On a much smaller scale, if I have nerves before a big sales presentation or meeting, if I just give a name to the fear–I’m afraid I will fail. I am afraid they won’t like me and won’t buy anything, etc. It really makes me bigger and more powerful than whatever I am anxious about.

    It is funny when I fly with friends who are nervous fliers. I always say, Are you afraid we are going to crash? And they are like, OMG WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT?! And I say, b/c if I say it out loud it helps me work through it.

    • Laura M says...

      This is so helpful! I am going to try it! I have the same fear too… btw Cup of Jo- would love an entry on fear of flying and best tips to overcome…. its something I really hate about myself!

  111. inna says...

    funnily enough, although it seems counterintuitive, silence helps. any kind of prolonged silence and quietly listening to yourself, your thoughts, including the worries, going inside. meditation or silence retreats are incredibly refreshing.

    i think one of the issues is, we fight the worry, or try to suppress it and stuff it somewhere, which only makes it stronger. the key is to let it happen without reacting to it, just like as a mother you might watch a child having a strong emotional reaction to something and wait for it to pass, so you can calmly discuss something, the same loving way one needs to be with oneself and their own thoughts.

    but of course, it is much easier to be motherly and loving to our kids than to show the same kindness to ourselves )

  112. Kerri says...

    My son, who is five, often decides to bring up his worries at bedtime and I give him the space to talk but if I see he is spiralling I’ve found it helpful to say, “You are scared right now because your brain is tired and doesn’t know how to cope so it’s decided to make you feel fearful.” He ponders it for a moment and agrees that his brain is being tricky and the best remedy is to go to sleep ☺️

    • This is such a good way to explain bedtime (or any time) worries and fears to a kid. I’m going to use this with my daughter, who is six and worries a lot… Thank you so much!

    • STEPHANIE O'NEILL says...

      I’m going to use this for myself and my boys.

  113. Sarah says...

    If my mind is racing and I’m feeling anxious when my head hits the pillow I’ll put on a podcast I recently discovered on Spotify called, “Nothing Much Happens: Bedtime Stories for Adults”. They’re beautiful short stories about good things like wandering into your kitchen during a rain storm to make Italian pasta for one, curling up with tea and a good book in a quiet corner, or wandering through a tomato garden inhaling the zesty scent of its leaves.
    It’s like the stories create a soft little bed for your mind to settle in to – you become lulled by the story and slowly drift off to sleep thinking about lovely things. It works for me every time!

  114. Zoë Harrison says...

    1) Have you listened to Invisibilia? This podcast changed the way I think about my thoughts – produced by NPR, super well done, super interesting!
    2) This happens to me especially when I wake up in the middle of the night and am half-dreaming – I think of a million things that maybe had a slightly stressful effect on me in the daytime – I’m talking, really mild. But in those half awake/half asleep times in the middle of the night, I find myself becoming CONSUMED and thinking of those things as terrible, no good, very bad, life altering situations/circumstances. I will stretch, or listen to music (w/ headphones so I don’t wake up huz) to help me go back to sleep. And in the morning, when I think back on those things, I think, why in the world was I so stressed about that at 3 AM?

  115. Sarah says...

    When I was pregnant with our first I spent most of my prenatal appointments crying to my OB about our move, my new job, the baby, etc, etc. She would check the heartbeat, then just sit and listen for the rest of the appointment. I remember her saying to, “Just let it swirl around you.” My husband and I still talk about that…. just letting it all swirl around us. She was so lovey! Wish I could cry to her through this pregnancy, too.

  116. Lynn says...

    A friend once went to a therapist, who told her, “Worry is a prayer for what you don’t want.” I’ve never forgotten this. When anxiety hits me I think of this, and I think of the Four Agreements, and I let it go. When the big stuff hits, like thinking about Trump, I feel rage. Nature heals my rage, especially the ocean.

  117. Alyson says...

    I recommend the buddhify app-I have had it for years and it almost always works! If not, throw on the podcast “Stuff you should Know” and choose the topic you find most boring-very soothing & they crack me up.

  118. Laura says...

    Trying things like this tip is a good way to start developing your own coping mechanisms for whatever brand of worrying/anxiety you have. However, there’s a point when someone has to step back and realize that maybe the anxiety needs a little more help than that. Tips are great stepping stones, but I also hope that people who need more significant help seek it out. Speaking from personal experience, sometimes the tricks do just that – they trick you into thinking that you can handle it on your own. And it’s ok if you can’t. There’s help.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, great point, laura. i totally agree. for example, i take 20mg of celexa every day in order to be able to function like a human being :) medication, exercise, sleep, therapy, all these things can be helpful and necessary for some people. great point, thank you xoxo

  119. Melinda says...

    I read a great book a few years ago called “Sleep Better Without Drugs” by Dr David Morawetz and one of the things that absolutely changed my life was the idea that “peaceful rest is 80% as restorative as sleep”. My anxiety manifests in early waking, so when I wake up around 4am and my mind starts racing, I remind myself that peaceful rest is *nearly* as restorative as actual sleep, and I stop worrying that I’m not asleep and am going to be wrecked the next day (on top of all my other worries). It has really helped me!

  120. Olivia says...

    I used to be the same way while going to bed.

    I was sooooo against essential oils (it felt like a train that everyone was getting on and I was stubbornly refusing to board) but then I decided to try it out at night. It’s been life-changing! I use a Saje diffuser and Tranquility is the scent I use at night. The smell is so soothing and whenever I turn it on, it’s like a signal to my body and mind to shut off, de-stress and relax. It’s really helped me. I even made my twin sister buy one so I can be just as relaxed when I visit her ;)

  121. Sherree says...

    You MUST try the Meditation Oasis podcast- specifically the “Deep Rest Guided Meditation” episode! It is truly my strongest weapon on nights my mind won’t stop & I recommend it every chance I get. It feels a little cheesy at first, but give it a chance. My husband used to tease me about it, but now requests it on stressful nights! Much love to you & your family. ❤️I hope your worries pass soon.

  122. em says...

    if i’m feeling anxious as i try to sleep, we put on a super easy tv show we’ve seen a hundred times (ex Friends) or read a book. it lets my mind focus enough on something other than my anxious thoughts, but doesn’t overly interest me enough that i can’t start to fall asleep. it’ s hard to shut down the swirl of thoughts otherwise

  123. This is a bit of the opposite approach but might offer an alternative for some folks. Sometimes, blowing up our anxiety and fully attending to it by writing out our fears and concerns before sleep can actually help to stop the circular thinking. While in a discussion, it’s easy for thoughts to twist and repeat, writing out concerns in a list format provides some structure and we will eventually come to a pause on the list. This is best for to-do list kind of worries more than big existential ones, but sometimes even writing those down can help remind us that there is not much to do about a possible apocalypse while in pajamas at 10:45 PM on an idle Tuesday night. I like to think of anxiety as an overactive child or puppy who needs to settle, the best intervention is about 20 minutes of undivided attention, after which it will usually exhaust itself.

    • Kelly says...

      I sometimes take my worry down the path of ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen?’ And usually the worst thing is either so ridiculous and unlikely, or unfortunate but manageable, or so out of my control to change, that it brings a helpful perspective and reminds me that I’m more worried about the uncertainty than anything.

      Also, if it is a real issue that I need to do something about, I try to decide: what’s the next thing I need to do? What one step can I take tmrw to move forward on this?

  124. Mariah says...

    When I wake at night to breastfeed my baby or calm my crying toddler, I often have a hard time falling back asleep even though I. Am. So. Tired.
    My brain seems to think it’s the perfect moment to tackle the world’s problems or my own anxieties. When I feel it coming on, I gently scold myself, “Now is not the time for problem solving! No wise decisions are made at 2am.”

  125. Jen says...

    I am Long Time (Many Decades) Night Time Worrier. Until a couple of years ago. No one wants to hear this, but – working out most days means I barely hit the pillow before falling asleep. Works for depression, daytime anxiety, and mild agoraphobia too.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you for this! definitely inspiring. i was debating going on a jog tonight but now i will :)

  126. Kimberly Brandt says...

    my husband will (kindly) ask me how my day at work went after we’re in bed. and i’ve learned (after 12 years of marriage) to just say NO. I’m not going to talk about work late at night. i’ll just ramp up and then spiral. It can be happy or sad, but something about the late night hours just AMPLIFY my emotions. and i have ALL THE FEELS. so, we’ve learned to table any “real” conversations until daylight returns. LOL

  127. Bridget says...

    CBD. It really helps :)

    • F says...

      YES.

    • Agreed! It has seriously changed my life. It did take some time to figure out which brand and dosage works best for me, but it’s sooo worth it.

    • Emily says...

      Agree! It has really helped me relax and be less anxious while trying to fall asleep. And no side effects whatsoever. 😊

  128. The past month has been one my worst bouts of anxiety in my life. I’ve been meditating on these words-“My thoughts don’t control me, I control my thoughts.”

    • Annis Lampard says...

      Yes! A nice variant on this that helped me at a time I was having anxiety-induced mental loops is “the thoughts are just the thoughts”. In other words they exist, but only as thoughts – not as predictors of doom, not as enemies to be wrestled into submission or talked down from the ledge. Just thoughts, somehow it both shrunk things down to size and calmed me by acknowledging that I was reacting something that exists (even if I’d been slapping a too big label on it).

  129. Tiffany says...

    3 other things that have been helpful for me at times when feeling anxious at bedtime – CBD oil, a weighted blanket, and a quick meditation

    • dana says...

      I’ve been looking into cbd but I’m not sure which to buy. Can anyone recommend something that’s available online?

  130. Louisa says...

    This is me 100% and only over the past year. (Is this aging? Kids? Being a midcareer professional?)

    What is essential for me: (1) going to the gym early and getting sunlight/walking in during the day – don’t underestimate the power of being physically tired. (2) a complete to-do list, including a list of “things that must get done today” (and being diligent about doing those things). I can say to my brain “I know you’re worried about getting ___ done but it’s on the to do list for Wednesday, and you know that you’ll get it done then.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      getting sunlight/walking in during the day is such a great tip. i was at maximum stress last night, worrying deeply about one of my children, and i took a walk around the neighborhood and felt so soothed by the fresh air and movement. it’s incredible how something so simple can help so much.

    • Louisa says...

      My heart aches for your mama worries! – I wanted to add that you can put “worry about X” (that bully at school; that weird mole; the undermining co-worker) on your to-do list, too. Seriously – sometimes when my anxious brain wants to ruminate on something I put a time on the schedule to do it.

  131. Emily says...

    For the past few months I’ve decided that if I can’t sleep because my mind is racing, I’ll just wake my husband up (he falls asleep immediately when he hits the pillow) and we’ll have sex. Admittedly it’s not every night, but I’m always able to fall right asleep afterwards! Win win!

    • Cherie says...

      So good!!!

  132. Yael says...

    when I’m feeling anxious, sometimes I get stressed or anxious or down on myself about feeling anxious! The best trick that I’ve found for this is to project my feelings onto an imaginary puppy. Like, imagine there’s a really cute, snuggly puppy who’s feeling anxious. Would you tell the puppy, “Oh, you’re being ridiculous / oversensitive / enough with the anxiety already”? (Like I sometimes tell myself, unfortunately.) No! You would hug the puppy, pet it, calm it, and say, “it’s ok to be anxious, puppy. I got you. It’s just a Feeling, and I’m right here. Things are still ok.” It’s so much easier to be kinder to my imaginary puppy than to my regular self, (even though of course the imaginary puppy is part of me), and it’s cool to feel that shift.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      awww, that’s the sweetest, yael.

  133. JC says...

    I am a reformed super-worrier. My mantra is, “Name one thing that worrying has ever solved or helped?” and of course the answer is nothing. I imagine myself floating on a cloud and tell myself a story-usually the same one over and over for a few months-like writing a novel in my mind. I also pray.

  134. Julie says...

    This post was so timely for me, thank you. I feel awesome in the morning and usually deteriorate throughout the day. Goal tonight: just hang after dinner. And. Chill.

  135. Amy says...

    I’ve learned the “is worrying going to fix this or can you fix this now?” If not I relax take a breath and sleep. Seems to work well for me.

  136. Sue says...

    I’ve been an avid audiobook listener for decades, but I’d never listened in bed before a few months ago when things in my life got more than usually stressful. What has saved me is the audiobook of Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals (the book that the Durrells in Corfu is based on). It’s a bit meandering, good humored and not particularly plot-driven, which makes is perfect for bedtime (because there’s no urgency about what might happen next). The British narrator starts reading, and no matter what I’m anxious about, I nearly always fall asleep within the first 5 minutes. Even if I wake up in the middle of the night anxious, I put it back on, and I go back to sleep. The Audible app has a sleep setting, so I set it for 30 minutes, and the next day I have to go back about 25 minutes to the last thing I remember. I don’t know why I’d never thought of this before–in these trying times, adults need to be read to sleep too!

    • Hannah says...

      Yep, for me, BBC Radio 4 documentaries are the answer. They walk this magical edge of interesting and boring/soothing, and when I’m really stressed, I literally force myself to repeat after the narrator in my head, word for word, so I can’t let my mind wander into worry. Works like a charm. Ten minutes, tops, and I’m out.

  137. Ryal says...

    1. Blessed are the nurses who have to deal with sundowners! My dad would absolutely freak out during that transition of light to dark and become the patient from hell.
    2. When I’m in bed and I turn out the lights, I try to remember to list the 10 things that I was grateful for that day. Sounds corny, but it beats worrying.
    3. I read something sweet that at bedtime, turn your problems over to God because he’s up all night.

  138. Agnes says...

    I find that getting out of myself and my own head on a regular basis is the best medicine for when I get squirrely. Being a therapist is great for that. I get all squirrely sometimes, and then I have to FOCUS on kids and teens and join them in THEIR inner worlds for a few hours every day, and all the pain and drama they go through so often. It really puts things back into order, realizing we are all part of a much bigger picture and the world most definitely isn’t on ANY one of our shoulders, regardless of whether or not it feels or appears that way… simplistic as that sounds, it works for me. The world will keep orbiting without any single one of us helping it along.

  139. Lia says...

    I struggle with having anxiety attacks right at the cusp of falling asleep… all of a sudden I am slammed with a tsunami of feeling inadequate and unfulfilled…work problems or relationship issues or life problems suddenly seem huge and overwhelming and will jolt me awake in despair. It happens a lot! I can be perfectly fine, falling asleep, then have this happen and be left wide awake and thoroughly unsettled. When I am awake things go back to normal, but man…rough night.

  140. This didn’t used to be a problem for me but it has been, lately…especially if I have to get up in the night with my child. Then, when I lie back down at 3:30 am, my mind goes through all of the what-ifs.

    Btw, I LOVE Catastrophe and especially that scene in the therapist’s office! I love how she asks Sharon if she’s depressed (post-partum) and she says something like, “Not really. But sometimes I do wish a meteor would hit our house with me and the kids in it.” And her therapist says, “What about your husband?” And Sharon says, “Oh, him? I don’t really care if he’s there or not.” Captures PPD so well!!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg yes!!! i had looked up the script earlier while writing this post. here’s that part:

      Sharon: You know, like, sometimes I imagine a meteor hitting the house and killing me and the kids.
      Therapist: What about your husband?
      Sharon: I don’t know.
      If he’s home.
      I don’t care.

    • hahaha yessss I’m so glad you put the (perfectly written) actual script in here! (can’t wait for season 4!)

  141. Kari says...

    I feel the same away about arguing with my husband. It seems that when an argument arises during daytime hours, we can usually work through it better and move on. The closer we get to bed time, the more likely an argument is going to spiral out of control. Despite the old fashioned advice, sometimes I think it’s a really good idea to go to bed angry. Just like your anxiety, nothing gets solved after dark when we should be peacefully sleeping and everything looks better in the AM.

  142. Things happen on its own time. Grab popcorn and enjoy this show called life.

  143. Leah says...

    One of the few things that has been able to calm me down before bed is crosswords! I downloaded the NYTimes crossword app and it’s amazing.
    I use it anytime I have spare time, I do them with my roommates when we’re making dinner, and when it’s time to go to bed it focuses my mind without riling me up.
    Plus the satisfaction of finishing a crossword doesn’t hurt.

  144. If something’s on my mind, sometimes I’ll get up out of bed and scribble down a short action plan for the next day – it can be any small step I can take to address the problem. I like to add it to my mundane to-do list – it gives me permission to stop thinking about the problem while also downgrading its severity.

    • Robyn says...

      I do this, too!

      And during stressful periods of life, I try to anticipate what will stress me out in the night and make the list before I go upstairs to get ready for bed.

  145. Gina Dwyer says...

    I think it’s great advice, but probably still really hard to do? :(
    I’m normally a really good sleeper (sorry), but I remember a time when I could not shut my brain off as I would try to fall asleep, during an especially difficult time at work. My rescue was a good book, and it still works for me, thank goodness. Not just any book though. It’s got to be a really great story, and maybe for those that find that doesn’t work, something FUNNY to read? It has to captivate you, until you’re so tired you can’t keep your eyes open.for.one.more.second!

  146. Sarah says...

    The problem with this theory is that most people with anxiety can’t just “shut it down.” If it were that simple, no one would have to struggle with anxiety.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i hear you, sarah, and totally agree. as someone with generalized anxiety disorder, i can spin out forever and it’s really hard. i like this advice because it helps me remember that my worries aren’t always legitimate just because i have them — that they might seem bigger at night simply because it’s NIGHT and not because they’re huge and intractable. does that make sense? that’s my take, but i totally hear you if it doesn’t resonate! xoxo

  147. S says...

    My hubby always says : “worry when it happens ” which reminds me not to waste time worrying about something that hasn’t or won’t happen!

  148. Kelly Hartman says...

    I did a program that was a combination of mindfulness/performance optimization. In it, they taught us to thank your emotion – whatever it is – for something positive it has done for you and remind yourself that emotions are caused by chemicals and sometimes the chemicals are overactive compared to the situation at hand.

    So (try) to say: thank you anxiety, you’ve always helped me be a good planner and anticipate how I’ll manage if things go wrong. But you’re just a chemical and I don’t need so much of you right now!

    Sometimes it helps :).

    • Emily says...

      I love this!

    • Meg says...

      Love this.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so great, kelly.

    • ann says...

      The konmari method for emotions! So smart.

  149. Fay says...

    This made me smile because I literally JUST had this conversation with a friend. I was talking about anxiety + falling asleep trouble, especially because I get so stressed while praying–I start to think about all the horrible things that could happen to everyone I pray about, it spirals, and I can’t sleep. She looked at me so kindly and said, “why don’t you just pray…during the day?” It was SO OBVIOUS. And I never, in a million years, would have thought of it. Now I try to do pray/worry while washing dishes. Much, much better. Thank goodness for good friends.