By Barbara @ Follow Your Own Rhythm
You know those times when after a long, busy and stressful day you find yourself wired and obsessively thinking about all that just happened? Replaying the day's happenings in your head? Obsessing over what you did right and what you did wrong? Overthinking, overanalyzing, and worrying about what's to come?
Or those times in your life when you're dealing with a specific issue like your car needing to be fixed, bills needing to be paid, relationship troubles, work stresses, health concerns, or an upcoming event you're nervous about?
And then you try to go to bed at night and CAN'T FALL ASLEEP? Your mind is racing and you just. can't. stop. thinking about all that's going on in your life...
One thought leads to the next and before you know it, it's been an hour and you're still AWAKE, incessantly thinking and lost in your head, instead of drifting off to deep sleep...
Then, you wake up the next day tired and groggy, instead of energized and refreshed.
I used to struggle with this as well. If I had a stressful day at work, or have been dealing with some family drama, or have been writing all day which kept my mind racing, I found it very difficult to fall asleep. I'd just lay in bed thinking, thinking, thinking without even realizing it, and hours would pass.
I'm all about NATURAL as opposed to artificial or harmful solutions to our problems, therefore, watching TV, drinking alcohol, or taking sleeping pills as a way to fall asleep after a stressful day is not something I would recommend.
For me personally, even drinking "sleepy-time" teas that are purely derived from plants isn't the best solution as it makes me feel tired the next day and I don't want to become dependent on it in order to fall asleep.
Same goes for reading a book, listening to music or listening to a guided meditation. Here and there they are fine, but to NEED it in order to fall asleep can become risky as now you're depending on something outside of yourself to fall asleep.
To me, dependence equals limitation and lack of freedom, therefore, the tip I will be sharing with you today requires NOTHING except you. This way you can do it anywhere and anytime.
Before I share this tip, I just want to say that staying awake at night due to incessant thinking is something that MANY of us experience as most of us live fast paced, busy, and stressful lives and we have not learned how to control the thoughts that this stressful lifestyles creates. Basically, it's not common knowledge to know how to "turn our minds off."
So here is the simple yet powerful remedy that will help you fall asleep FAST, peacefully, and without the need for anything other than yourself:
BECOME AWARE OF YOUR BREATH.
What do I mean by that?
Becoming aware of your breath means to basically focus your attention on your breath going in and out, instead of on the thoughts that arise.
The point is to anchor yourself in something that is deep and permanent and won't trigger stressful thoughts. And as you know, thoughts trigger thoughts so the key is to transcend thought.
You can do this by becoming aware of your breath.
When your full attention is on the present moment a.k.a your breath, your thoughts, stresses and worries will start to fade.
When your mind starts to wander, just bring your attention back to the breath. And before you know it, you'll be asleep.
So here is step-by-step what you need to do to fall asleep:
1. Lay down.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Breathe deeply.
4. Bring your attention to your inhalations and exhalations. Focus on this.
5. When you start thinking about something, bring your awareness back to your breath.
6. Keep doing this until you're asleep. :)
This is such a simple technique but SO powerful and effective.
It works EVERY time for me, no matter how stressed, worried, or wired I am.
Tonight, or any night you're having trouble falling asleep, try this out!
"Being aware of your breath forces you into the present moment - the key to all inner transformation. Whenever you are conscious of the breath, you are absolutely present. You may also notice that you cannot think and be aware of your breathing. Conscious breathing stops your mind."
Just as a side note, before I started using this breathing technique to help me fall asleep, I relied on a different technique that worked pretty effectively (some of the time) and I'd like to share it with you as it's a good "transition" technique.
This technique involves using your mind (as opposed to moving beyond the mind) to help you fall asleep.
If you absolutely have to think about something while falling asleep, at least in the beginning stages of learning the breathing technique, the NUMBER ONE thing to remember is to NOT fall asleep thinking about something that gives you anxiety or stresses you out.
The other thing to keep in mind is to NOT fall asleep thinking about something that provokes strong emotions, good or bad.
For example, thinking about your upcoming vacation (generally happy thoughts) might get you so excited and your mind so stimulated that you can't fall asleep. These types of thoughts can also prompt you to start planning and organizing which will definitely keep up.
Similarly, thinking thoughts that trigger anxiety, sadness, fear, stress or worry will make your mind race and keep you up all night.
Instead, either focus on something that is neutral and doesn't trigger a strong emotional response, usually easiest to achieve when thinking about nature such as trees in a forest, clouds moving in the sky, waves in the ocean, or animals in the wild, OR focus on a memory, place, person, or experience that gives you a feeling of peace and calm and makes you feel good (not future related).
When I used to rely on this technique, I had "go-to thoughts" that I would think of when I was at that point of "ok, I NEED to stop thinking about this and fall asleep."
One of my "go-to thoughts" was a memory of Costa Rica and how peaceful and good I felt when I was there. The other "go-to thought" was of envisioning my baby niece and how pure and innocent she is.
For me, these thoughts created a sense of peace within me and were the thoughts I'd resort to when I needed help falling asleep. However, this technique didn't always work.
The reason that this technique wasn't as effective as the breathing technique is because I was trying to calm my mind using my mind. This sometimes created a mind trap where one thought would trigger the next and take me right back to stressful thinking.
I also had to be in control of what I was thinking which is quite difficult when you're trying to fall asleep.
Nevertheless though, it's A LOT BETTER to think neutral and peaceful thoughts than stressful ones when trying to fall asleep so you can try this technique as well.
However, at the end of the day (literally), the best and fastest way to calm your mind and fall asleep is to simply GET OUT OF YOUR MIND and into the present moment byfocusing on your breath. It's a sort of meditation before falling asleep that will get you into a very zen-like state and ensure a night of deep and rejuvenating sleep.
Please experiment with this technique and let me know how it goes in the comments below!
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