5 Mini-Antidotes to What Keeps You Up at Night



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A few weeks ago my old friend insomnia paid me a visit. Just as I would start to doze off it nudged me just in case I forgot I was supposed to be worrying.

“What if I can’t sleep tonight?”

“What if I get seriously depressed?”

“What if my clients fire me and I never get a new referral ever again?”

“What if I gain 30 pounds?”

“What time is it?”

“What if John’s car dies?”

“What important thing am I forgetting?”

“What if I don’t make enough to pay the bills?”

“What if the basement floods?”

On and on it went. Ever notice how the ‘what ifs’ are never happy ‘what ifs’ at 3 in the morning? It’s never, “What if I win the lottery?” Never ever.

After several nights of this I realized I had to do something or I would die. Not having any Valium handy, I tried to practice a few micro-interventions. Micro interventions are small strategic changes that I could put into practice right away; little changes that I hoped would make a big difference. As an experiment I drew from what I knew of neuro-psychology, cognitive behavioral techniques, mindfulness and spiritual practice. What did I have to lose?

So I tried to:

1) Meditate on breathing deeply calming my nervous system.

2) Staying in the now. The weight of the covers, the softness of the sheets.

3) Countered negative thoughts by listing the things I am grateful for.

4) Accepting that I can’t do anything about the ‘what ifs’ at 3 in the morning.

5) Prayed to the Universe to take the burden of worry from me just for the night.

Which of these worked? I don’t know, but I do know that at some point I must have fallen asleep because I woke up just before the alarm clock went off. I wasn’t dead, I had enough energy to get out of bed and the ‘What Ifs’ fled from my brain like vampires in the light of day.

Photo courtesy of cibuolette via Flickr

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