Winning the worry war – emptying your stress bucket!
In solution-focused therapy, we use an analogy that likens the accumulation of stress to a bucket that eventually overflows. That overflow is often experienced as anxiety.
If you’ve got a full stress bucket, it will be hard to win the war against worry. So what can you do to empty it?
Sleep right to feel right: REM sleep is nature’s stress reduction method. Give a proper night’s sleep the importance it deserves. Build a comfortable, stable sleep routine – if shift work interferes with this, then do your best to establish a pattern that still gives you the equivalent of a night’s rest. By building a pattern, you can program your body to sleep better.
Make the hour before sleep your unwinding time; say no to emails, Facebook and electronic screens. Gentle music, a good book, and a warm bedtime drink can all help.
Is your bedroom a special place for rest and relaxation? If not – if it’s just another room, or worse still, a storeroom – then it’s time to make it into your very own sleep sanctum.
You deserve an environment that is as dark and quiet as it’s possible for you to make it; set the heating so it’s neither overly warm nor cool.
Your mattress shouldn’t be too soft or too hard; if you are sleeping in a cramped, aging bed, and you can afford to do so, consider upgrading to a bed that will help you get the rest you need. Try to remove any distractions from the room – if you’ve got a pet cat that likes to hop up on your pillow and wake you up, perhaps it’s time for kitty to have a new basket (in the kitchen!).
Positive physical activity – whether it’s something formal, like an organised sport or class, or something informal, like walking, gardening or playing outside with your children – will reduce stress. Exercise isn’t recommended immediately before bed, but make it a regular part of your life and reap the benefits to your mind and body.
Be mindful of stimulants like tea and coffee; consider eliminating them from your evening diet – or possibly altogether if you are experiencing sleeping problems. Drinks with caffeine disrupt the sleep process and significantly impair your ability to enjoy deep sleep.
Alcoholic drinks or an excess of food, particularly in the later part of the evening, can disrupt your sleep. The idea that alcohol improves sleep is illusory – it might cause you to fall asleep quickly, but at the cost of a disrupted and less-effective sleep pattern.
Get rid of the cigarettes! They’re not just bad for your body, they’re sleep-stealers too. A smoker finds it harder to fall asleep and will wake up more often in the night than a non-smoker.
If you’re a bedtime worry-wort who lies awake at night, then set some time aside in the early evening to jot down a few simple steps you might take to make any life-problems easier to manage. Relax and imagine how things would be if the problem suddenly disappeared – what small step might you take that would reduce – even if only slightly – the severity of the problem? If the worrisome thoughts return at bedtime, say to yourself, “I will tackle this tomorrow – I will think about it then and come up with solutions.” As with anything, practice makes perfect, but you can make this part of your life-pattern.
If the worries simply won’t relent, then get out of bed, do something you find relaxing, and be mindful of your body; when you notice sleepy sensations, get back into bed and allow nature to take its course.
For aid in emptying your stress bucket, maximising the benefits of your REM sleep, and winning the worry war, you can approach a hypnotherapist. Many therapists provide their clients with special audio tracks to listen to at night – patterns of hypnotic language and music that guide the listener towards a refreshing REM sleep pattern where the mind can resolve stress, dissolve worries and prepare itself for the day to come.
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