Do you have troubles calming your mind at night? If so, you are not alone. When I ask people who have troubles going to sleep or staying asleep at night why they think they have this problem, nearly everyone responds that in some way they can’t stop their mind from racing at night.
Why does this happen? We are often so busy throughout the day that we don’t allow ourselves to process all the worries and information that accumulates throughout the day. So, when we get into bed and don’t have any distractions, our brains then try to sort everything out. However, you want to remove worries and these floods of thoughts from your beds and bedtime. But how do you accomplish this task?
An effective solution for most people is to Schedule Worry Time. Below are steps involved for scheduling worry time:
- Set aside a time for approximately 15-30 minutes every day for the next week for your worry time. If you have a smartphone, set a recurring alarm to remind you of this time. Don’t schedule this time within 2 hours of bedtime because you want to process this information well before bedtime. Remember that you want the hour before bedtime to be relaxing – see the post on what you should be doing the hour before bedtime hour before bedtime.
- Put away and turn off all distractions during that time.
- Get 2 pieces of paper: 1) On one sheet, draw a line down the center from top to bottom to make 2 columns. In the column on the left write down all the worries or frequent thoughts/concerns that you have. In the column on the right, write down the next step or way to deal with each worry or concern. For big issues, most people feel overwhelmed by thinking through a full solution, so just focus on what your next achievable step should be. Some things obviously don’t have solutions, so think through ways to deal with that particular issue. For example, you may be worried about an upcoming exam. Instead of worrying about the end results, think through what you need to study and develop a plan for that studying. Again, focus on the next step that you think will be helpful. Put away the sheet with the columns on it until your next worry time. 2) On the second sheet of paper, write down everything that you need or want to get done in the next few days. Focus on what is doable in that timeframe. Be realistic with yourself. Keep your list of things to do out where you can see it, so that you can reference it. I keep my to do list out in the kitchen or attached to a wall calendar that I walk by frequently. Once you accomplish something on you to-do-list, cross it off.
- You are done with your worry time for the day. If a thought or worry pops into your head at night when you’re in bed, say to yourself, “I’ve already thought through this issue. There is nothing I can do about it now. Time to move on.” Try to stop thinking about that worry. Remove worries from bedtime.
- Repeat this process daily for at least a week. Don’t skip any days the first week. Once you have progressed through the first week, if you still have many worries, keep doing this daily. If you find that your worries are becoming less intrusive especially at night, you can consider making a schedule for worry time that works best for you to stay on top of your thoughts and concerns, such as every Sunday or every Monday and Saturday. Write thoughts down at first but as you get better at this process, you may find that you don’t have to write things down as much. However, if you find that you are having a worry that is interfering with your bedtime and other times throughout the day, go back to writing it down and work through it in your worry time.
This solution is very helpful for most people. However, extremely stressful or traumatic events can often be too much for a person to try to get a handle on alone. If you try worry scheduling and find yourself becoming too anxious or scared or feel worse for whatever reason, then stop and please talk with your doctor or find a mental health provider, such as a psychologist or counselor who can help you deal with these issues with support.
Have you tried worry scheduling? What was helpful? What was difficult? Leave a comment.
Remember to never drive or engage in activities requiring a high level of attention when drowsy.