Or why my brain won’t shut off
Like many 20-somethings I know, sleep is one of my favourite things. A good sleep recharges me, energising me for the day ahead, and [usually] sorts out any nagging anxiety.
Sometimes though, switching off at night can be a real issue even after a quiet day. My mind races around itself in circles, tying up the loose ends I’ve been grasping at all day, coming up with new ideas that I’ve been waiting weeks to clarify and creating loads of possibilities that dissipate when I wake up.
A myriad of physical problems gripe me in the morning. Sneezing and sniffing replace breathing, my eyes feel heavy and achy. And don’t get me started on the trash bandit-bags ringing my eyes that no concealer has successfully covered [any foundation/concealer tips would be appreciated!].
For me, the drivers of my noisy mind are three-fold: processing the day before, worrying about what is to come and generating ideas.
Let’s tackle those one by one. I’m going to go through some different techniques I use to try and settle myself. Do let me know if you have any others!
Processing the previous day
I used to just set aside a little bit of time to sit and mull over my day before I went to bed. The problem with this is my thoughts would clamour over each other, rather than me sifting through and processing them. This is where journaling comes in, allowing me to note down what’s bugging me: a lot of the time, when the words are there in front of you on the page the idea or worry becomes a lot smaller. That idiot mistake I made or mess up in a call can be broken down. Am I over analysing conversations? Does it matter/will it matter next week? As Gretchin Rubin put it, “people notice your mistakes far less than you think” [The Happiness Project]
Worrying about tomorrow
What are all the things that I need to do tomorrow? How am I going to make time for it all? What about that presentation? That phone call? Did I hand that work in? What am I going to wear tomorrow?
I try and get round this one with to do lists before bed. Invariably, my brain delves deep and comes up with more tasks for me to do. Beside my bed I keep a notepad and pen, which I can scrawl in without turning on the light [is it just me or does switching on your phone or light really disturb your sleep?]
For the more abstract worries, I focus on my breathing and taking deep, long inhales and exhales. This one I struggle with the most, and haven’t found a more effective solution thus far.
How many screens are you looking at right now? Just one? Good for you! [How do you do it?!] I always find myself with at least 2 screens on the go, or 2 things on the go. Netflix and texting. Netflix and scrolling through an app. TV and something [knitting, writing or painting]. Bath and book. My mind never escapes the input of information from other sources. Some of you may say but a bath and book is good, right? For me, maybe not. I analyse the book, or get distracted [you wouldn’t know it, but I’ve just been on an hour-long scroll through LinkedIn. LinkedIn.]
Why do I do this? It comes from wanting to be productive and thinking that there are just not enough hours in the day to do what I want so I end up doing 2 things at once [which flies in the face of the wisdom from Parks and Recreation’s iconic Ron Swanson: never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing]. As predicted, neither gets my full attention and I am less productive overall.
What ideas am I generating? Writing projects, paintings ideas, business plans, cool Instagram photos, letters I want to write, cards I’d like to design/post… the list goes on.
I challenged myself to focus on just one task at a time, making time for an activity that would allow my mind to Zen and wander. Painting, knitting and journaling are all things that let me do that, and I found that between 15 – 30 minutes of that a day helped me sleep better. Granted, I didn’t paint or knit constantly, if an idea came to me I noted it down, and if I was journaling I’d let myself explore the thought a little more. What about meditation, I hear you cry! I feel like a fraud when I meditate, my mind doesn’t shut down and I usually break it every few minutes with a new thought to note down. Yes, most of the thoughts I have are garbage and go nowhere, but sometimes among the crap is a scrap that can be used.
In sum, my issues stem from giving myself no time to think and process throughout my day until the moment I’m in bed. I’ve tried implementing a routine [no devices, caffeine-free herbal tea before bed etc] but am not great at sticking to routines so that soon fell away. For me, disciplining myself to focus on one task or journal has been a challenge, but it’s the quietness/solitude to just process that I have found most valuable.
Thoughts? Questions? Let me know! Email firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter @RosePandaDavis | Insta @_redrosestudios_