Do you ever have trouble falling asleep because thoughts are whirling around in your head? Happens to me a lot. Maybe more so lately as my company, the Munn Avenue Press, is going through a growth spurt. And I’m thinking about tomorrow’s long to-do list. Ever happen to you?
Now I wouldn’t say I’m an insomniac. I sleep pretty well most of the time, but many nights the hurricane in my brain won’t settle down. So, what would you do about it?
I have read many of the sleep tips that pervade my Google News feed: no alcohol or sweets near bedtime; get exercise (I swim every day); no screen time two hours before bed—ain’t gonna happen. And counting sheep never worked for me. What I have found that works for me is repeating certain words. I avoided the use of the word mantra there so you wouldn’t think I was preaching meditation. Although I will tell you my college roommate at the University of Rochester, Kenny, paid his $35 and got his personal mantra in the days when Transcendental Meditation was a craze and $35 was a lot of money. Kenny’s mantra was Ah-ing which he wasn’t supposed to share with anyone else. But hey, I was his roommate and I was broke.
So even back them, decades ago, Ah-ing worked for me. I’d repeat it to myself as I tried to clear my head of the term papers due the next day or the final exams I had yet to study for. And it worked—for a while. Seems mantras have a limited shelf life. But then you go find another one.
So Now What?
For most of the last decade, through turbulent financial and health issues that kept me awake, Let it go, Let it go, Let it go, repeated over and over again, relaxed my muscles, my fists unclenched, my breathing became deeper and more even. I slept. Still, that one wore out too. Like your favorite T-shirt, it had holes in it, and I just couldn’t wear it anymore.
So now what? I analyzed what my brain does at night right before I fall asleep. I don’t know about you, but being mildly OCD, my brain tries to put all the clutter in order and solve problems. What’s the likelihood I’d succeed at organizing my life in the minutes before I fall asleep? Zero.
So, if I let it, my brain will keep scheduling tasks and work on problems for hours. Hence, my new mantra, I’m Processing.
Remember your high school biology class where they taught you that your brain was like a computer? I guess, being a geek, I take that literally or I spend too much time in front of my computer. Now, before falling asleep, I picture that little hypnotic circle turning while the computer tries to catch up with my queries. I repeat, I’m Processing and it allows my mind to accept there will not be any quick answers to my challenges right now. I’m Processing and it may take until morning to work this out. I’m Processing and my fists unclench. I’m Processing and my shoulders relax. I’m Processing and take long deep breaths. I’m P-r-o-c-e-s-s-………………….. and I sleep.
If you have any great tricks for falling asleep, please share them in the COMMENTS below. I’m sure most of us could use your help.
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