Do you ever have those nights when you wake up around 3 in the morning, your mind starts spinning, and suddenly you are mentally jotting down all the things you have to get accomplished for the next day? This was me yesterday morning, and there was no going back to sleep.
I woke up and looked at my alarm clock, which read 3:30 AM. “Ugh,” I thought to myself. “Here we go.” I knew what was going to happen in the next few moments because I had gone to bed thinking about something that was weighing on my heart. So the moment my eyeballs popped open, my mind went straight to that situation and the horses started sprinting for the finish line. I tossed and turned until about 5 AM, then finally gave up and went downstairs to make coffee.
As I wrote in my journal that morning, I realized there is a repeat pattern here and I feel I am not the only one doing this sort of thing. Psychology Today has a name for this sort of thing, called “rumination.” Ruminating is basically when we have something on our mind, a problem or worry, and we continue to think about it until it winds up causing our minds to go into a tailspin of anxiety and depression. Of course some situations are worse than others, but if you find yourself waking up constantly over a specific worry or concern, you could be setting yourself up for something worse than just a trip to the bathroom or a drink of water.
When I am out do dinner with my lady friends the topic of not sleeping seems to always come up among us. I have consciously made a note of how many individuals do this sort of thing, and pretty much most of us are getting up at some point in the night. This also means none of us are giving our bodies the rest they need. I am not saying we all are suffering from anxiety or depression, but when you think about the typical stress levels we place upon ourselves on a daily basis, ruminating is likely to happen. I recently listened to an audio lecture about dealing with stress and worry. The constant theme that came up in this series was how our stressed-out society never takes a break from what we place on ourselves, resulting in all sorts of health issues. One of those issues is, of course, lack of sleep.
Sleep is one of the most important things we can do to keep our bodies and minds healthy, so when you don’t get enough, your entire system can get out of whack. Sounds awesome, right? So do you find yourself constantly waking up at night stressed or worried about the next day or about a list of problems? What can you do?
Well, there are several things you can try to help get your mind out of the “rumin-rut.”
One way you can break the cycle of worry and stress is to just try and laugh more during your day. Stop taking yourself so seriously all the time and get some good guffaws in. Think about a funny time, or look at pictures of fun memories. It’s much better to have laughing wrinkles than frowning wrinkles!
Find someone you can talk to in confidence. Getting things off your chest and out in the open is a great way to work through a problem or situation. Keeping things bottled up inside will only cause the issue to fester and eat at your mind.
Find ways to relax, even if it’s just for five minutes. Give your brain a chance to decompress and break up the monotony of your daily grind. Meditate, go for a short walk, sit down and listen to calming music, take a coffee break and read a book. Whatever it is that gives you peace of mind, do it, and do it for at least five to ten minutes each day.
We are responsible for our own cognitive health, and that means taking the bull by the horns and finding ways to fix the stress we have in life. Things may not go any slower for you, but you need to take care of your brain and get your rest. Trust me, your mind and your body will thank you.
Until next time,