While it’s a gift that many of us these days are hyperaware of disorders, conditions, diets and diagnoses, it’s also a bit of a curse. Are we all turning into hypochondriacs? Are we all psyching ourselves out, that we’re sicker and more screwed up than we really are?
I treat people as an acupuncturist for sleep issues. Insomnia, bedwetting, apnea, nightmares — there are a variety of reasons why people struggle with getting consistently high-quality sleep.
As a sleep specialist, I can recognize the signs and symptoms of categorical sleep problems. And yet, sometimes, there’s something else going on. A mental cycle or internal dialogue that fuels and fires a pattern of destructive thinking and damaging behavior.
“I should get more sleep.”
“I’m always tired.”
“It takes me so long to get to sleep.”
“I lie awake at night counting the minutes until I fall asleep again.”
The “could have’s,” “should have’s,” and “would have’s” are causing many of us a slew of problems we otherwise wouldn’t even have! But fear not about this additional prognosis — we can work to change it.
And it starts with a simple awareness. Stop and notice when you’re having thoughts coming from your inner critic or commentator, (the ones starting with “I should/could/would”). Acknowledge that this is one way to think about things. And then, let it go. Come back to “now,” to reality, to checking in to how you’re feeling.
Are you breathing? Are you holding tension in your body that you could release? Is there something you need to take care of that would help you move on? Make a few quick adjustments. Add that note to your “to do” list, get a snack so you’re not hungry or a drink so you’re not thirsty, and respond to that email that’s nagging in the background. And then go back to the present moment. Stick with it. You can do it.
It’s ultimately all about a balance. A little giving in to the mental resistance to relaxing that can arise, and a little taking back of quiet, serenity and surrender. And the more often you find this balance, I believe the less often you’ll spend time dwelling on what’s not happening — losing sleep over losing sleep.