In last week’s post, I showed you how to start eliminating your worry and anxiety about sleep. In this post, I teach you two more ways to defeat your worry and anxiety.
Talk back to the worry
Worry is just negative thoughts that got stored in your mind at some point and have become a habit. But you always have the power to talk back and change your own thoughts if they are false, negatively biased, or exaggerated.
If we use the example worry: “I won’t be able to fall asleep,” you would talk back to this worry (out loud or on paper) doing your best to defeat it.
For example, when you notice the worry, “I won’t be able to fall asleep,” you might say back to it: “I have on some occasions been able to fall asleep quickly and easily. I have also learned new skills that will help me to sleep better now and continue to improve over time. Sleep is a natural process wired into my body. I only need to learn how to let it happen. Millions of people have had problems with sleep and have overcome them. I am no exception.”
Use your own words and logic to obliterate the thought or make it seem ridiculous or exaggerated. Only use arguments that ring true for you, otherwise you won’t believe it. You can even role-play with a friend or partner, switching back and forth between being the negative voice and the positive one. I do this exercise with my clients all the time and it’s extremely powerful and effective. It can feel liberating to knock down your own negative thoughts. Use this skill with all of your sleep worries.
Think through the worst-case scenario
Many times it is not the immediate worry that causes the most anxiety but what will happen if that worry comes true. For instance, if you worry you won’t be able to fall asleep, your real concern might be feeling awful the next day, not performing well at work, or getting sick.
Ask yourself: “What is my biggest fear if I don’t fall asleep tonight?
Let’s say your answer is: “I won’t be able to perform at work and I’ll get fired.” Many people, when they have a worry like this, focus only on the negative things that might happen if the worry comes true. As a result, they become extremely anxious. Or, they might try to push the worry away and not think about it because it’s upsetting. Either way, the worry never gets resolved and it usually comes back.
Instead of avoiding your biggest fear, really think through in detail what you will do if the worst happens. Ask yourself: What will I do? What have I done in the past? How will I handle it?” It is best to do this on paper. You might write: “It will be very disappointing if this happens, but I will survive. I can find another job. I am very resourceful when I need to be. I have some savings that can tie me over. I have gotten jobs in the past and I can find another. I can pare down my spending for a while to reduce living expenses. I have faced challenges before and have overcome them. Etc.”
Again, use your own thought process and create a plan that makes sense to you. Make it as detailed as you want and place it somewhere you can easily refer back to in case the concern returns (although once you think it through, this information will be stored in your mind). The situation (losing your job) may be upsetting, but the point is for you to realize that you will handle it and you will know how you will handle it. Ideally, this knowledge should help lower your anxiety significantly.
In my next post, I’ll show you more skills to defeat your worry and anxiety.