We’ve all been there… It’s several hours into the night, you should be asleep but you’re tossing and turning before finally staring absently at the ceiling, unable to slip into the sandman’s warm embrace. Although I’ll be the first to admit that there can be medical reasons for this phenomenon, often and for the most part, it’s caused because most people lack the ability to shut down one’s brain. And one would think that we would be in control of our own brain but it just never seems to happen that way…
I talk a big game but I’m notorious for allowing the events of the day and the plan for the upcoming day to dwell in my head, rent-free. This often occurs when I should be slipping into slumber, unless it’s Friday night and I’m enjoying a few libations but that just causes a different kind of poor sleep. But i can certainly attest that whether it’s running through things I’ll say on my way to work, rethinking choices and tasks performed at work on my way home or simply laying in bed worrying about it all, I need to do a bit more practicing what I preach. And now, we’ll get on to the preaching part…
As human beings, we have a tendency to dwell on the past and worry about the future. We think back to things we’ve said and done and tasks we’ve accomplished and we wonder if we could have done them better or differently. We worry about the future as it relates to life and one’s finances. Will I have enough money to cover the rent this month? Can I afford to put gas in the car or do I need to keep taking my bike? Do I have job security? Can I retire in twenty years without working? There’s absolutely no limit to the things that roll around in one’s head at any given time.
However, having this happen when you’re supposed to be getting sleep is not only wrong but potentially harmful. As I’ve written about in previous posts, lack of proper sleep can lead to a plethora of physical and mental issues, not limited to poor cognitive function, increased blood pressure and anxiety. I don’t know about you, but none of that sounds like a fuckin’ spa treatment. This is why it’s so important to ensure you get a proper night’s sleep. And there are a few ways to help that process along.
First and foremost, one needs to learn to shut their mind off. For me, I make a point of blasting some awesome music in the car on my way home and sing along with no apologies (well, the music is awesome to ME, anyways). This helps to reset my mind from the work environment to the home environment. This is a fantastic first step to decompressing and allowing oneself to switch gears. The idea and the whole point is that work should be kept at work. Although some jobs and positions may require some after-honours attention, once your day is done and you go home, work is the last thing you should be dwelling on.
Once you’re home, get on some things that you can do at home. This is more important than we realize because most people have the reflex of getting home and wanting to flop down on the couch and veg out. As appealing as this sounds, sitting idle is one of the worst things you can do, as sitting still gives you too much time to dwell on things. Get up, help make dinner, do the dishes, help your kids with homework and if all else fails and none of that applies to you, hammer out a solid workout, followed by a hot shower and some meditation. Not only will this get you through your evening in a productive manner but it’ll also prepare your body for sleep, which is kind of the whole point.
All the usual things that we all tend to hear about apply as well. Don’t eat to close to bedtime, cut caffeine about mid-afternoon and avoid backlit screens about an hour before bed. All of these things will contribute to helping you nod off faster. Once you’re in bed, closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing is an excellent exercise to help you fall asleep. Focusing on your breathing takes your thoughts away from whatever you may dwell on, otherwise. Long, steady breaths are definitely better than short ones. White noise machines are a light-send, as well. You should try to avoid being like me and using your cell phone to stream Netflix to go to sleep.
All in all, it’s pretty easy to say “shut your mind off and go to sleep.” Accomplishing that isn’t quite so easy. Life brings its own unique sets of challenges, stressors and aspects that cause anxiety so it’s no big surprise that some or most of that will keep a person up at night. But the important aspect to remember is that unless you plan on getting out of bed and going straight in to work when your mind dwells on it, there’s nothing you can do about it in the moment and you should let it go and focus on the task at hand, which is sleep. Food for thought… ☯️
3 thoughts on “Trying To Shut ‘er Down…”
Ah yes, the never-ending battle with the monkey mind. 🙂
Now I’m picturing myself hanging from a tree…
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It’s a zen term though, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. 🙂
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