Heartful tips to Overcome Anxiety

When you’re lying in bed late at night and you can’t sleep, feeling anxious, does it matter why you can’t sleep?

I’ve been amazed to discover how many women are both awake and feeling anxious about *something* at night.

Our reasons for having woken up and lying in bed awake can be endless. A snoring partner, our bladder, a mid-night visit or interruption from a child. Hormones and life stage certainly play a factor as can a host of situations that are at play in our daytime lives.  All of them can find their way into our most sacred and vulnerable space. Our beds. And into our bodies.  And the longer we lie there awake, thinking about how much we need sleep, the more anxious we become about not being able to get the sleep we need.  Enter the vicious cycle.


Here are some ways to explore a gentle return to a more resourceful, calm state.  Think of each of these as skills (that will need some tender practice) and imagine your emotions and energy shifting and gently being coaxed to relax.  This is not the same as ushering feelings or thoughts away hoping they’ll never return. Rather, like the silt and stones of a stream inviting them to settle.  This image below is an offered starting point.  A metaphor to hold and honour what is stirring within you, even at this inconvenient hour.

As you explore the following ways for your tired and anxious mind to relax and rest, so also invite your spirit, heart and body to rest and settle.  The image of a stream can hold all your beautiful complexity.

Keeping a pen and paper by your bedside can be a helpful way to list out the rocks and pebbles swirling around your mind.  It’s incredible the kind of detail, precision and brilliance our minds can shore up about an upcoming event or project we’re working on.  So get this all out and on off your mind by writing it down.

Feeling anxious about things, however, or even just the sensation of it can feel gripping, and journaling through the emotions can be a compassionate way to attend to your heart’s pounding.  Can you get a little closer to why you’re feeling this way by letting the pen support the flow?

Even if you make your list of things that need getting done and that seems to be enough to ready you for sleep, it may be worth looking at this list in the morning, or in a daytime moment to notice what it was that lingered in your background.

Calibrate to your partner’s breathing
When you’re feeling anxious at night, your heart is pounding in your chest and your breathing is rapid.  The ticking clock and a sense of feeling helpless for the state your in exacerbating it all.   Recognizing you’re not truly alone by acknowledging the presence of your partner can be that physical reminder of support.  Tune in to their breathing rhythm and with your own breathe, mirror their inhalations and exhalations.

Continue to play with the metaphor of the stream.  Is your partner’s breath the gentle streams of water flowing? Or perhaps the clouds gently passing by the stream?  Allow your mind to play there and invite a calm that allows the silt to return to a resting place.

Deep belly breathing
This breathing method has become a recent relaxing favourite.  Lie on your back, eyes closed and tune into your breath.  Place your hand on your belly and with mouth closed, inhale and fill your belly to a full count of 3.  Allow your belly expand and push your hand upward.

On the exhale, still breathing through your nose, exhale to a long count of 7.  You can visualize the encouraged exit of all the tension and anxiety you’re holding on to leave your body.  Continue this breathing for 10 minutes to experience its deep relaxation effect.

This practice is almost like you’re choosing with a little more energy to invite those same visiting themes to rest and remain.

Share your ideas below
If anxiety plagues your sleep let us know how these tips work for you. Or share what works for you.  It may just be what gets someone else through the night.   And while I hope that deep, nourishing sleep is always available to you let us know what you think of this metaphor!

Susan Doerksen CastroComment