Quick tips for when anxiety hits late at night or early in the morning…
- When anxiety is experienced at night and prevents you from getting a good night’s sleep, it is often about unpleasant events that happened during the day and what’s anticipated to be happening the next day.
Try writing down what you are worried about as a short list and put the list in a drawer of the night stand. Let the night stand worry about it overnight—not you. You can pick up the short list in the morning by opening up the drawer then facing one item at a time.
If you wake up in the middle of the night, worried about what’s on the list, first remind yourself it’s the night stand’s job to worry about things at night. Don’t work or play on any devices in bed; use the bed for sleeping. Don’t get up to eat or do an activity. If you feel compelled to do something, read a book, perhaps a boring one. But don’t get out of bed to read it, stay in bed.*
- Anxiety which hits in the morning, when you awaken, is often about what you have to face that day.
When you awaken, if appropriate, tell yourself to cut the intensity and frequency of your anxiety in half.** That way, you can hold onto a little of it without feeling overwhelmed. Overwhelming early morning anxiety can make it difficult to get out of bed.
- Therapeutic modalities employed to dealing with anxiety-whenever it hits—include, but are not limited to, ISTDP, intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy and CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Some general behavioral techniques to reduce anxiety include, but are not limited to, guided imagery; desensitization to particular stimuli which evoke anxiety in you and successive approximation to shaping responses other than anxious responses to these stimuli. Some specific behavioral techniques for reducing anxious rumination are Thought Stopping and Thought-Planting. These are techniques of CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy. They involve consciously stopping the repetition of negative thoughts that are going nowhere and planting positive thoughts & actions. They are described in the book “Feeling Good,” by David Burns.****
- There are also psychotropic medications and “herbal remedies“*** that are designed to treat anxiety and help with sleep. You and your psychiatrist or prescribing physician can determine if you are a candidate for these treatments. And for moderate to severe sleeping issues, you and your psychiatrist or prescribing physician may determine a sleep study would be helpful to rule out sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Anxiety is only one of the symptoms that cause sleeplessness.
- Non-medication and non-herbal remedies include, but are limited to, meditation; mindfulness meditation; and yoga.
*most of the techniques in this paragraph are common recommendations for helping with sleep difficulties and many of them may be based on scientific sleep studies
**putting a list of worries in the nightstand at night and “cutting anxiety in half” in the morning are concepts used by me and may not be formal concepts from any theoretical approach to anxiety
***informing your prescribing physician of all medications, natural remedies, time/amount of caffeine ingestion; and time/amount of alcohol & drug ingestion can help in not taking substances that are contra-indicated or interfere with/potentiate one another.
****useful self-help books include, but are not limited to, “The Worry Cure” by Robert L. Leahy; “The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook” by Edmund Bourne; and “Feeling Good,” by David Burns (although “Feeling Good” was written for depression, some of the cognitive behavioral self-help processes can be applied to anxiety).
Please note that this blog is based largely on my experience and the training I have received over the thirty years I have practiced psychotherapy as a post-master’s degree Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and not based on my own scientific studies or necessarily the scientific studies of others. Also please note that a blog is not a substitute for direct treatment of mental or physical health issues. It is merely an offer of suggestions which may prompt you to attend to symptoms with a licensed mental or physical health professional.
This blog about psychology is general information shared for educational purposes and it is the opinion of the author. It is not psychological therapy and it is not directed toward any individual person. For links to evidence-based research on some of the different modalities mentioned in these blogs, click here…