I use to have a serious problem falling asleep at night. My mind would not shut off. I would think about things that had happened and how I should have handled them better and I would think about things that are going to happens and what I need to do to handle them. I would be up to 3 am trying to sleep but unable to.
I was ruminating! Meaning I was chewing my thoughts over and over like a cow does when eating. For the most part I don't do this anymore. But I read this article which talked about it so clearly that I wanted to share it. What really stood out for me was when the author says thinking about past events is linked to depression and thinking about future events is linked to anxiety. This made total sense but I never thought about my thoughts that way.
One of the reasons we ruminate is because of the ego voice in our head. The voice telling that we should have been better, smart, more capable and that some how my reviewing our past 'failings' or planning ahead endlessly we will be able to be 'perfect' and deal whatever it is we are dwelling on from the past or dreading in the future will be avoided. But it doesn't work that way. Overthinking and critizing ourselves never solved anything.
For me I was able to quite these thoughts when I resolved the root cause of my anxiety which was a belief that I wan't good enough. My mind is still over active at night. Planning all the things I want to do. But I am not ruminating. And for the most part if I give my mind soemthing else to think about then I can fall asleep. I end up listenning to audiobooks over and over again as it gives my brain something to focus on but because I know the story as I have listened to it at least once before prior to listening to it a bedtime I am not exicted about the story and therefore my brain can focus on it and at the same time not engage. This works for me and I am usually asleep within 20 minutes. This beats being up to 3 am!
Learning to pause and then taking a step back when we are upset is one of the most valuable resources we have. I recently read an article called How to avoid sending a snarky email and its basically boiled down to pause.
Pausing applies to both delayed communications (emails) and in-person communications. When emotions are close to the surface we are quick to act. This is what happens with road rage. Someone gets cut off in traffic and instead of pausing and taking a breath they react. They get out of the car and go bang on the other person's window. This might seem extreme but it happens.
A snarky email sent off in hast or a road rage incident are just examples of when a pause might help us to avoid more problems. The pause allows us to check out our emotions and what we are feeling and what we are making it mean.
Broadly speaking we get upset when we feel threatened and our reaction is a way to defend and protect ourselves. But when we are reactive and come at the situation from a defensive position we are effectively shutting down communication. If you respond with anger and upset chances are the other person will too. If instead we pause and then get curious and ask questions chances are we will have a different outcome.
There is no guarantee of a positive outcome. Maybe the other person hasn't learned to pause and will continue to escalate the situation. But by employing the pause and then getting curious and asking questions there is a better chance of positive outcome and there is less chance of you finding yourself in situation where you are dealing with the unintended consequence of a hasty reaction.
I love information. I love to read articles and to learn more. On this blog I will be sharing articles I find insightful and helpful with regards to stress, anxiety, loneliness and other related feelings. Occasionally I might even right an article myself. I hope you find these posts helpful.