When the Monsters Come Calling - How to Cope with Worry
You mean there really is such a thing as monsters, Beth? Let's get clear before I give you nightmares! The monsters I'm talking about are the ones who come visiting, most often at night, just as we are trying to let go of the day and fall into a deep, restful sleep. These monsters don't have physical form, but they are real just the same. The monsters may not be big and hairy with pointy teeth, but they bite us just the same.
The monsters are our thoughts, our worries, our never-ending list of "what ifs". And they know just the perfect moment to come calling. Usually, as we are trying to finally get some well-deserved rest!
Why do they pick this most opportune time? Because it is when we are least distracted. No longer caught up in the hustle of the day, we can finally pay attention to ourselves. As we know by now, that which we don't deal with only comes back to haunt us...like monsters in the night.
Except we are too tired, too drained, to deal with these visitors. And they don't really care if we welcome them in or not. So, what to do?
By the way, this also can be super effective for children. I have literally heard people ask what children have to worry about and I am always astounded. How quickly we forget that although our worries may have been different, who picked who for what team, who won't eat lunch with us, will we pass the test in the morning (come to think of it, they really aren't that different!)...children worry too. So try this with your children and see if it helps them.
Back to the monsters and how to get them to leave already. You probably have had the experience of trying to shove them out the door. Get out and stay out!! Actually, sometimes that can work! But you have to practice it out loud first so I wouldn't do it on the first night if you don't live alone. You may startle someone right out of bed onto the floor! What you can do is practice saying very loudly a "stop" phrase (either the word "stop", or "get out", or "leave me alone") so at night, when you need to be quiet your body and brain will be more likely to get into that more pleasant place.
But here's the trick I have found that has worked the best for myself and my clients.
Before you go to bed, maybe after dinner because you don't want to do this right before you go to bed, sit down, grab a cup of decaf tea maybe, but get comfortable, and grab a pad and pen. At the top of the paper, write: "Things to Worry About Tomorrow". Nothing may come, that's fine. But try to imagine all the things you could be worried about that you have to do, should do (there's that should word...we will deal with him another time), and otherwise want to do. Just pour it all out there on your paper. And leave it someplace you know where it is. If you find yourself starting to worry, remind yourself you have it covered. It's all on the list. You promise you won't forget to worry tomorrow because it is all written out.
Now, I don't recommend bringing it into your bedroom, but sometimes it is helpful to have a small notepad in case other things come up at night and you are all snuggled in and you don't want to physically leave your bed and go find a pad. Leave a small notepad and pen by your bed. Maybe in your nightstand. If things start popping up, write them down.
Make a morning appointment with yourself including the time and place. For example, "At 7am tomorrow morning, in my comfy blue chair, I will review my list. This is my worry time. I can entertain you monsters then so meet me there. " And keep your appointment.
Very often we have a different perspective when we are rested and starting fresh. This doesn't mean there won't be things on the list you are truly worried about and need to attend to. But your list should be smaller and feel a bit more manageable.
Now, there are also times the worries are true, feel insurmountable, and you feel totally overwhelmed. That's the time to make an action plan. And that, my friend, is another topic. It may be counseling or coaching, but asking for the assistance of another can help with those bigger issues. But some quick tips include having a brainstorm problem-solving session with yourself and others, if needed. Write out the answers to what steps can I take to alleviate or solve this? What is in my control? What can't I control? What would my spirit or soul say about this? Interview your problem-solving self and break it down into more manageable steps.
And with this being said, I need to go write my list.
I also invite you to check out my card deck that gives you other useful skills and tips on coping with things like worry, fear and stress. You can go check it out by clicking here.
Love and blessings ,