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Dammit, Brain… Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep!

Why is it that just as our heads hit our pillows for some well-deserved shut-eye, our minds decide to throw a rave?

“Oh, ready for bed? I think not. Let’s party alllll night instead! Woooooooooo!”

We have approximately 17 hours in our day to think about why our teenage children are such hooligans, why our parents are so demanding, why our professors don’t understand how much mindless work they constantly throw at us… but for some reason, the lights turn off and it becomes prime time for each and every worry and concern to flip through our minds like a relentless slide-show of absolute chaos and stress.

Look up “how to lead a healthy life” and each and every article will instruct you to “get a full, uninterrupted, 7-8 hours of sleep each night”. Look up “how to get a full 7-8 hours of sleep” and number one on that list will be, “reduce stress”.

Well, no shit.

Then we lay in bed, stressing out about how on earth we’re going to “reduce stress”.

“Hmmm… kill my children? No, that won’t work… Jail seems like a pretty stressful environment as well. Get a massage? No, I don’t have time for that. Also, I’ve been told that I literally don’t know how to relax enough so that a massage therapist can actually do any good. Hire a chauffeur? Nah, I get too stressed out on the road when I’m not driving…”

So the answer seems to be, just don’t sleep… ever. Ta dah. Life lessons, brought to you by Raw Workouts. You’re welcome.

In my attempt to get to the bottom of this sleep deprivation/anxiety epidemic, I stumbled upon an article with tips on how to “control anxiety”. The author writes that each morning she wakes up and takes a moment to reflect on all of the positive things in her life. That’s wonderful. However, the first issue here is the “waking up” issue which simply cannot happen if one has not actually slept at all due to anxiety. Issue two; If I were to take two seconds to reflect on anything upon first waking from I would absolutely, guaranteed, fall back asleep during my time of “reflection”.

I find this same sort of “extreme backfire” scenario happens when people tell me to count backwards from 10, or count slowly up to 5, or take 3 deep breaths. My mind instantly designates one of my stressors to each of the numbers I count! “10, work, 9, money, 8, diet, 7, family, 6, tailgaters, 5…”, so by the end of my countdown, I’m so worked up I can hardly breath! “4, not being able to breath due to this countdown, 3, this countdown, 2, being seconds away from passing out, 1……………”

So, how do we possibly stop ourselves from spinning out of control???

Here’s the plan (this is great advice given to me from an amazing mentor I have in my life)… The moment you feel stress begin to overwhelm your mind ask yourself “Why?”. “Why are you so concerned about work?”. Then answer the question. “Because work brings in money which pays the bills”. Continue to ask, “Why?”. “Why are you so concerned that the bills won’t get paid?”. Take yourself all the way to the last possible question you can ask yourself and you may find that once the answer becomes, “I don’t know”, or something along the lines of “Because I don’t have control”, you will have taken yourself through all the complexities of this huge source of stress and shrunk it down to a smaller, more manageable scale. Stress, to me is like “Magic Eye”. Remember those books? The page would be this mashed up, weird array of colors, and shapes, and lines, and scribbles, and you’d have to bring your face right next to this chaos so that it was all your eye could see… but as you slowly pulled your face away, a single image was formed from the mess. Advanced calculus begins with 1+1=2. An Iron-man race starts with one stride. A work of art begins with one brush stroke. Stress works in the opposite direction. Your mind works itself up into the “end result” which tends to be something absolutely devastating, if not death itself. Working backwards from that, until the chaos of thoughts turns into a single notion, can create a state of mind where logic and reason return and problems are solved.

Yours in health, happiness, and not letting the bed bugs bite,

Verity Somers

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