INSOMNIA: How do I stop Overthinking at Night?

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What Keeps You Up At Night?

Let’s admit it, we all tend to fall somewhere on the spectrum of being an over-thinker. 

Overthinking is a result of feeling vulnerable about the future; we keep trying to solve problems in our head.  Extreme overthinking robs us of emotional clarity leading to sleep disturbances or worse: insomnia.

Insomnia leads to emotional distress increasing your risk of mental health problems. According to Psychology Today Magazine “Insomnia can be situational, persistent, or recurrent. Situational or acute insomnia usually lasts a few days or a few weeks and is often associated with life events or rapid changes in sleep schedules or environment. It usually resolves once the initial event subsides. For some individuals, perhaps those more vulnerable to sleep disturbances, insomnia may persist long after the initial event, possibly because of conditioning factors and heightened arousal. The factors that precipitate insomnia may differ from those that perpetuate it.”

Does this sound familiar?  Endlessly deliberating about the “what ifs” of life when making a decision, questioning the decision; trying to predict the future, reviewing conversations that went wrong, and now, more than ever worrying about loved ones during Coronavirus; these are some areas in which we overthink.

 

Let’s think about how ruminating gets us stuck.  Ruminating becomes a habit, it acts like an automatic loop, the more you do it, the harder it is to stop.  Does it really solve problems? Actually, it’s exhausting, destructive and mentally draining.

When you feel stuck, it’s hard to act, and if you don’t act, it can greatly impact your day-to-day functioning and can quickly put your health and total well being at risk. Ultimately, it makes you more susceptible to depression and anxiety.

Our immune system is being tested now more than ever as we continue to worry while attempting to decipher political and medical information surrounding Coronavirus. Collectively, we desperately need tools to overcome our chronic worries!

How to change your thoughts for improved emotional and physical health

To overcome overthinking, you can consciously replace your thoughts. Telling yourself not to have a certain thought is not the way to not have the thought; You need to replace the thought.

What if I were to tell you to stop thinking about the future of your college senior, who is now prematurely back home.  What are you going to think about? If you don’t want to think about your college son or daughters’ future, conjure up an image of something else. A realistic vision works best:  Perhaps an image of yourself planting in your beautiful garden this spring. This will stop you from thinking as much about the future of your college graduate.

Consciously connecting to your inner voice will help replace the troubling thoughts that ruminate like an automatic loop. You can nurture a little psychological distance by generating other interpretations of any current situation, which makes your negative thoughts less irrational. This is called cognitive reframing. 

REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy) is a highly effective therapeutic modality I use to help clients reframe their irrational beliefs or thought patterns with more rational or tolerable beliefs.  See the below mantra:

Happiness of Life

For more information on REBT, see this article from Psychology Today.

For additional tools on learning to reframe your cognitive beliefs, see the following books:

Women Who Think Too Much: How to Break Free of Overthinking and Reclaim Your Life.  By Susan Nolen-Hoeksema

Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry. By Catherine M. Pittman PhD

Have a Peaceful Day

Linda Jacobs – MA-LMHC

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