Jo Sea­gar:

Like many women, Jo Sea­gar has wake­ful nights of wor­ry­ing, but she has dis­cov­ered there are ways to set­tle those anx­i­eties and get some sleep.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

end­ing your night­time wor­ries

Iknow I’m a bit of a fret­ter and night­time wor­rier, but I also know that I’m not the only one. There are mil­lions of us wor­ry­ing women, the mem­ber­ship num­bers swollen by the sheer com­plex­ity and de­mands of mod­ern life. Cave­men and women wor­ried, I’m sure, as did the builders of Stone­henge and the pyra­mids – all those tricky rocks to place just so, and keep­ing that mam­moth from the door must have caused a few con­cerns. Wor­ry­ing isn’t just an epi­demic of mod­ern times, but some­how it feels like a new-age prob­lem. Per­haps our an­ces­tors re­lied more heav­ily on all those su­per­sti­tions and an un­ques­tion­able ac­cep­tance of re­li­gious be­liefs, and they may pos­si­bly have had an edge there.

Today we’re wired for speed and max­imis­ing our time on planet Earth – or at least at the of­fice – as we juggle ca­reer and moth­er­hood roles. Mul­ti­task­ing has been our mantra, squeez­ing in a few more con­fer­ence calls and meet­ings, be­ing su­per­woman, wav­ing a wire whisk while si­mul­ta­ne­ously hold­ing a con­ver­sa­tion and the baby. List tick­ing-off and pow­er­ing through a heavy sched­ule of “things to do” is how my gen­er­a­tion has coped.

But per­haps we weren’t cop­ing that well af­ter all. The lat­est re­search says we should for­get ev­ery­thing we know about time man­age­ment. Ex­perts are now telling us that break­ing the long-held rules can make you hap­pier, less stressed and, be­lieve it or not, more pro­duc­tive. Pro­duc­tiv­ity de­clines the more peo­ple at­tempt to cram into a day, so re­lax a lit­tle and you might achieve more.

Re­ally it’s all about learn­ing to em­brace your feel­ings, but that in it­self can be scary be­cause of the neg­a­tive be­liefs we may have about our emo­tions. We’re wired to think we should al­ways be pro­duc­tive and in con­trol, and that our feel­ings should be ra­tio­nal and al­ways make per­fect sense. The truth is that our emo­tions, like life it­self, are pretty darn messy and don’t al­ways make sense, nor are they al­ways par­tic­u­larly pleas­ant. It’s called be­ing hu­man and it makes you in­ter­est­ing and an in­di­vid­ual. So just ac­cept your feel­ings and learn a few new tac­tics to con­trol that 3am wor­ry­ing.

We’ve all been there – hav­ing our sleep in­ter­rupted by a bout of acute anx­i­ety in the wee small hours. I can even be anx­ious about anx­i­ety. Our minds start rac­ing and be­fore you can count even two sheep you’re fo­cus­ing on fi­nan­cial book bal­anc­ing, health or fam­ily con­cerns and work quan­daries.

Telling your­self to “stop wor­ry­ing” doesn’t ex­actly help ei­ther. You might be able to dis­tract your­self for a mo­ment, but try­ing to ban­ish anx­ious thoughts can ac­tu­ally make them stronger and more per­sis­tent. This doesn’t mean you can’t take charge of worry – you just need new strate­gies.

Dur­ing the day we can block out a lot of stresses but, some­how, when the lights go out the abil­ity to do this dis­ap­pears. My best ad­vice (and it works for me) to deal with this wee-small­hours wor­ry­ing co­nun­drum is, num­ber one, have a be­fore-bed, warm, milky, non-caf­feine drink. Then ac­cept the need to worry, but file it in an ap­pro­pri­ate men­tal fil­ing cab­i­net. Your mother was right – things do al­ways seem bet­ter in the morn­ing, so I set a men­tal timer to have this worry ses­sion in the calm of day­light, at say 10am the next morn­ing. If it helps, get up and write it in your sched­ule for the next day.

Post­pon­ing the worry is ef­fec­tive be­cause it breaks the habit of dwelling on wor­ries when you have other things to do – like sleep. It’s giv­ing your­self a breather and per­mis­sion to worry at a more ap­pro­pri­ate time.

It’s im­por­tant to be­come aware of your own re­la­tion­ship with sleep and, as with your weight, it could be a good idea to for­get the num­bers and fo­cus on the well­ness fac­tor. We’re all hu­man, there­fore all dif­fer­ent and unique.

So, sweet dreams – that’s one less thing to worry about.

Re­lax a lit­tle and you might achieve more.

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