Stress Awareness Month 2016: 5 ways to tackle unhelpful thinking at bedtime

Your work performance… next month’s mortgage payment… the kids’ school grades… marital difficulties… What’s popping into your head at bedtime, impacting on the quality of your sleep?

The less sleep you get, the more your stress levels increase as your coping skills are reduced by tiredness.

Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure. Symptoms include headaches, muscle tension or pain and racing thoughts – none of which are conducive to a refreshing, rejuvenating night’s sleep.

You can regain control of racing night-time thoughts and overcome the symptoms of stress in any of the following five ways – all of which are proven to lead to positive mind sets and a good night’s rest.

Break It Down: Utilise Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques to look at your problem in separate parts – thoughts, physical feelings and actions. How do they effect each other and you? Reframe unhelpful thoughts more positively. For example, instead of: “What if I can’t make this month’s mortgage payment?” a healthier thought process could be: “I will telephone my lender tomorrow morning to discuss a payment plan.” Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a talking therapy which you can access through your GP and the NHS or pay for privately.

Shut Up, Move On (SUMO): Developed by best-selling author Paul McGee, SUMO is a set of principles and materials designed to empower people who may wrestle with life’s everyday problems today and in the future. ‘Shut Up’ is about stopping what you are doing and taking time out to reflect, then committing to ‘Move On’ positively when the time is right. A helpful SUMO tool to address ‘faulty thinking’ is to ask: ‘Where is this issue on a scale of one to 10? How important will this be in six months’ time? Is my response appropriate and effective?’

Mindfulness: Being more mindfully aware of not just your inner thoughts, but what’s going on in the world around you moment to moment, can help to distract you from challenging or upsetting thoughts. Practice mindfulness to reconnect with the sights, sounds, and smells of the present moment. Develop a mindful bedtime routine that’s focussed on relaxation and includes sleep-promoting snacks, gentle exercise and a sensual bath.

Moodzone: NHS Choices have developed the Moodzone – an online resource offering practical, useful information and interactive tools, and videos to support you to feel less stressed. Take the Mood Assessment Quiz to gauge your current mood, then listen to the free Trouble Sleeping or Unhelpful Thinking audio guides.

Join the worldwide happiness movement: No.1 New York Times best-selling author Gretchen Rubin published her manifesto for a happier life, The Happiness Project, in 2009 and it’s since gone on to sell 1.5million copies. A blueprint to designing your own Happiness Project, the book helps you to focus on doing what makes you feel good, joyful and full of fun, and positively managing what makes you feel bad, brings anger, boredom or dread. Start your Happiness Project here.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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