Thursday, May 28, 2015

How to stop your mind racing at night

Recently I was having a discussion with a Senior Executive about the fact his mind races while he is lying in bed trying to go to sleep, constantly thinking of what's going on and keeping him awake.
I used to have that problem too.  Don't get me wrong, I still have the odd sleepless night or two when the cat decides to sleep next to my head and starts to store,  or she finds a way to wedge herself either on top of my legs or some other equally uncomfortable location while I have drifted off.

Like most people in busy working jobs, as a CEO and Entrepreneur, my day is simply filled with things from phones ringing to appointment reminders to the constant barrage of emails coming in to staff discussions, staff meetings, meetings with suppliers and customers, sales proposals and more, in fact it hardly stops. 

I recently had my 'second life' collide with my Office life.  In my second life, I instruct Pilates and run Personal Training Sessions. I  have been formally trained on the art of Relaxation.  I had not personally known the art of 'Mindfulness" until trained myself and now I can simply apply this at anytime I need to relax.   I have even had people completely fall asleep in my Relaxation sessions to the point they were storing.  So what's the key - How do you stop your mind running and fall into a blissful sleep?

Firstly, Environment- Light.  You must have a darkened environment.  Turn the lights off if you are able, shut the blinds.  I have also learnt that even little lights from cell phone charger or heat-pumps or wireless adapters can cause issues with sleep.  Last night my husband said he did not sleep well because our heat-pump was on 'Patrol Setting' and the Blue light was on.  Blue light promotes energy- no wonder he couldn't sleep! 

Secondly, Environment- Noise. You must ensure that the room is a quiet as possible.  If you are highly sensitive to noise, its worth trying to teach yourself to relax with noise reducing headphone or put some relaxing music on (I usually download massage music- I have the Ultimate Massage Album. 

Thirdly, Body Position.  Ensure you are lying on your back with your arms by your side and palms facing up, your eyes closed.  You must also be warm.  Have a towel over you or if in bed, make sure you have blankets over you and you are comfortable with your hands by your side palms facing up

Forth, Breathing.  I teach Pilates breathing and I highly recommend it.  Firstly, Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Repeat.  The breaths should be long and deep and your breath in must fill your lungs and your breath out must be one you can hear.  This will lower you heart rate and also circulate oxygen around the muscles  (if you don't believe me- next time you are on the cross trainer going at a huffy puffy pace, grab the heart rate sensors and start doing your Pilates breathing- your heart rate should lower between 5-10 beats per minute).  Keep the breathing going.  If your mind starts to wander, just focus back on the breathing- in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Fifth, Muscle Relaxing.  As you are lying down on your back, palms facing up doing your breathing, you must then start to relax your muscles.  You can do this by tensing the area and then relaxing in time with your breathing.  Start with the feet- tense as you breathe in and then release as you breathe out.  Ensure your focus is on your breathing. Then repeat for each area moving up the body- legs, up to your butt, then back and shoulders, arms and hands and then finally up to the head an neck.  Letting any and all tension go.  Maintain focus on your breathing and have awareness of how your inhale fills your lungs and your exhale releases the breath through the lungs and out through the mouth.   Then go right into your Visualisation as below or 4 questions.  Always maintaining your breathing- in through the nose and out through the mouth ensuring your eyes are closed.

Sixth, Visualisation Story OR Four Questions Technique.

Here is one of the visualisations I use in my Pilates sessions- its also one of my favourites.

I want you to imagine you are lying in a meadow full of green grass.  It is a beautiful sunny day.  You feel the sun on your face, You hear children laughing, dogs barking, the wind rustling the leaves of the trees.  The sky is bright blue above you with huge white puffy clouds.  You take a moment to choose the cloud that looks the best to you, you note its shape, its transparency and how its moving.  Ensure your whole focus is on that cloud. 
That cloud now gently starts floating lower towards hovers above you and gently drifts beside you.  It now slides underneath you.  You are now lying on that cloud.  You can't believe how warm, safe, relaxed and comfortable you feel.  That cloud now slowly starts lifting you up, just to the height you feel comfortable.  Beneath you, you have the most spectacular view, you see the meadow beneath you, the children playing and the trees swaying in the breeze.  You feel totally relaxed and peaceful.  Beyond the meadow, you shift your gaze to another meadow beyond.  That meadow is spectacular.  If is full of flowers of every colour and of every variety.  You pick the flower that looks best to you.  You notice its colour, its petals, how its moving and every detail about the flower,  Your whole focus is on that flower.  (Lie there for 2 mins simply visualising the flower from every angle).  Your cloud now slowly starts floating you back, over the meadow of flowers, your focus is still on your flower.  Your flower slowly starts fading into the distance as your cloud slowly floats you back over your meadow.  You lose sight of your flower as your cloud now gently starts lowering you down to the meadow.  You now gently touch down to the ground and are returned to a glorious relaxing peaceful state, or even sleep....

OR (for those really short on time :-) (or who can't relax during visualisation)

Ask yourself the following 4 questions:-

Who Am I?
This question should be answered by running through all of the roles you've played in a day. I normally run though, I'm a wife, I'm a daughter, I'm a chef, I'm a leader, I'm a counsellor and all of the things I've actually done in a day- you'd be amazed at how long the list will be!

What is my purpose?
For this one, you need to simply answer what you are here to do, perhaps its to be a loving wife or husband, it could be to protect and serve my kids, it could be to help others.  You will need to answer this question with your own purpose.

What do I want?
This is for you to decide.  Search deep for this one and think about the things you want- maybe its material things, perhaps its eternal happiness, or maybe its for someone who is sick to get well again...

What am I grateful for?
This is an important question- everyone can be grateful for at least one thing in a day, perhaps more.

By this stage, if your mind is still running, you may need to repeat the whole process again from start to finish until you get used to it.

I usually use the 4 questions if my mind is running and I just want to get to sleep.  These days I never get past question two and I'm asleep!

Hope this helps and sweet dreams! 
Let me know your thoughts on other techniques you've used...