racing thoughts from anxiety

When your thoughts won’t stop racing, pick up a book

By Jeffrey Pillow on May 1, 2018 — 2 mins read

When your thoughts won’t stop racing, pick up a book and start reading.

I woke at 1:30 AM this morning, wrestling with work-related anxiety. You know, because that’s what I want to be thinking of in the middle of the night instead of pleasant dreams of cherry flavored lollipops or hopping around on the back of a giant chocolate bunny rabbit in a wonderful land made of milk chocolate with chocolate fountains and chocolate rivers and chocolate trees.

Waking to racing thoughts doesn’t happen often anymore, but when it does I follow my usual routine in trying to get myself to bed: meditation. Nine times out of ten, meditation works, and I’m fast asleep again—except when it doesn’t.

At that point, I turn to Enya. Some of you think I’m joking here. I assure you I am dead serious. I pop in my earbuds and hit the loop button on “Only Time,” by Enya. When Plan A (meditation) fails, Enya (music therapy) is my Plan B.

Enya: Kicking ass and taking names since 1961

Unfortunately, sometimes Plans A and B don’t do the trick, so I toss and turn, continuing to wrestle with my work-related anxious thoughts.

Related: Hello, Anxiety. I Know You Are There

Hmm, what else should I try: a boring podcast? Didn’t work. NBA on TNT post-game analysis with Kenny, Chuck, and Ernie? No dice this time. Welp, I guess I’m up for the day. No sense fighting it any longer.

What I want to know, however, since I’m awake and all, is how to turn off this water spigot of anxiety that won’t stop flowing out of my brain? A book. Jackpot!

Read a book that fully engages you so that the voice you hear narrating is a calm one and not that asshole who kicked in the door of the control room and started pushing all the big, red buttons that woke you in the first place.

I’ve been reading all of Chris Guillebeau’s books, one by one, recently, and The Happiness of Pursuit settled the storm within me this morning. Generally speaking, I would recommend a novel over non-fiction, but this morning non-fiction did its thing.

My advice, when meditation and Enya and all else fails you—and taking a walk is out of the question (pretty sure if I went for a walk at 2 AM like Charles Dickens, the police would show up)—is to try reading in the middle of the night to calm your anxiety.

Pro-tip life hack: do try it sooner than I did this morning. I think we all know the nights when falling back to sleep just isn’t going to happen, yet we prolong getting up because we don’t want to face the reality of what the clock’s hour hand says.

Spin it into a positive: you got in some valuable, uninterrupted reading time.

Me, I knocked out sixty pages of reading, transitioned to writing for an hour, and am listening to some old school punk rock while I edit the text you’re reading now. My mood is much improved than it was only four hours ago.

How about you? Any tricks up your sleeve for combatting anxiety or getting back to bed when the racing thoughts come down the highway of your mind 100 MPH at 1 AM?

Thanks for reading.

Photo by Ehimetalor Unuabona on Unsplash

Posted in: Health and Wellness

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