A few days ago, I had terminal insomnia, having awoken at the lovely hour of 4:30 am. I lay there trying to force myself back to sleep for two more hours before I finally got up at 7:00 am, grouchy and groggy. I could not stop those stupid thoughts!
Anxiety happens because of irrational thinking. When I wake up anxious, I know it’s because I’m engaging in negative thoughts and believing them. This was the case the other day. I woke up with a feeling of dread, a low level anxiety. I decided to try to root out my negative thinking and correct the distortions. I knew I was obsessing about a get together I had planned for later that evening. I was having 3, possibly 4 girlfriends over at 6 pm for coffee and cake (decaf tea for me).
There’s a saying in my 12 Step Program: Move a Muscle Change a Thought, that applies perfectly to anxiety. Don’t lie there thinking, obsessing, or ruminating.
It’s easy to stay stuck in a negative way of thinking, to stay down and confused and immobilized with fear when we stay there laying in bed after a night of tossing and turning. Get up, move, do something different, move a muscle, and your thoughts will change. You don’t have to exercise necessarily. Just do something to shift, move, change your perspective, take some action…just get moving.
I went into the kitchen and started putting away the dishes from the night before. Then I emptied the dishwasher, sorted the mail, and put away the recycling… And I started to feel better.
I thought about the things that kept me up that night. It turns out, the things I were focusing on were very negative and also irrational. My thoughts basically went something like this:
Will I be able to make small talk? What if no one shows up? What if I get anxious? How can I be a hostess while I’m panicking? Will people notice? What if everyone notices my coffee cups don’t match?
These type of thoughts are self defeating. I’m not thinking much of myself to put so much worry into any event, much less a casual get together with friends. I realized I also wasn’t giving my friends much credit to feel they would judge me poorly for something as insignificant as coffee cups that don’t match. Looking back on this thought a few days later, I can’t believe how large that thought loomed in my head!
These thoughts weren’t rational because really do think better of myself and my friends. They know I have anxiety, they’ve heard it all before, and honesty it’s just not a big deal to them–that’s why they’re my friends. The only person who thinks it’s a big damn deal is ME. And this I must continue to work on until it just isn’t anymore.
When you wake up in the morning with anxiety, one of the best ways to manage it and to keep it from spiraling out of control, then, is to check in with your feelings first thing in the morning. Whether you tossed and turned the night before, or just wake up with a low level irritating feeling of anxiety in your gut, try to identify your negative thoughts, and then correct the distortions. If you need to, Move a Muscle, Change a Thought.
ps. When Panic Attacks by David D. Burns M.D. is an excellent book that goes into great depth about identifying and correcting self defeating thoughts and behaviors, called cognitive distortions.
photo credit: by Janine