I find this technique very useful when the mind is overwhelmed with different concerns: you have some unresolved issue at work, a conflict in a family or an important upcoming event. If this kind of thoughts makes it difficult for you to fall asleep, try a constructive worry method suggested by Dr. Colleen Carney.

The method

  1. Do this exercise a couple of hours before going to bed. I’ve done it also during the night and it helped, though not so fast.

→If you know how to fix the problem completely, then write that down.

→If you decide that this is not really a big problem, and you will just deal with it when the time comes, then write that down.

→If you decide that you simply do not know what to do about it, and need to ask someone to help you, write that down.

→If you decide that it is a problem, but there seems to be no good solution at all, and that you will just have to live with it, write that down, with a note to yourself that maybe sometime soon you or someone you speak with will give you a clue that will lead you to a solution.

4. After writing down all the concerns, keep the paper near your bed.

5. Whenever you start thinking about these problems again, remind yourself that you have already taken care of them in the best way you could at that moment and that you will come back to them the next day.

I realized that I usually worry when I don’t have clarity in certain things. But as soon as I define a clear actionable plan, the fog is lifting.

Read more about this technique in the author’s worksheet.

The exception

Even though the technique is great for casual bed-time worries, I found it less effective when the subject of my worry was the sleep itself. It is difficult to distance yourself from the problem when this problem comes back to you every night. So if you have a fear of sleep, there is another effective approach that tackles this issue specifically:

Unlearning the fear of not sleeping

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