We hope you are all well and keeping safe looking after yourselves. Wait, stop for a moment. How are you feeling? (Right now…). And how have you been sleeping? Got used to social distancing? Still struggling with lockdown ongoing in the UK and many other countries, we completely understand if feelings of stress are tricky to get rid of. We want to help and support you in feeling calmer and sleeping better. If you’re doing just fine at the moment, then feel free to share this article with someone else who needs a little boost.
This spotlight on Stress Awareness month looks into negative thoughts and emotions, which we are all just too familiar with. We also explore how a healthier relationship with control can help us sleep more soundly.
Negative thoughts often lead to stress, sleep issues and insomnia. The odd dread or negative notion in our mind is of course not unusual and everyone will have encountered this. So-called cognitive distortions can pull us into a spiral of negative thoughts. Studies* have shown that Repetitive Negative Thinking affects both how many hours of sleep we get as well as how quickly we can fall asleep. So, what can we do about it ?
While there are many variations of cognitive distortions**, here are a few that feel close to home at the moment:
- Filtering: Our mind closes in and focusses on the negative elements of a situation and ignores any silver linings altogether.
- Catastrophising: We take a negative thought and let it spiral until the only possible outcome we can think of is a complete disaster. If you find that happens to you a lot at the moment, we definitely hear you, so please do rest assured you are not the only one and there us a way out.
- Control Fallacies: We either feel that we cannot control aspects of life due to external factors or feel that our being and doing is the cause of anything negative happening to others.
- Blaming: We make ourselves feel guilty about pretty much anything – whether it is in our control or not – or find fault for our emotional state in others.
- Should statements: We feel guilt and stress as we see people all over social media on a path to self-improvement and perfection making us feel like we should be doing so many things at once rather than taking a bit of time and space for self-care. Something which feels quite timely in our current context.
- Emotional reasoning: Our negative emotions appear to be a universal truth to us, within ourselves. We feel a certain emotion and therefore think this feeling is the “Truth”. Emotions like stress about the current uncertainty and negative news can then take over making us forget about any rational or logical approach or in fact any silver linings.
There are many different ways to cope*** with stress caused by negative thoughts, but the most important step is to first understand what we can and cannot actually control. After all, it’s not worth losing our sleep over something we cannot change with the powers given to us.
The circle of control**** sits at the very centre of three circles that apply to everyone surrounded by influence and concern. Concern is anything you care about, be it for yourself or your loved ones, but that you have no control over. Influence means that while you can say or do small things that could potentially shift the outcome of a situation, it might well be that the final results is nothing like what you wanted.
Looking at these 2 outer two circles, we realise that we have no direct control. This means that we should always focus on that central circle – Direct control. Within this, our actions change and determine the outcome we are aiming for.
When you find worries and stress take over your well-being and you lie wide awake with your thoughts spiralling into the worst possible outcome, it can help to write those worries down and classify which ones you can take any action in controlling. Once you have defined that, let go of anything you cannot change before starting to take action on whatever it is you can actively change. The notion of proactively “doing something” to get to a positive outcome helps to reduce stress, improve sleep and overall happiness.
If you need inspiration now to identify and tackle the things you can control head on and improve your sleep, continue reading our next blog post exploring “stimulus control” and “conditioning” to defeat insomnia. Click here
Stay safe & healthy! And stay tuned for our next blog post in a couple of weeks time, subscribe below and we will let you know each time a new post is ready. Take good care !
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*Springer Study on RTN and Sleep
**PsychCentral: 15 common cognitive distortions
***PsychCentral: 10 proven methods for fixing cognitive distortions
****How to stop worrying – The Circle of Control
- The WeSleep Team –