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Mind

How to stop worrying and get some sleep

Celebrity cook Jo Seagar has some top tips from personal experience.

By Jo Seagar
I know I’m a bit of a fretter and night-time worrier, but I also know that I’m not the only one. There are millions of us worrying women, the membership numbers swollen by the sheer complexity and demands of modern life.
Cavemen and women worried, I’m sure, as did the builders of Stonehenge and the pyramids – all those tricky rocks to place just so, and keeping that mammoth from the door must have caused a few concerns. Worrying isn’t just an epidemic of modern times, but somehow it feels like a new-age problem. Perhaps our ancestors relied more heavily on all those superstitions and an unquestionable acceptance of religious beliefs, and they may possibly have had an edge there.
Today we’re wired for speed and maximising our time on planet Earth – or at least at the office – as we juggle career and motherhood roles.Multitasking has been our mantra, squeezing in a few more conference calls and meetings, being superwoman, waving a wire whisk while simultaneously holding a conversation and the baby. List ticking-off and powering through a heavy schedule of “things to do” is how my generation has coped.
But perhaps we weren’t coping that well after all.
The latest research says we should forget everything we know about time management. Experts are now telling us that breaking the long-held rules can make you happier, less stressed and, believe it or not, more productive. Productivity declines the more people attempt to cram into a day, so relax a little and you might achieve more.
Really it’s all about learning to embrace your feelings, but that in itself can be scary because of the negative beliefs we may have about our emotions. We’re wired to think we should always be productive and in control, and that our feelings should be rational and always make perfect sense.
The truth is that our emotions, like life itself, are pretty darn messy and don’t always make sense, nor are they always particularly pleasant. It’s called being human and it makes you interesting and an individual. So just accept your feelings and learn a few new tactics to control that 3am worrying.
We’ve all been there – having our sleep interrupted by a bout of acute anxiety in the wee small hours. I can even be anxious about anxiety. Our minds start racing and before you can count even two sheep you’re focusing on financial book balancing, health or family concerns and work quandaries.
Telling yourself to “stop worrying” doesn’t exactly help either. You might be able to distract yourself for a moment, but trying to banish anxious thoughts can actually make them stronger and more persistent. This doesn’t mean you can’t take charge of worry – you just need new strategies. During the day we can block out a lot of stresses but, somehow, when the lights go out the ability to do this disappears.
My best advice (and it works for me) to deal with this wee-small-hours worrying conundrum is, number one, have a before-bed, warm, milky, non-caffeine drink.
Then accept the need to worry, but file it in an appropriate mental filing cabinet. Your mother was right – things do always seem better in the morning, so I set a mental timer to have this worry session in the calm of daylight, at say 10am the next morning. If it helps, get up and write it in your schedule for the next day.
Postponing the worry is effective because it breaks the habit of dwelling on worries when you have other things to do – like sleep. It’s giving yourself a breather and permission to worry at a more appropriate time.
It’s important to become aware of your own relationship with sleep and, as with your weight, it could be a good idea to forget the numbers and focus on the wellness factor. We’re all human, therefore all different and unique.
So, sweet dreams – that’s one less thing to worry about.
Jo Seagar has learnt a thing or two about calming her worries.

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