1. Schedule a worry time
Are you so busy throughout your day that you have the chance to think about what is happening in your life only when you get into bed, a place that is quiet, dark and free of distractions?
When you are half asleep, you are not at your problem-solving best, and may be even more prone to imagining unlikely disasters and worrying about things over which you have little control. The solution? Problem-solve intentionally at a time when you are better able to generate good solutions. Give yourself a time to address worries earlier in the day so bedtime isn’t the only available time to think about the day’s events. Start by scheduling a time in the early evening when you can have 20 to 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. On a sheet of paper (or electronic document), draw a vertical line down the middle. At the top of the left column write “Worries or Concerns.” Label the right column “Next Steps” or “Solutions.”
Once you’ve recorded each worry, try to think of several possible solutions for each problem. Then, focus on the best “next” step you can take. Breaking a solution or a goal down into smaller steps increases the likelihood you will move toward it. You may find that accomplishing the first step inspires you to move to the next step, helping you meet your goal. If you have several unmet goals, you may be prone to feeling anxious, frustrated or even depressed. Try breaking them down and working on them in this way, and you may feel better.
You may choose to work on one worry per day, or use your worry time to generate a “to-do” list to solve mini-worries. Simply take time to work on whatever problems come up.
When a solution cannot be immediately pursued, thinking about solutions and making plans for different scenarios may help you feel less stuck. If the problem is out of your control, however, constructive solutions are not realistic. In this case, it helps to just write about the problem and accept that a solution is not within your control. Let’s say you are looking for a job. You have worked on your resume and done everything else you possibly can. At this point, things are out of your control and it is best to focus on taking care of yourself so that you maintain energy and optimism until one of your job prospects pays off. Sometimes reassuring yourself is the next best step to resolving a worry.
If the worries persist, do some free writing about them. When your worry time is up, fold the paper in half and put it away. Reassure yourself that you have done the best you can do for now. If the worry intrudes into your nighttime routine, remind yourself you have dealt with the problem and there is nothing that you can do about it now, when it is time to sleep.