We all have those nights when we can't sleep because the monkeys in our mind are playing ping pong. Usually the middle of the night games are rather brutal, and those ping pong balls are relentless. As an empath and HSP, it's already difficult enough to calm our hyper sensitive nervous systems to sleep. I explained in The Power of Word - How Monkey Mind Works a bit of why our monkey minds do what they do. Also, in my post Inside the Spirit of an Empath I explain how stress hormones stop us from sleeping. When stress gets our monkeys mattering about, we need some practical tricks to tame them. Here's what I do.
Step One - Breathe
Breath does EVERYTHING to soothe your nervous system. Specifically, the Focused Breathing technique I figured out some years ago is exceptional for giving those monkeys space, slowing down their activity, and focusing their energy for what you want them to do. For me, ten focused breaths takes about 2 minutes and before I'm done with them, I am feeling a thousand times calmer (and sleepier). While I'll give you simple instructions here, I highly recommend you take the online course where I offer video instructions and detailed instruction.
Breathe to the bottom of your lungs by keeping your belly still and making your ribs expand fully.
Breathe through the back of your nose with a slight rattle, like a kitten's purr.
Make each breath long, slow, and even so that you can barely tell the difference between the inhalation, the exhalation, the top of the breath or the bottom of the breath. Make the breath feel like it is a constant steady ocean wave.
Think "I am calm and relaxed" with every single breath (read "The Power of Word - What Happens When you Link Thought to Breath"
Step Two - Move
When the monkeys go crazy, they run amuck, going all over the place. Sometimes just moving your body in a controlled and steady and consistent way helps focus them and calm their chaos. Try going for a walk where you match your Focused Breathing to your steps and you count your steps. If you are trying to sleep, move into a different room. The change in environment will make them stop for a moment and have to reorient themselves. If you move to a different room and then do the breathing, they will likely settle more.
Step Three - Ground
When monkeys are moving, they are MOVING. Sometimes they just need to be stopped for a moment. This simple grounding exercise will not only momentarily stop them, but it will distract them into doing something more productive.
Plant both your feet on the floor, pointing straight forward like number 1s.
Soften your knees slightly.
Even your weight on your feet and slightly engage your inner thighs so that the weight is even on all parts of your legs.
Do Focused Breathing
Think "I am calm, steady, and focused."
Repeat this mantra for a minimum of 5 breaths.
Repeat this entire exercise at least every 15 minutes until you feel more calm and steady.
Step Four - Invert
Believe it or not, our thoughts respond to gravity. If you get your head upside down, the excess thoughts will spill out of the top of our heads like a salt shaker. Don't believe me, just try it. You can't think as chaotically when you're upside down. If you're seated, just drop your head between your knees and do Focused Breathing. As always, Breathing is key.
Ragdoll yoga pose is a good way to invert.
Stand with your feet hip width apart and straight
Bend your knees enough to get your belly on your thighs
Even the weight on your feet and legs
Drop your head and arms
Think "I am calm and steady and relaxed."
Legs Up the Wall Pose
turn yourself around on your bed so that your butt can prop up on the pillows and your legs can rest up on the headboard
do your best to make sure your hips are slightly higher than your heart
Think "I am calm and steady and relaxed."
Step 5 - Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation/visualization practice that is scientifically and clinically proven to relax the entire nervous system. Practitioners argue that 20 minutes of yoga nidra is equivalent to 2 hours of sleep. When your body is sleepy and needs rest, but your mind won't let it, a few minutes into the yoga nidra practice and you will likely fall asleep before the end. There are hundreds of free yoga nidras on streaming platforms like spotify and itunes. A good one will take you through a relaxation process of focusing on every body part with your breath, which soothes the nerves through your entire body. When that happens, the monkeys can't chatter much anymore.
When All Else Fails - Divert (PLAY!)
If all else fails, then your darn monkeys just have too much energy and they need somewhere to put that energy. At this point, I suggest you PLAY with them. For myself, if I can't sleep and all these other tricks have failed, I get up and write. I get them busy doing something that always gets me fully brain immersed. If writing doesn't work, I balance my bank accounts, or work on my taxes, or clean out the junk drawer. The good news is that on those days when they want to play, I usually am not too tired anyway because they are just telling me we don't need the rest right now.
If you have chronic sleep issues or insomnia due to empath or HSP feels, I highly recommend you work with me in mentoring to find some simple lifestyle changes to better regulate your nerves. Book an Appointment