The Spiral of Taking Your Insomnia and Stress Personally

Jia had long ago stopped reading articles titled “Why Sleep is Important.” They just made her feel if she didn’t fall asleep within 5 minutes, she was doomed to early death.

She already was terrified of not sleeping. Her bad nights showed up the next day at her graphic design job—she was bleary, stuttery, and testy as all get out.

Jia felt like a failure—she couldn’t do something as simple as sleep. That spiraled into more tension and stress, exacerbating everything from work to bedtime.

It is personal (and it’s not).

Sleep and the lack of it affects your relationships, work, self-care, health. That’s personal.

But it can get too personal when people blame themselves for not sleeping. They worry that they…

  • Didn’t strictly obey the sleep hygiene rules.

  • Stayed caught up in stupid little irritations.

  • Couldn’t fix unknown imperfections that kept sleep from magically appearing.

On top of that, they blame themselves for being bleary, stuttery, and testy the next day. It’s a rough road. When you take it personally, it makes getting to sleep worse, not better.

But what else is there to do? It is your life that exhaustion is messing with.

Remember, we live in many layers at once.

Being stuck in just one perspective keeps you trapped. Expanding your view to a multi-layered perspective gives you relief.

“Multi-layered” means noticing different life experiences that happen at the same time: physical, emotional, relationship, self, cognitive, spiritual, and others.

I’ve incorporated these layers in Restful Insomnia’s 7 Pathways to Rest. Right here, we’re focusing on the sixth pathway, your relationship with the Bigger Picture.

Let’s look at ways to expand your view when you’re caught up in struggles:

  • Let your personal stress (about sleep or other issues) fade into the background—even just 5-10%—instead of right in your face…

  • Remember these aren’t just your personal failings—there’s a larger context. You’re part of a culture filled with unreasonable expectations and overload, so getting stressed is an appropriate (albeit uncomfortable) response. A reason to be kinder to yourself for doing the best you can…

  • Notice what else supports you, the bigger picture of family, friends, community, earth, the Divine…

When you can do that, you create room to let go. That is, assuming your mind knows it’s okay to take a break. But if it doesn’t, we can help with that.

“But I have so much to take care of, I can’t let go.”

It’s a human truth, the conscious mind often thinks it can do it all.

But it can’t. Life requires more than your conscious mind and your ego.

When you open to other layers—something outside the spiral of your mind—life starts flowing, even just around the edges.

Think of it like driving home during the intensity of rush hour. It’s already taken too long to get home, and those self-centered drivers horning in line make you want to scream, or worse.

Then you crest a hill and see a glorious sunset, soft oranges and misty purple lighting the sky. The commute magically gets better—things are a little less personal—as you notice the sunset and the bigger world.

Create your own inner sunset.

At night, you can create that same feeling. Tap into something larger than yourself, a bigger, non-personal perspective of nature, Divine, your life with a view from afar:

  • Imagine the trees are exhaling oxygen as you inhale, and inhale carbon dioxide as you exhale.

  • Call the name of your Divine into your heart.

  • Feel energy run through your body. Earth energy comes up through your feet, spiritual energy down through the top of your head. They mix together in your torso to release physical tension, then flow into the center of the earth from the base of your spine.

  • Picture the galaxies surrounding our solar system, surrounding earth, surrounding you.

Practice, play with, restore, return to these elements, as lightly as you can. Let them infuse your experience, even just a tinge. Or ride these images like an inner tube on a gentle river.

Even a small wash of this wider view lessens the intensity of the sleepless anxiety cycle. As you let the larger perspective soften you, it brings on rest and sleep.

The bigger picture helped Jia when anxiety arose—
but she didn’t get there overnight.

As we worked together, we explored where Jia was hooked into the anxiety cycle. And we developed ways to release it.

Her favorite was to imagine the galaxies.

That biggest of bigger pictures helped her let go of feeling responsible for everything. When she didn’t take her sleep or stress issues so personally, she had room to rest.

I wish for you what I helped Jia to find: those galaxies and galaxies of rest.


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