I woke up at 2:30 last night. Most of the time I fall back
asleep pretty quickly - exhaustion can do that to you. But
last night my brain decided it was a good time to worry. My
thoughts were all over the place. From the little things (is
the front door locked?) to the big things (is our country really
Night time worry takes on a life of its own. It's
grandiose, fear inducing, and stressful.
Eckhart Tolle, author of the Power of Now, wrote, "Worry
pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose." In
daylight I believe this, but at night I am harder to convince.
Night time worry is like a bad fever dream. You spin your
wheels with the belief that you are actually accomplishing
It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry puts pen and
paper next to his bed to jot down joke ideas in the middle of the
night. When he wakes up in the morning none of it makes sense
and it drives him crazy - my point exactly.
Thankfully my wise voice made an appearance and reminded me that
I was wasting valuable sleep time. So I focused my attention
on the one thing that simultaneously calms the body and mind -
breathing. Breath work (pranayama) is one of the many
wonderful things that yoga has taught me.
We naturally and spontaneously breathe all the time, but the
breath is usually quick and shallow - not very calming to the
body. Our breath is connected to our thoughts. When
stressed or in pain we often hold our breath or simply forget to
breathe, but when we are calm we tend to breathe deeper and
So I work in the reverse - I breathe deep and slow to bring on
the calm. It gives my "monkey brain" something to focus on
and it allows for a deep state of relaxation.
Breath is also my favorite parenting tool. When my kids
are frustrated or fearful I remind them to close their eyes and
take a deep breath. When we sit down for dinner we take a
deep breath before we eat. When the girls are whining or
fighting for my attention I close my eyes and breathe so I don't
speak or act impulsively.
Sounds simple, but sometimes simple is all you need.
Breathing naturally relaxes the body and brings you back to your
And last night breathing helped me go back to sleep. Well,
first I checked the front door, but then breathing helped
me go back to sleep…..
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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