Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Thin Line Between Excitement and Anxiety

I'm back! Been a couple of weeks. December has been a busy and eventful month.  I'm sure I'll have more on that in the new year.  For now, though, I want to write about a more immediate issue I've been having:  sleep.  Or the lack thereof.  Lately, I've been waking up at 4AM or earlier on my days off.  They key part of that being that I'm not falling back to sleep. I usually lie there for an hour, hour and a half, two hours. Finally, usually some time by 6 or 6:30AM I give in and get up.

Some mornings, other than the fact that I know I'll be exhausted and that it's bad for my mood cycles, it's not unpleasant. I'll lie there in that half-wake-have-sleep state, and my brain fuzzily focuses on some sort of story that it's creating without my intending to. These mornings I'm sleepy enough, yet not feeling sleep deprived, and simply knowing I'm warm and cozy in bed and don't have to get up to go to work is all I need. Other mornings, though, that is far from the case. These mornings I'm jittery, can't sleep, mind racing. These mornings my brain is in full gear, making lists, coming up with ideas, creating tasks and asking questions. It's not because I'm wide awake per se, but simply because my brain is awake enough to do this. Many times this is stress. I'm upset or worried or hurt or even angry about something, and my brain won't let me forget it. Lately, though, it's been the opposite. I've had a lot of positive going on, and my brain just can't let go of those vibes. I wake up excited with ideas and plans, wanting to write and research and create. But still, I'm jittery, unable to fall asleep, not even feeling tired enough to, yet knowing that I am. These are the days I give in and get up extra early (note, this doesn't mean 6 or 6:30, it means 5 or 5:30).

It seems there's a thin line between anxiety and excitement. Often, this line blurs completely. I'll be so excited about something that I get anxious about not working on it or getting it done.  So my mind starts racing and I start getting restless, unable to fall back asleep. When this happens with numerous trains of thoughts all at once, I end up completely anxious. Sometimes in a full blown anxiety attack. And the thing is, at no time in either case am I actually trying to think about any of this. It's just coming up in my brain. I can literally feel it seeping through my body, slowly spreading like some sort of electric current through my arms and legs, hands and feet. And when this happens, I know there's no hope of getting any more rest. The only thing I can do is get it out of my system, and that means getting up and taking action in the form of getting things done.

For those who don't battle anxiety and the resulting insomnia, it may be easy to think, "Well just stop thinking about it so hard and let yourself fall back to sleep. What can you get done at 4AM on Saturday anyways?  But to the anxious brain, there's always something that you can do. And if not, by default that "something" is worrying.

The only technique I have found that works for me is simply to just go with it. Let my body and brain guide me. If I try to fight it, I end up worrying about getting anxious. I lie there thinking, "I'm not going to get back to sleep and then I'm going to be exhausted later and then I'm going to cycle more, and then and then....". I literally will get anxious about being anxious, or excited as the case may be. So if my brain and body say, "no ma'am, you're done sleeping for the night," I decide what time I'll lie in bed until, and when that time hits, I get up.  That way, I am not lying there thinking how I'll be doing so for hours when it's a more "appropriate time to get up", or when my partner wakes up. I've gotten used to being up when it's dark out, to putting on a pot of coffee, sitting down at my desk with my notebook, and getting my day started by writing. And if I am in one of those more pleasant half-sleep-half-awake states, when the excitement is just kind of there in the background but not overpowering, then I just let myself be content with that. I'm content that I can just lie there, without the electric current feeling that I experience so often. These days, I can allow myself to lie there longer. And if I feel the feeling start to shift from content to jittery, I know it's almost time to get up. I don't let it get to full blown anxiety if I can help it.

I should note here that I do take melatonin, and my evening medications usually knock me out. It's the staying asleep past 4AM on non-work days that's the issue. (Oddly on work days, my brain is happy to sleep).  I'm very open to any tips that you may have discovered! 

No comments:

Post a Comment