There are lots of practical tips that can help treat some of the surface-level symptoms of poor sleep. Not looking at screens an hour before bed, making sure your room is dark enough, wearing socks — these are a good place to start. But if you constantly struggle to get to sleep, or stay asleep, and none of these more practical changes has much of an effect, often there’s a deeper anxiety at play. This writing exercise might help you work through it.
Let’s say your inner child is your emotional body. It’s the sensitive and fragile you.
Unblock held-in emotion
Your inner child still holds some feelings, likely scary ones about your past. Let’s see if you can listen to and ease those feelings or even unravel them a bit. This could unblock some of the held-in emotion.
Close your eyes. Imagine that you are sitting on a seat and your inner child is sitting on a different seat. Notice what age your inner child is; ask him or her if he or she is ok, and if they will talk with you. Maybe you want to also imagine a comfortable room in a house you know, where you can sit and talk. Let your imagination flow.
Once you’ve made a connection, go in and ask how they feel about a past situation and let yourself write down whatever comes, trying not to over-analyse. Write as much as you want.
This process is called free writing.
Then ask your inner child, “What do you need from me?”
“How can I help you to sleep better?”
Again, jot your responses down freely.
At the end, tell your inner child some encouraging and caring things. Perhaps you want to say that it’s okay that you’ve been experiencing anxiety, and that you are willing to listen and learn why it’s there. Maybe you want to tell your child that you think they have been doing a great job lately, at managing all of the adult pressures that you have to deal with on a daily basis.
Use this encounter to say whatever you want to, to the vulnerable part of you.
I’d then end by imagining yourself in a really big bed, having the best night's sleep you can imagine. Think about all of the times in your life you’ve had the best night's sleep.
When you begin to link to yourself in this way you can open a doorway to better understanding about where your anxiety comes from and what you may be able to do to move through it.
Anxiety is a message wanting to be understood
It’s the link between the practical, responsive, adult brain, and the feeling, emotional nature of your inner world that can start to ease anxiety. After all, anxiety is simply a message wanting to be understood.
One last practical tip for a good night’s sleep is to write a list of worries before you go to bed and then throw it in the bin.
Self-soothing takes time to learn, and it really does come about by feeling we can settle into our own emotional body.
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