My therapist once told me, “Anxiety is the flip side of creativity.”
I think about that statement a lot, because it really hit home. My brain is a pinball machine, constantly zooming from one thought to the next, free-associating like wild. It makes me great at brainstorming and planning for worst-case scenarios, but unfortunately it also makes my capacity to worry nigh-incalculable. If there were an Anxiety Olympics, I’d be a gold-medal champion, several times over.
So believe me when I say that distracting my brain from its endless worry cycle, especially in These Times, is extremely difficult.
I’ve gotten pretty good at meditation. I count my breaths. I listen to familiar podcasts and audiobooks. But sometimes, none of that is enough, particularly when I wake up in the middle of the night.
I have recently stumbled upon a technique that has helped, though. (The usual disclaimers apply here, of course: I am not a doctor or a psychologist. The following does not constitute medical advice. Please consult a doctor if you suffer from chronic insomnia.)
Those who follow me on Instagram may know about my passion for making malas (prayer beads). Malas are wonderful magickal tools to reprogram your mind and spirit. As you hold each bead in the strand, you say a mantra, either out loud or to yourself, then move onto the next bead and repeat that same mantra. It helps break through the cycle of negative self-talk and focus your will and intention on particular outcomes. (High fives to my friend Irene of Glasse Witch Cottage for teaching me how to make and use them!)
I love working through the couple of malas that I kept for myself. I have one focused on improving my body image, and one focused on releasing.
In the middle of the night, though, I don’t want to fiddle with beads, because if I doze off I’m likely to end up with them either A. falling to the floor with a clatter, waking me back up, or B. pressed under my face or stomach as I sleep, making me super uncomfortable.
So I’ve been doing “mental malas” to help myself fall back asleep, ones that require my brain to focus on two things at a time, which often keeps it busy enough to avoid worry-loops. I have two variations on this:
Counting visualization with mantra
- Choose a single mantra: a short, affirmative phrase. It can be one you already use with a mala, or something new. Don’t make it something like “I will fall back asleep soon” because that may just start an anxiety loop. If you’re stuck for ideas, consider these: “I am loved, protected, and complete.” “I lead a healthy lifestyle.” “I am beautiful and worthy of love.” “I am a child of starlight.” “I release that which no longer serves.”
- Now, picture the number one, as vividly as you can. Just a big-ass number one.
- While focusing on the image of the number, say the mantra to yourself.
- Continue by picturing the number two, and saying the mantra again, then picturing the number three, and so on. Go up to 108, and then start over if you’re still awake at that point.
- Choose two mantras, including one affirmation, and one focused on letting something go or sending something out.
- For the former, you could choose “I am loved, protected, and complete,” “I breathe in peace,” or something similar.
- For the latter, I generally go with something vague, as I don’t want to dwell too much on my shortcomings while I’m trying to fall asleep. “I release that which no longer serves” works really well, though you could also use something like “I send love to those I hold dear.”
- On each inhale, say the affirmation to yourself.
- On each exhale, say the letting-go or sending-out mantra to yourself.
- Repeat until you fall back asleep.
These may seem like simple relaxation techniques, but they are also good magickal practice. You are not only teaching your mind how to focus (which is vital for effective magickal work), you are also repeating words with intent to yourself, essentially casting a spell on yourself. The more you wear a groove in your brain with a particular phrase or idea, the more likely that phrase or idea will manifest within your Self. (So choose your mantras wisely.)
Now…go get some f*cking sleep.
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