“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the loss of sleep.” Dale Carnegie
Our bodies have a natural biological clock called Circadian Rhythm. This clock is prewired to follow a 24-hour cycle based on light and darkness. As night begins to fall our clock will release the hormone melatonin helping us fall asleep.
We normally sleep through the night until around sunrise. Our bodies begin to release cortisol the fight or flight hormone beginning around 3 am. Your cortisol peaks mid-morning at around 9 am. If you are waking up at the onset of the cortisol rush you may have increased stress levels or underlying health issues.
For me, it’s anxiety and stress. I’ll awaken and acknowledge the fact that it’s not time to be awake. My breathing will have increased with short staccato breathes. My heart will be pumping faster as I enter overthinking mode.
As I lie there the pounding on my minds gates gets louder and with a bang, the gates open and the thoughts come rushing in. My mind will begin to remind me of every unfinished project. Every possible issue and potentially disastrous outcome. I’ll just lie there, paralyzed by my thoughts and inaction.
My mental self stands there, arms held out as problem after problem, task after tasks, worry after worry are handed to me. I can’t make a move. Paralyzed like a deer caught in the headlights.
As I struggle to regain control, it was during these panicked moments I’d wonder about my capabilities and contemplate running away from my thoughts and challenges. My body was in fight or flight and I was thinking I’d run.
The Human Brain
The human brain is the most developed of any known animal species. Our brains consist of three basic parts. The reptilian brain handles primitive processing such as breathing, heart rate, hunger, sexuality, and procedural memory.
The old mammal brain handles emotion, motivation, and memory.
Lastly, the new mammal brain handles languages, improved reasoning, planning, and complex decision-making.
I’ll silently yell at my thoughts. They won’t relent as they increase in intensity. Mental chaos ensues until I release my “shush” command silently. Focusing closely on my breathing, I’ll take in a purposefully slow intentional breath. My lungs begin to fill and my chest increases in volume. The oxygenated air reaching my extremities. Holding my breath for a moment until I’ll slowly release the air in a controlled exhale.
My focus is purely on my breath as I’ll attempt to silence my mammalian brain functions. With each passing breathing cycle, the thoughts coming in feel diluted and powerless. With each controlled exhale the negative thoughts are released from my thought path.
Lying there, with focused meditative breath, I’d regain control of my thoughts. I used to just continue to lie there, hoping I’d fall back asleep. Wishing the circumstances of my thoughts and inability to make a move would miraculously fade away.
Get up and Take Action
For the past few months, I no longer just lie there and take the artillery fire of my thoughts. Jumping up out of bed, I’ll take action as I begin my daily routine. It may be journaling or writing an article. Followed by exercise, meditation, and breakfast while listening to an audiobook.
I’ve retrained myself to take action during this natural period of cortisol rush. My creativity has increased as I complete tasks and get stuff done. I’m hardly anxious and my thought process is more defined and focused.