How to Start a Worry Journal: Learning to Handle Stress and Sleep Soundly


woman-worry-journal
A journal lets you focus on your worries, then close the book on them until tomorrow.
(ISTOCKPHOTO)
Stress and insomnia have a complicated relationship: You go to bed, but you're concerned about something, so it takes a while to fall asleep. You wake up in the middle of the night and immediately start worrying again. When you can't go back to sleep, you start fretting about that too.

The next night, you begin worrying—even before you climb into bed—that you'll have a repeat of the night before. Soon your body begins to retrain itself not to sleep in bed at night and to catastrophize about every little problem instead. What began as a simple inconvenience has mushroomed into a chronic sleep problem.

Worry Journal
Sleep Worry Journal Doctor-Patient Video
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To break the cycle, sleep experts recommend dealing with worrisome issues during the day, often by writing them down. Joyce Walsleben, PhD, associate professor at New York University School of Medicine, gives these tips.

  • Designate a notebook as your worry journal.
  • Spend about half an hour with your worry book every afternoon or evening, several hours before bedtime.
  • List bothersome issues on the left side of the page.
  • Think about what you can do to help resolve these issues and write your plans on the right side of the page.
  • Close the book, put it out of sight, and don't think about these issues until the following day.
Registered sleep technologist Lauren Butler, 52—who runs a support group at the Sleep Disorders Center at Sebastian River Medical Center in Florida—offers a twist on the traditional worry book.

"People with insomnia lie in bed and think, think, think," she says. "If they put a notepad by the bed, they can write down all the stuff they're thinking about—the grocery list, pay that bill—so they can release it."

In addition to writing down your worries, you may also find that meditation and relaxation techniques will help relieve nighttime stress.
Lead writer: Gail Belsky
Last Updated: April 13, 2008

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