QUESTION: I wake up with racing thoughts in the middle of the night. What are some ways to calm down quickly?
DR. JESS: What I recommend people do is a bit of grounding, and there are so many different ways that people can practice grounding techniques.
If you're waking up with racing thoughts, sit up on the edge of your bed and plant your feet on the ground to ground yourself back into that moment.
If you practice breathing techniques, try taking in a slow inhale, and then slowly exhaling — just try to slow the breath down with those deep breaths.
Putting your hands into cool or room-temperature water, or gently splashing this water on your face, can sometimes help to ground you in that moment, too.
If you've tried to physically ground yourself and are still experiencing those racing thoughts, try journaling. I encourage people to have a pen and pad on their nightstand next to their bed. Sometimes when we wake up in the middle of the night, we're thinking about the list of things that we didn't finish — maybe you need to write out those thoughts. Get out that pen and pad, and jot down a little bit of what you are thinking in those moments.
If you've written down your thoughts and are still thinking and feeling the anxiety, try to distract yourself. Get up, go to another room, and turn on the television to distract yourself a little bit. Reading can be another way to distract yourself from those thoughts.
Often, we do have these periods where our sleep can be affected by the anxiety that we're experiencing, but if it's something that continues, you can also seek out professional support.