I’ve just recently come to the realization of my own mortality. In the time before I fall asleep, it absolutely terrifies me thinking not about how it will end, but that it ends, period. I know you’ve given this sort of advice before, but I can’t even get past this fear to the part where you realize, “This is it, enjoy it while it lasts.” I feel trapped by the inevitable, and I’ve been trying so hard to channel you, Coquette, so I just have to ask, will the fear subside? Will I eventually be able to fall asleep without having a near panic attack over my mortality?
When your head hits the pillow, your mind begins the process of winding down after a long day of nonstop thinking. It’s dark. It’s quiet. The day is over, and suddenly it doesn’t have anything left to grind and chew.
Of course, your mind is built to grind and chew, and it isn’t ready to stop processing thoughts for the day, so what does it do? It reaches back into the dark and sticky parts of your brain to pull out whatever low-level anxiety it can find.
Your mind doesn’t know any better. It just wants to think, so you go ahead and let it gnaw away on your basic fears. That’s when your spine turns to glass and your ears become refrigerator coils and your guts squeeze dry and you’re filled with the warm oily horror that one day, yes, in fact, you are going to die.
We’ve all been there. It’s terrifying.
You allowed your mind to trigger what is essentially a fight-or-flight survival response when there isn’t any actual danger. It just wanted to play a game of chess, but instead, your mind started playing a game of global thermonuclear war.
If you don’t have a Xanax prescription handy, the best way to handle this kind of situation is to give your mind something to do while the rest of your sympathetic nervous system ratchets back down from Defcon 1.
Read a book. Turn on the television. Find an activity, and do a little deep breathing. Don’t worry, it doesn’t take much to distract your mind.
Once you’re done freaking out and you’ve relaxed enough to fall back asleep, stay aware of your mind’s tendency to grab on and chew inappropriate anxieties. Stay apart from it, and don’t let it keep chewing.
The trick is in separating yourself from your own mind. Allow yourself to stop thinking, and you’ll fall asleep peacefully every time.