How I Got Anxiety to Leave Me Alone at Night

panic attacks at nightTwo things ran through my mind when I used to get anxious panicked: I’m going to die and It’s just anxiety. Especially at night. It’s a dual consciousness that you’ve probably experienced too.

That head game tends to happen over and over again. Even if you tell yourself, everyday, that you’re not going to let anxiety do that to you.

That’s why I was surprised when I stopped doing it. But I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t do it consciously. Actually, it happened on accident.

How could that be?

Well. Every now and then I used to wake up suddenly in the middle of the night with palpitations. I’d run through my house and play the head game. I remember standing in my living room, clutching my chest, and thinking: I’m going to die, but I’ll probably be alright. I did that for a long time.

That is until one night, when things changed.

After jumping out of bed and sprinting to the living room, yet again, I realized that it was 3 a.m. and that I was tired. Too tired to be panicked. So I went back to bed. I didn’t even think about it. I just did.

The next morning I was amused that my tiredness had beat out my anxiety, but I also learned an important lesson. I realized that before that night, when I would sit and wonder about whether or not anxiety was going to kill me, I chose to do that. 

I never knew I had a choice. I’d always surrender to anxious thoughts, and ‘what if’ scenarios, because I thought I had to.

On that night though, I rejected the panic, the palpitations, and the thoughts whizzing through my head. I was able to do that because I made it an option. Shoot, at that point it was the only option.

I tried the same thing a few times after that. Then, it stopped. My midnight adventures stopped.

I’m not suggesting that you sleep when you get anxious. I mean that you have a lot more to do with being anxious than you think. It’s true that anxiety often comes without an invitation, but it’s you that won’t tell it that’s it’s time to go home.

What’s important is how you decide to react to your anxiety. That’s what dictates how bad things get. The more you sit and think about it, the more you imagine what might happen, the stronger your anxiety will become.

Then, of course, there’s hindsight. Now I know that I was stuck in a pattern. That I felt more anxious at night because that’s when a body at rest gets a chance to feel the anxiety that was there all day.

I also realized that none of those midnight adventures ever killed me. And that the effects of anxiety never changed. So why stress about it?

When you get anxious at night (or anytime), continue as if nothing is wrong. Try not to change what you’re doing, or what you plan on doing.

Eventually, anxiety will leave you alone because there won’t be anything for it to do, literally.

You might be thinking that’s too easy. But I promise you that there’s no need for it to be hard.

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Cheryl says

    Thanks for the encouragement, Paul – and for the “evidence” too. It DOES get easier. Even though I still feel sensations of anxiety every day, I’m THINKING less about them and noticing more and more how I’ve opened the door to them in the first place. Instant complete recovery would be nice to say the least, but in the meantime I’m going to practice shrugging off the old pattern of anxiety that can neither harm or benefit me.

  2. MWoelfle says

    “I’m going to die, but I’ll probably be alright.” Anxiety can be horrible, but that’s pretty funny.

  3. MaryLou says

    I was so interested to hear you talk about this, because the same thing happened to me. Nighttime was always horrible for me as my husband works nights and I’m alone. A lot of nights I would wake up with anxiety symptoms but one particular night I was exhasted when I woke up and that seemed to take precedence over the anxiety and I went back to sleep. That has happened a few times and since then my nights are much quieter. There really is something to this!

  4. Stacey says

    I laughed at that comment too because i do it ALL the time! Im actually freaking out this morning about palpatations but now i feel better! Thanks paul!!!

  5. Ros says

    I very much feel that panic is a psychosomatic event meaning that it involves the body as well as the conscious and unconscious mind. I can actually feel the stress hormones running through my body and my brain and I am so restless. I know that a nighttime panic attack is not far away. I see it as a release valve. It’s like the body cannot hold on to that stress anymore and lets it out in the form of a panic attack with its release of hormones and chemicals. I do not have conscious control of those stress hormones. Once the panic attack has started, all I can do is to sit up and stay as calm as I can and wait for my heart to stop furiously beating. Having said that, panic attacks are frigtening, there is no doubt about that.

  6. Janet says

    I know what it is like to be anxious all the time. I’m anxious all day and all night with palpitation my chest feels tight and I am tired of being like this. Stressed out all the time can’t stop worrying about everything I need help I see a doctor and I try counseling and nothing work. I just don’t want to feel like this anymore. If anyone knows a way to help me please contact me at fearjanet@msn.com.

  7. aidab says

    Im 35 years old male and started getting anxiety attacks 3mths ago,I taught i was taking a heart attack, got 2 ecg tests xray bloods and a stress test and they were all clear,the attacks are like build up of heat that goes through you and a your waiting for something bad to happen to you, its like as if you being told someone close to you is dead and also get these feelings in both sides of my body like pains not sore annoying and frightening i get them even without the anxiety attacks,my GP said it was anxiety and prescribed me with (ROCHE) Lexotan 1.5mg tabs 2 a day, even though it could happen during the day i hate nighttime its all i think about,how much longer will this go on for i dont want to be stuck on these tablets

  8. Jennifer says

    My worst habit is when the anxiety starts at night, I start to try to find reasons as to why I’m anxious … start to think of every bad thing I’ve ever done or crazy thing I’m capable of … then after reading this, I realized that I can just choose to “not think” and relax, watch a movie, read, or sleep or pray.

    I still struggle with differentiating MY thoughts vs irrational thoughts and with getting myself to stop, but it’s gotten so much better.

  9. says

    so true! I’m just learning this now. I used to sit up in my bed and breathe..meditate until it calmed down, and went back to sleep. Eventually I noticed that most of the time, my heart wasn’t actually racing, it was more like my SENSITIVITY went up to make me notice my heart.

    I would take my pulse, and it would be “normal” 72-80bpm. That’s not palpitations! I’d just lay back down.

    It took me a couple months to get to that point, but I’m glad I’m here.

    aidab-don’t worry, I was just at your stage back in Oct-Nov. Keep reading this blog and take to a social worker if you have to

    Realize and REALLY TELL YOURSELF you’re going to be ok. The pills should help with the feelings, but its up to YOU to calm yourself and Not panic when those feelings hit. I went thru the same thing only LAST MONTH

  10. says

    I noticed that my anxiety spikes in the early morning during which time i get more negative thoughts and i feel a little antsy. When that happens it takes me a while to get back to sleep but i never gave in to it. I let the thoughts pass by, without trying to control them, while reminding myself that it is just the anxiety and that i should not let them affect me. Over time, i have been getting less of it and have been sleeping much better.

  11. alma vanessa zapatero says

    does difficulty of breathing or “not know to breathe” sign of anxiety? how can i overcome it?

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