Jolted awake by the sound of a slamming door and a Mooooommmm, time to wake up! I blinked myself into consciousness in a pitch-black bedroom and rolled over with a groan.
It was Sleepy Monday, the first work-and-school day following everyone’s favorite transition—Daylight Saving Time—and I had spent the night suffering through an old pattern from new motherhood.
When Luke was a baby, I’d crawl into our bed and long for sleep. The relief of rest always felt beyond reach. Laying in a fetal position on crumpled, cotton sheets, I’d clench my jaw as my head played out worst-case what if? scenarios. My body, thoughts, and emotions would toss and turn from moonrise to sunrise.
My son is now 9-years-old. Those new-mom nights are long past. Yet sometimes—when Luke has a tough day, change is in the air, or I simply check my phone right before bedtime (yes, I know better)—I have echos of that insomnia. My mind races between past and future; my emotions hitch a ride on the worry train; my body tenses in reaction to the scenes flashing through my head and heart. I fall into this ruminating pattern for awhile—maybe even a few, frustrating hours—and then, as I did the other night…
I notice I’m stuck, and catch myself in a worn-out, dusty habit. I pause, and rein in my runaway thoughts with a balanced breath: Inhaling through my nose for 4 counts, exhaling through my nose for 4 counts. After a few rounds, I continue to bring my mind and body to the same place at the same time by repeating the reassuring reality: I am here, This is now. I cycle between breath and mantra, and the simple meditation invites calm and clarity—and releases fret and frustration—until I eventually drift off to sleep.
Research shows that both meditation and slow, controlled breathing relax the nervous system, promote focus, and reduce stress. So next time you find yourself tossing and turning, experiment with laying your attention on a balanced breath and intentional, soothing words.
Prefer a guided practice when you’re having trouble with sleep or anxious thoughts (day or night)? My free, 4-minute audio track “Reclaim Calm & Clarity” is designed to settle your mind and body with a stress-management favorite: The 4-7-8 Breathing Method. The practice is available here on the Insight Timer app.