kid putting worries into a box

Most of my students report that the one time of day when their stress is highest is when they are trying to get to sleep. As we let go, our minds become vulnerable to wandering thoughts. Relaxing into sleep (or trying to) means we are not focused on other specific tasks and our brains are at liberty to try and sort out all the stuff we may not have had time to – or chosen not to throughout the day.

I have blogged before about different online apps to help guide kids into a restful sleep (calm.com, headspace etc), but not all kids (or adults) can handle having a device next to their bed, or even in their bedrooms. After all, there have been a number of studies that recommend avoiding screens (and the blue light they project) for a couple of hours before bedtime.

So What Then?

A simple visualization I do with my students may help. It involves imagining putting each specific worry into a container and putting it away. Here are the basics:

  • Have your child  take a few deep slow breaths, stretching and releasing muscle groups
    • They can start with their toes and gradually work up their body
  • They need to visualize some kind of box/containment device
    • The more details they can visualize about the box, the better
      • Size
      • Colour
      • Type of lock
      • Texture
      • Inside versus outside
      • Distinctive markings
  • They need to name each thing that worries them and visualize themselves putting it in their container
  • They need to imagine securing the container
    • Chains
    • Lock
    • Hidden somewhere

The idea is that they are giving themselves psychological permission to put the worries on hold until morning. At that point, they can imagine opening the box, or not. I would suggest that if they do visualize releasing the lock, that they only let one worry out at a time.

The best time to manage a situation is when we are well rested. Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to even basic functioning, and if our stresses are interfering with this, we are entering a really non-productive cycle which ultimately increases the amount of stress overall.

A reader wrote in a few weeks ago describing how her child has an actual physical worry box. She takes the visualization one step further. I love this strategy because it takes something theoretical/non-tangible and makes it concrete. It is generally easier to manage things that are concrete, especially for young people.