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How to shut off anxious thoughts that cause heart attacks on Monday morning

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Mary Jo Rapini Mary Jo Rapini

Sunday nights are tough on everyone. Thoughts of Monday morning, punishing yourself for what you didn’t get done at work, and feeling guilty about what you didn’t accomplish doing with or for your kids over the weekend. It’s a no-win situation, and sleep is usually sporadic at best Sunday night.

As society demands more accountability for accomplishing work tasks, everyone is doing more and more work at home making the lines blurred between work and home life. The results are too many thoughts too little sleep and increased anxiety and depression. A group of researchers have found a strong association between generalized anxiety disorder and occurrence of cardiovascular events such as strokes, heart attacks, heart failure and death. One of the primary reasons for the majority of heart attacks occurring on Monday morning is an inability to shut off your thoughts and relax on Sunday night.

Hyperactivity of the mind is not a new thing…but it is continuing to grow and escalate. Kids have difficulty shutting off their thoughts, and if parents cannot shut theirs off, there is little hope that they can mentor healthy boundaries for their children. There are behaviors and thought changes you can practice that really work. These are suggestions, and with these I encourage parents and kids to talk about ways they find success with shutting down their extraneous thinking. A rested mind performs and feels much better.

1. Begin at least an hour before bed with a wind down time. This means you unplug, and begin nurturing yourself. For some that means a warm bath. For others a cup of hot tea (chamomile or non-caffeinated are best). Warm milk has a soothing affect as well.

2. Establish a prayer time or mediation time. Taking this pause in your ordinary routine to pray and meditate has been proven to slow heart and pulse rate as well as lowering blood pressure. Research has proven that slowing your body’s respiration and pulse rate helps keep your thoughts from racing.

3. There are scents that help people calm themselves as well. Having a lavender bath gel or a soothing scent near you as you go to sleep helps calm your thoughts.

4. When in bed if your thoughts won’t stop, wait 20 minutes and then get up. Don’t allow yourself to fret in bed for hours. Getting up temporarily stops the thoughts. Try to go to a place that is quiet and restful without stimulation from a TV or computer.

5. Making a list of what is worrying you will help get the thoughts out of your mind and on to a paper. You can deal with the list the next day, because many of the thoughts that keep us up have to do with menial tasks such as taking the garbage out.

6. When your list is complete, go back to bed and repeat a mantra over and over in your head. This can be a psalm, a quote or a prayer…the simple word “Calm” said over and over helps block thoughts and induces relaxation.

Our thoughts keep us up at night, which frightens us because of our lack of control over shutting them off. Excessive worry or thoughts is not abnormal though; everyone has them sometimes. Our thoughts remind us to stay on task, and stay motivated. If your inability to stop your thoughts prevent you from sleeping consistently, that is not good because it leads to sleep deprivation, which leads to depression and anxiety. When this happens (more than 2 weeks consistently) it is time to talk to a professional about stress and worry management. Sometimes medical intervention is necessary, but working with your thoughts rather than allowing them to control your mental stability will build more confidence, and to help you be a mentor for others who deal with thoughts running wild at night.

- Mary Jo Rapini
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