Let It Go: A Technique for Disengaging Stress Before Sleep


Let it Go is what I call the practice that I use every night before I go to sleep.

During the day, we accumulate all kinds of responsibilities, stressors, and plans. As the day goes on, we work to organize or solve these things.  What remains unsolved or stressful may be waiting for you around bedtime.

Most of us have our way of ending the day and a method of unwinding.  People often refer to this as shifting gears or relaxing.  They spend time with their families or perhaps watch one of their favorite shows on television.  Both of these things can be great ways to take care of yourself, but on the days in which you have a little more on your mind you might be helped by this technique. 

Let it Go combines the ideas of mindfulness, self-compassion, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization.  Mindfulness allows you the skills to acknowledge your experience, and let it pass away or process.  Self-Compassion provides you with the skill to use a technique simply to provide yourself with an opportunity for well being (not in service to others or accomplishment).  Progressive muscle relaxation uses the act of tensing muscles to allow for increased relaxation as this tension is released.  Visualization allows us to meet our experience in a more tangible way, thereby increasing our feeling of interaction rather than reaction to our experience.

To get started, release 10 slow breaths, each for 6 seconds as if you are slowly blowing air through a straw.  At this point, the obligations or stressors may be obvious to you or you may simply feel tense or a little anxious.  Either way, begin to visualize a major responsibility and envision yourself holding on to it tightly; then allow yourself to let it go.  Continue with this process until you have cycled through the responsibilities or stressors that come up.  During this time, just notice the way your body tenses around the holding or attachment to responsibilities or stressors, and how your body relaxes when you let these attachments or responsibilities go.  Do this with the curious eye of a non-judgmental observer.

If you find this process difficult or unhelpful, give it a rest and try it another time.  If this really does not work for you, simply let it go.  We only use what works for us.  We do not use what does not work in order to make room for what might.

The reason we use such a practice is to thank our body and mind for all of its hard work during the day.  As they have both worked so hard, we want to give them a chance to disengage for the evening.  Of course, the mind and body are free to reengage the responsibilities and stressors that are most necessary the following day.  We also use this practice to remind ourselves that we are enough, and as such do not need to hold onto more to feel complete.  We do so out of kindness to ourselves.

You are more than enough.  Give yourself permission to let go when you can. Do so with kindness and the wisdom that this practice will help you feel more whole and a little bit lighter.  There is time for work, and there is time for rest and kindness.  Participating in both helps us feel a little more balanced, a little more self-accepting, and believe it or not a little more effective as workers, family members, friends, and lovers.

365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 24.  In the Books.