Finding the Off-Button for those Racing Thoughts

By far the most common complaints I hear from my clients and workshop participants concern racing thoughts in the middle of the night that won’t quit.  I can sympathize with this.  For years I wanted an “off button” like the one on my CD player, so I could turn my noisy brain off and get some sleep.  Why didn’t human beings come equipped with one of those?  Now at last I have found mine and would like to share two recent experiences with you.

A few weeks ago the skies where I live were clouded with smoke from the multiple wild fires that are incinerating drought-ridden California.  Our house smelled like a camp fire and outside you could not even see the surrounding mountains for the smoke.  One night I made the mistake of going online and reading about the nearest fires right before bed.  Of course this is exactly what I tell people not to do, but sometimes I fall short of my own advice.

I live in a wooden house surrounded by trees and dry grass.  All summer I have had a vague fear lurking in the back of my mind about wild fires engulfing us, but this night I woke up around 2:00 a.m. with my heart pounding and my mind whirling.  I realized I could go on like this for a good while if I did not get up and “re-set.”  I got up and began tapping on my fear.  I think my final statement went something like this: “Even though it is not unreasonable to be afraid of fires during this time and I am afraid, right now there is no evidence of fire anywhere near me. The streets are quiet, my smoke detector is silent, and right now I am safe and it is safe to go back to sleep.”   Within 15 minutes I was sound asleep and didn’t wake again until morning.

On a different night I had come back from a rehearsal I was directing.  Again around 2:00 a.m. I woke up and realized I was trying to work out some timing issue in a half sleep.  Again, I realized I could go on like this for a while if I did not “re-set.”  Again, I got up and began to tap.  My final statement went something like this: “Even though part of my brain wants to work this out right this minute, I will be far more effective to do this tomorrow after a good sleep.  I am choosing right now to put this aside and go back to sleep.  I can look at it again tomorrow when I am rested.”  Again within 15 minutes I was sound asleep and didn’t wake until morning.

A few years ago, this kind of scenario could have gone on for hours, possibly even ending my sleep for the night.  EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques or “tapping”), however, interrupts the feedback loops playing over and over again in the brain that send stress responses to the body.  Now at last my brain and body can listen to and accept my wishes to put any kind of stimulating thoughts aside in the wee hours of the morning.  In effect, EFT can be used as a human “off-button!”

If you would like to learn how to calm racing thoughts in the middle of the night, come to a Beyond Insomnia Workshop or contact me directly at  For more information, visit my website at