For that matter, it was the same advice I gave to the friend who had too much to do and the one who couldn’t get over a bad memory.
It’s a simple remedy that doesn’t require drinking anything unusual or spending money unnecessarily.
I told them to write about it.
Now of course that is advice a writer would give, you’re saying to yourself. But hear me out.
If you can’t sleep, it’s just as likely that it’s because there’s something weighing on your mind. Something you wish you hadn’t done or something you need to remember to do. So you lie in bed and think of what you did and wonder what it would have been better to have done. Or you keep thinking over and over again about what you need to do to make sure you won’t forget it in the morning.
If you get up and write everything down, the paper will do the remembering and carry the weight of the worries, and you’ll be free to sleep.
This is not writing to share with the world, this is writing to share with a non-threatening piece of paper so you can clear your mind of its burdens.
Writing through anger over a slight can help you see how silly it is to make it a bigger thing than it is. When you write about it and then read it, you have a chance to see it from outside yourself, talk yourself through it and more accurately measure its significance or, more likely, the lack thereof.
At a creative writing class I once led, I would sometimes ask students to write letters, sometimes to create persuasive essays, sometimes to put a dialogue to paper and sometimes – when I was sure they wouldn’t cut and run – we’d try poetry.
After one assignment to write a personal essay of a moment in time, one of the class members wrote of a traumatic experience she’d had years and years before.
As she shared it, she told us she hadn’t been able to talk about it until then. With obvious relief, she shared something that wouldn’t have come out without the help of paper and pen.
People who’ve experienced difficulties benefit from shifting the weight of the event outside themselves to a piece of paper. Busy people benefit from writing lists so their to-dos are not swimming around in their brains without form or function.
Insecure people benefit from writing a small note about a compliment that they would otherwise forget because they’re too busy remembering the slights.
Happy people benefit from writing about seminal people or events that would be lost in life’s hubbub if they weren’t recorded.
Angry people benefit from writing letters to those who’ve angered them and then tossing the letters out to prevent further damage.
People who love benefit from making a permanent record of that love in writing and sharing it with someone who might not otherwise have felt it in quite the same way.
Some writing is passed along, some is tucked away, some is ripped up and thrown away.
But next time you’re sleepless or overwhelmed or feeling dramatic emotions, whether happy or sad, try an inexpensive therapy. Pick up a pen.