Ask Dr. McKinley: How Can I Overcome Worry and Insomnia?


Dr. McKinley suggests three sources of energy to draw from when you’re emotionally drained and suffering from insomnia.

Dear Dr. McKinley,

I am a 43-year-old woman. My fiancé and I broke up two years ago, and I’m still having a hard time getting out of bed. I recently got a promotion at work and if it weren’t for Adderall I’m not sure that would have occurred. However, I have developed a bit of insomnia. For the past two weeks I’ve been getting off work about 1 a.m. I get home and cry for hours sometimes. My face is starting to age and I’m suddenly very aware of my age and that I don’t have much time left on this earth. I worry about my children all day long and my nighttime is usually reserved for overthinking and overanalyzing everything. I’ve never been unhappier in my entire life. I can’t sleep. I can’t stop worrying, and emotionally I can’t get past this breakup.



Dear Sleepless,

While the situation you find yourself in is not good one, thankfully it is not a permanent one. Every challenge you’re facing has a possible path forward if you can find a way to see beyond the walls of your circumstances and start looking through the windows of possibility. From your description, I count about seven specific challenges that you are facing. Each one by itself is very manageable, yet it’s understandable how facing them in combination can appear hopeless.

My responses are based on the three energy sources from which we tend to draw our strength: mind, body and spirit.

I invite you to outline your seven challenges and connect them to one of the three sources. Then work on revitalizing that energy source to bring more vigor to the specific challenge you are facing. I will address only three of the seven challenges through practical words of what it could look like to begin leveraging natural energy to bring new life to these depleted areas of your life.

1. Mind

You mentioned being worried. Worry is a time waster and provides no value to your life. Worry depletes hope. Worry never helps; it only drains. I suggest you replace your “What if…?” worry thinking with “What can I…?” possibility thinking.

“What can I…?” will lead to possibilities rather than dead ends. It generates new thinking rather than rehashing old thinking.

Your mind-set is causative. What you set your mind on tends to be where your heart goes.

Regarding worrying about your children, shift to “What can I do about this issue causing me concern?” This thinking will immediately access the part of your brain that is creative and wants to help. Notice the change in your body and spirit as you give your mind permission to focus on things you can do rather than those you have no control over.

2. Body

Sleep is so undervalued in modern culture. Rest and recovery are essential to living a meaningful and healthy life. I recommend that you not wait another day to find ways to get more consistent, restful sleep. Your lack of sleep by itself may be the single biggest contributor to your unhappiness. Yes, even more than the breakup. A visit with a physician is always a good starting point to determine what biological factors may be contributing to your insomnia. Be intentional and purposeful about pursing sleeping habits that work. Here is one easy technique you may find helpful: when your mind is racing, get a notepad and write everything down that’s on your mind. Call it your “mind dump.” Once it’s in the journal, you can always go back to it if you want to, but the thoughts you were obsessing about will no longer hold the same power over you.

3. Spirit

One’s life purpose remains the most challenging question to all humankind. We find comfort in hiding behind the roles we play, but they don’t satisfy our deepest yearning to know why we exist. Your breakup and surrounding circumstances have prevented you from accessing the connection to your greater purpose. The reason we seek companionship with others is to express and fulfill our driving need to matter. Regardless of whom we are with, we need to find significance in those connections. Sure, sometimes the people we want to be with choose another path; however, that does not squelch our driving desire to be connected. Your spiritual purpose can guide you through any misunderstanding, loss or even death.

In summary, if you have enough courage to fully address your mind, body and spirit, you can find an energy source that is more than adequate to begin to heal the pain you’re experiencing. You have access to so much more than you’re permitting yourself to see. Find your strength from these three sources, and you will be on the path of freedom to choose your own joy. end

Have a question for Dr. McKinley? Send your question, and we may feature it along with his answer in an upcoming article.

This information is for educational purposes only. For questions or concerns regarding your health, please consult a doctor or mental health professional.



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