The thread about listening to music to relieve stress prompted me to share what works for me in a specific situation.
Specifically, that time when you're trying to get to sleep but 'racing thoughts' are keeping you awake. I've experienced this my whole adult life, but maybe 6 years ago it got to be unbearable. I'd lie awake in the dark, worrying about all the ways I was letting my kids down, stewing in regrets from my childhood, immersing myself in fictional horrible scenarios that left me shaken and crying. It would go on for an hour, I'd fall asleep and then be wakened by racing thoughts an hour later. It was torture.
For years I'd read myself to sleep. Reading circumvented the anxious thoughts enough until I drifted off to sleep. Well, that stopped working; the racing, horrible thoughts simply jolted me awake a few moments after I'd drifted off. So I'd get up, and I tried watching TV, but that didn't shut down the worries enough, so I got on the net. That worked! But it meant that I'd stay up til 3am or 4am, several times a week. That's unsustainable.
Maybe 3 years ago started listening to music and playing solitaire on my iPod. Something about plugging ear buds into my head and hitting 'play' flooded my consciousness enough to crowd out the anxiety. Picturing it in my head helped; it's like the ear buds blocked the thoughts. It worked for a couple months. But eventually the anxious thoughts got stronger and louder than the music.
A word about sleeping pills and aids, I did use over-the-counter types occasionally, and they worked, but I couldn't imagine using those for the rest of my life.
So I switched to podcasts and that did the trick. Listening to various podcasts while I sit propped up playing solitaire on the tiny iPod screen has worked ever since. After maybe 15 minutes I get too sleepy to play solitaire anymore, and I put the iPod on the mattress next to me and go to sleep. The quiet conversations in my ears keep my conscious mind occupied just enough to allow deep sleep to take over.
I am SO grateful I stumbled on this solution. I know, it's pretty specific and personal; maybe it seems kind of odd. But I know lots of people suffer from this kind of horrible insomnia. Maybe sharing my routine will help some other mom who's drowning in night time anxiety.
The podcasts I'm listening to are from Stuff You Need To Know, Stuff Mom Didn't Tell You and Stuff You Missed in History Class, TED Talks, NPR's Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me, Car Talk and Science Friday, and Neil deGrasse Tyson's show. And various other podcasts that are engaging but not distracting. I listened to Dan Savage's show a couple times, but it's entirely too stimulating! Same with Ricky Gervaise. Lol!
There are soooo many different kinds of podcasts on iTunes. The science oriented ones appeal to me most, but there are a lot of inspirational, affirmative type podcasts, humorous, weight loss related, child rearing related, etc.
So there ya go! This routine has worked for me for a couple of years now.