How do you unwind and feel calm before bed?

Last week I posted a video on how to start your day off well. Now we go to the other end of the day, with a video to help you unwind and let go of any accumulated thoughts and feelings.

When your brain files things

Sleep, of course, is the time when your brain files away everything that has happened over the course of the day. It decides what you might need again tomorrow, what you need to keep available longer term, and what can be put in the junk folder (so to speak). Yet, to even get into sleep mode, you first have to unwind.

And sometimes there is so much buzzing around in your head that unwinding is no easy feat!

Unwind by getting thoughts out of your head

I’ve posted previously an idea about creating a box of thoughts on paper, to have them out of your head. The meditation above uses tapping and visualising along a similar theme: you imagine your thoughts and feelings, and you imagine putting them in a box or bubble. You can also use this idea like a memory palace: you can have a whole warehouse in which to store these memory bubbles!

unwind by storing memories

Unwind by storing your memories away (Pixar/Disney)

As for how to visualise this, you could imagine something like the system in Inside Out, pictured above. Or something like the filing system for the doors in Monsters Inc. (If you’d like to read an interesting assessment of why our minds aren’t actually like the Inside Out version, this article is good).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these are both children’s movies: the bright colours and imaginative approach are very good when you are talking to your unconscious mind about what you would like it to do! Still, if some other image or metaphor makes more sense to you, go with that!


It’s true, like the article criticising Inside Out says, that our memories are not really neat little bubbles, and not really stored as perfect audio/visual recordings. Especially when there is stress or anxiety associated with a memory, it may be hyper focused on small details, or blurry and vague. When a memory is associated with strong emotions such as fear, it is stored in the amygdala, rather than the hypocampus. When this happens, the memory may be constantly ‘turned on’, as a safety mechanism to detect similar situations.

In the longer term, you may want to do some deeper work to heal these memories. That would help to loosen their hold on you, so you no longer react strongly to similar experiences. If you find yourself thinking something over and over again, reliving a particular memory, avoiding certain situations, feeling numb, or getting stressed by what seem to be just little things, then you may well have a memory that is keeping you activated and anxious.

Undoing memories like this is the heart of most trauma work I do with clients. We can use EFT (tapping), Matrix Reimprinting, EMDR, and Havening Techniques to find the neural pathways that have been created and rewire them. Recent studies have shown that traumatic memories create ‘potentiated’ GABA receptors, and that activating these pathways briefly before working to create delta brain waves (calming) brings calcium to these receptors and deactivates them. You can actually re-sculpt your memory pathways!

Releasing thoughts before sleep

You may not want to do deep work on past memories at the moment, and that is fine. In the short term, encouraging your mind to store these memories so you can stop them whirling around in your head certainly works. It allows you to release the scatter of thoughts and feelings in your mind, so that you can relax and go to sleep. And going to sleep allows your brain to do more active filing of what has happened during your day.

So, whether you just have a very active brain and a hectic life, or whether you have a lot of anxiety, the end effect may be that you have a lot buzzing around in your head. Why not tap along with me in the video above, and let yourself unwind now?

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