I'm in high school and I have a problem dealing with stress. Lots of times before a big test like the SAT i become extremely stressed right before I go to bed and won't be able to fall asleep for hours. I once woke up 3o clock in the morning and couldn't go back to bed. How do I deal with this? I tried melatonin but it didn't work.

Hi, Philip.  Yes, I remember those days!  It sounds like your are a conscientious student.  The fact that you mention the SAT tells me that you're concerned about the future and college and want to do well so of course you get uptight. You wake up in the middle of the night with a million thoughts running around in your head. You stated "I once woke up at 3 O'clock..." That tells me that this is temporary and not the usual situation.  So, it's a matter of getting through these occasional times of stress.  I have a couple of practical suggestions that might be helpful - at least worth a try.  The first is to do everything you can to make sure that you are as prepared as possible. Next, if you really can't get back to bed immediately, don't lie there.  All you'll manage to do is get yourself even more anxious.  Get up, read a book, or do something else that's relaxing and will occupy your mind until you begin to feel sleepy again.  Finally, here's an exercise that might help you get back to sleep.  Fix your eyes on something in front of you (don't stare, just relax your eyes and keeping looking ahead at a fixed spot).  Now think to yourself of 4 things that you see, 4 things that you hear (for example, sounds it the room, the sound of the air, the sound of your breathing) and 4 things that you feel (for example the temperature in the room, the feeling of the covers on your legs or arms or body, your chest rising and falling as you breathe).  Don't get carried away with having to do this the "right way".  If, for example, you repeat something, that's fine.  If you lose count, start again (actually that's a good thing).  Once you've done 4 of each, do 3 of each, 2 and then 1 (most likely you'll never get to 1). You might be surprised how soon your eyes begin to feel heavy and close almost of their own accord.  If they do, just do hearing and feeling.  There's a good chance that soon you'll just drift off to sleep.  Keep it relaxed and don't get caught up in doing it the "right way."  The right way is what works for you.  What this does is occupy your mind so that you're not thinking about all that other stuff.  Give it a try and if you have a chance, let me know how it works for you.  Joel


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Joel Simon


General questions about counseling, psychotherapy and mental health.


Over 30 years as a therapist, clinical supervisor and solution-focused trainer. I've worked in a variety of settings including adolescent day treatment, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, community mental health clinics, and hospice. Further information is available on my website:

A founding member of the Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association, Academy of Certified Social Workers, Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in New York State.

Co-authored "Solution-Focused Brief Practice With Long-Term Clients in Mental Health Services: I'm More Than My Label." Authored: "Solution-Focused Practice in End-of-Life and Grief Counseling" Several articles published in professional journals including 2 with Insoo Kim Berg. Further details are available at

Masters of Social Work (Yeshiva University 1978). 5 years training in Transactional Analysis, certified in Advanced Ericksonian Psychotherapy and Hypnosis with the New York Society (NYSEPH), Advanced training and advanced supervision seminar in solution-focused brief therapy with the co-developers of the approach, Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer

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