The middle of the night, when you’re lying in the dark, is the worst time to worry. Do this instead.
- If worries you wake up in the night, change your focus, knowing you will be able to address the problem on your mind much more effectively in the light of day.
- Instead, focus on your breathing to help you relax and go back to sleep.
- In the morning, respond to the concern that woke you in the night: write it down, get some perspective on it, and start applying some rational critical thinking to develop a solution.
What’s keeping you awake when you should be sleeping?
I’m talking about once you’re asleep. What do you wake up thinking about (and sometimes worrying about) at one or two in the morning?
A number of advisors have shared with me little things that they wake up in the middle of the night (they’ll say initially) “thinking about. . .
There’s a reason why when a child has a nightmare we rush into their room, turn on the light, and we immediately put their minds at ease. Perhaps the child has dreamt there is something scary under the bed, and we turn on the light to show them nothing is there, and they quickly fall back asleep. We might think the fact that we’ve shown them nothing is there is what has brought them peace of mind. But the biggest reason they can drop back to sleep is that the light provided them perspective. When the darkness is banished, we have perspective of our surroundings. We can see the walls, and that perspective makes us realize we are secure in our surroundings.
When we are focusing on problems in the pitch black of the night, our minds can go wild because there is no perspective to hem in our thoughts – what we’re focusing and concentrating on. Our minds are brilliant—they can just go, creating all kinds of fantastic thoughts. I’m not dismissing the fact that you might have urgent issues you need to take care of. I’m not marginalizing those at all, but at 1:30 in the night, when it’s pitch black, that’s not the time to try and solve them because our minds have no perspective in the dark.
So, if you are waking in the middle of the night worrying with things on your mind,
- resist that. That can be easier said than done. I understand. But when you wake up, instead of worrying about things, realize there’s a time coming tomorrow when there will be light on the subject and that you are going to be far better equipped to consider what the next steps are then.
- instead of letting your mind run, concentrate on your breathing. Just focus on relaxing: deep breath in, deep breath out, deep breath in, deep breath out. Your heartbeat is going to keep going, even when you shut your eyes and go to sleep. We’re amazing creations, and we haven’t been created to worry. It really does not solve anything.
- wake up and respond. Don’t worry during the middle of the night. Instead, in the morning, write down what’s concerning you and then start thinking through it. Once we write down the problem—just like when we turn on the lights and get some perspective—we can see the problem on that page of paper isn’t nearly as big and scary as it seemed in the dark of the night. In the light you can start taking that problem apart and assessing the next best steps to take.
Resist the challenge to worry when it’s dark. Concentrate on breathing and how wonderfully you’ve been created, and take care of that issue in the morning.
I look forward to bringing you another Distraction-Proof Advisor Idea next week.