I look on with dread, waiting for the next minute to click by. I have been staring at the clock for hours. The soft red glow of its numbers offers me little comfort. In fact, it serves as an ever-present reminder of the precious minutes and hours of sleep that are slowly slipping away. My mind again begins to race. I start thinking about why we even have a clock. It has no purpose. My wife and I long ago gave up using its dual alarm settings to wake us in the morning. We rely on our iPhones, which my mind recognizes is linked to my FitBit, and together, they’re currently tracking this crappy night’s sleep. I shake my head in hopes of stopping my thoughts from spinning, sigh in frustration, and try in vain to fall back to sleep. Within seconds, my mind is off and running. This time, though, I have a secret weapon, NPR. I put in my earbuds, so as to not wake my wife, and hope that the current program proves to be enticing enough to distract my mind so my body can sleep. But, it doesn’t work.
The soft red glow of its numbers offers me little comfort. In fact, it serves as an ever-present reminder of the precious minutes and hours of sleep that are slowly slipping away
It started at 2am, it always does. That’s my witching hour. A story, which likely germinated in a dream state has met my wakeful mind and has morphed into something that feels very real. The content of which, just a scant twelve hours later, I no longer can recall. I am, however, certain that whatever its content, it was neither as pressing nor as dire as my mind made it out to be at 2am. When my mind starts spinning out these stories, there are very few arrows in my quiver. I try active questioning, I ask myself, is this fact or fiction. But, I rarely find the clarity at 2am to make that discernment. I move on to distraction, music, podcasts, or NPR. Yet, only occasionally do those do the trick. Unfortunately, in most cases, the stories take over, and the only way to get them to release their grip is to wake up and start my day.
I am, however, certain that whatever its content, it was neither as pressing nor as dire as my mind made it out to be at 2am.
I used to greet those early mornings with anger. I was robbed of needed sleep. I was mad that this day would now be filled with too much caffeine, too little focus, and far less productivity than needed. I was also disappointed at myself for not being able to tamp down the foolish products of my own mind. But, that is not how I look at these nights anymore. Instead, I see them for what they are, warning signs. A night like this only comes when something is out of balance. Our mind is like a baby after it is fed, it needs to be burped. If you continue to cram in thoughts, ideas, and problems all day without any release, it's not going to sleep through the night. My burps come in the form of exercise, meditation, music, reading and disconnection. When I don’t make enough time for those things, my mind is uncomfortable, it gets irritable, and is likely to wake me in the middle of the night.
Our mind is like a baby after it is fed, it needs to be burped.
So last night was a warning sign. I was, in fact, on my laptop, while glancing up at the TV, right up until the time I went to bed. My exercise has been interrupted by travel in the past few days, and I have made no time to just play music or read a book. This morning, rather than greeting the day with anger, I simply got dressed went to yoga, had coffee with a friend, and took 20 minutes to read at lunch. This evening, I am meeting my wife and daughter, who is home from college at the movie theater to watch Finding Dory. I am sure that I will sleep like a baby tonight, I just needed to be burped.
Are you a leadership nerd?
Join the Integrative Leader’s Book Club. Each month we pick a thought provoking book to read and discuss. This month we are reading “Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel Pink.
Elliot Begoun is the Principal of The Intertwine Group. His articles appear in publications such as the Huffington Post, SmartBrief and Linked2Leadership. He serves as a thinking partner, providing clients with the clarity, focus, and tools needed to make good people and product decisions. He helps clients build lasting relationships with their customers, develop leaders who make others feel heard, cared for, valued and respected, and most importantly they grow.
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