Maybe it’s just me but every once in a while I have one of those nights where I wake up at 04:00 with a heightened heart rate, dry mouthed, somewhat panicky from whichever weird dream/nightmare I was having. Then a thought pops into my head. It’s about something I need to do at work. Then another one pops up. Yet another from my work to do list. It’s always a fucking thing to do about my job and I start going into a rabbit hole of to-do’s, risk mitigation, various scenarios of fucking up a major piece of work, getting fired you name it. Next thing I know it’s 06:00 and time to take the dog out to pee and poo who is blissfully sleeping at that time probably chasing rabbits in his dream or whatever else dogs dream about (pretty sure it’s not their work to-do list).
Having had more than I care to remember (actually I actively don’t want to remember) of these type of nights I have naturally been trying to figure out ways of dealing with this. Started with wine, moved on to whisky then decided this was probably not the best way forward. Then started researching and reading about this as I do. I believe I now have a system that works for me so want to get that out of the way in the off chance that it’s useful for more than 1 person. Also most of these are not my ideas, I just packaged it up in a way and put it in an order that works for me. Now when I am awake at a god forsaken hour with panic about my work here is what I do:
#1- I pick a go-to book about dealing with difficulty (Obstacle is the Way is good for me) and read through the much more challenging situations people have been through and survived. This puts things into perspective and also reminds me that difficulty and pain are needed for us to grow in life. Avoiding pain doesn’t take us to the right places. As Ray Dalio puts it Pain+Reflection=Growth. Reading also distracts me from my thoughts and puts me in a more balanced state.
#2- Once I am in a better state I pick up my notebook and write down all the things that are bothering me about work (they are always about work for some fucking reason). I ensure I really capture everything on paper. I then carefully categorise these into things I can actively do something about. I don’t have to be directly responsible but if I can nudge something into the right direction that item goes into this category as well. After that I write them all the actions I can take to deal with the problem.
#3– Next comes defining the worst possible outcome. This one in my context tends to be me losing my job, not being able to pay to mortgage, having to move to a different country etc. I then remind myself it wouldn’t kill me (most likely), I wouldn’t end up in jail (I hope) or homeless (maybe just briefly). Once I define the worst possible outcome I make my peace with it as much as I can. Then I move on to briefly define how I can improve on this scenario. This whole thing is a trick I got from an old Dale Carnegie book which is aptly and somewhat amusingly called “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”.
#4- Lastly I think about all other people who are lying awake going through similar thoughts, problems. I also think about all those who are going through much worse problems yet who are still fighting on, doing their best to survive and even thrive. I think about people I respect and imagine them going through similar issues I am going through. This is a trick I learnt from The Charisma Myth. If no one else is going through similar issues please don’t get in touch to explain this. This works for me alright.
When I am done with all these it’s 06:00 anyway and time to take the dog out to pee and poo. I am still sleepless and exhausted but at least I am a tiny bit more peaceful. We’ll all die after all. In the grand scheme of things things that worry me are hugely inconsequential. But what if they are… What if I fuck this project up and everything goes to shit? Where is that book…
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