I suppose it makes sense that if I’m going to write every week that I will circle back from time to time to some familiar themes in my own journey. Unfortunately overthinking things is one of those themes. I reread several of my old blogs this week as I was awake in the middle of the night thinking about things that were small in the light of day.
There has been something in my DNA from almost the beginning that makes for sleepless nights sometimes. I wake up, turn over, and my mind starts to wander. Sometimes those are the moments of my greatest ideas. For some people, ah-ha moments come in the shower. For me, those moments are more likely to come at 3:00 AM.
It’s also true though that 3:00 AM may find me ruminating over something that happened the day before, an unanswered email sitting in my in-box, or a difficult conversation I have to have the next day. I’ve been doing this for long enough to know that when I get up in the morning, the issue will seem small. But in the middle of the night, it can seem almost insurmountable.
I was complaining about my lack of sleep this week when a friend gave me some simple advice. He said, “change the behavior.” Wise words.
Eckhart Tolle says, “When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.” Truth right there.
So I set about to design something tangible I could do to change this habit I have of overthinking things in the middle of the night. In my experience, not once has this worrying helped me find a viable solution. So I need to change the behavior. Complaining about it is clearly not working.
Later in the week, instead of laying there fixated on some current issue, I got up and started to think about all of the things I’d worried about over the summer. None of them, not one, is still something lingering out there as a concern. With time, almost all issues seem better.
Many of us have truly difficult moments in our lives, those with real consequences, significant loss, or extreme pain. There is suffering that cannot be easily healed. But most of the things that consume our worry are not those things. So I am trying something new.
Every day I try to reflect on three things for which I am grateful. I’ve done that for many years. Jon Gordon’s idea of a gratitude walk is life-changing. You cannot be stressed and thankful at the same time. But this year, once a week, I am going to write down what I am most worried about. For me, as a writer, sometimes just putting pen to paper eases the concern.
When I do that, I will look back on the things I wrote about the week before. If any are still an issue, I make those a priority for my life or my work. Likely, most will no longer be a concern, and I can let them go.
And the next time I am awake in the middle of the night, I can look at that list and be reminded that whatever is turning over in my mind will likely not be a concern in a matter of days. And it certainly does not deserve to steal my serenity.