I have run across this question a lot lately. I was in a workshop the other day when it came up. A friend of mine asked this question over lunch recently. And it came up again at leadership summit I facilitated 2 weeks ago. When the same question or theme comes up this many times in this short period of time, I start to pay attention. What's really being asked and what's behind the question, "What keeps you up at night?"
As I started to deconstruct the question, I first wanted to ask myself the question. What exactly is it that keeps me up at night? Or, does anything keep me up at night? It turns out that the answer is yes… sometimes.
I seem to go through cycles where I’m sleeping pretty good. Usually this coincides with being in a cycle when I’m eating well, exercising, practicing good bedtime routines, and being in community with others. But I do have those other times when sleeping does not come as easy for me and I suspect that you may have those same times. If I have a big presentation coming up or one of my kids is having a hard time with something or I’m thinking about the fact that I’m not getting enough sleep (ironic right?), then I might lie awake in my bed instead of actually sleeping in it. What to do, what to do...
As most of our regular readers know, the first letter “r” in the name of our company “Rewire” stands for the word rest. Since science has proven over and over again that getting enough rest is paramount in helping you be your best self and stilling your lizard brain, we have written many articles of how to get more rest like HERE and HERE. One truly fascinating part of the puzzle is the fact that our brains actually do the heavy lifting of appropriating experience and knowledge while we sleep.
This fact has led me to experimenting with a practice of attempting to help this appropriating process along while I’m awake so it might become easier for my brain to do while asleep. That practice is journaling. Nothing fancy or overly complicated here, I just take a few minutes at night and in the morning and write down what’s in my head. It literally is a brain dump type of thing. Whatever enters my head during these few minutes at night and in the morning goes down on the paper. Sometimes the notes don’t even make sense, it’s just words on the page. But this small little practice has done wonders for me! When I’m done I have the same feeling as I do when I get out of the shower, refreshed and clean. Instead of all the thoughts, stresses, and worries remaining in my head, they are there on the paper instead. The paper does not think or stress or worry, but what it does do is hold all that for me instead of my brain having to do it. And it really does help me sleep better at night! Maybe it will for you too.