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Wellbeing / Health & wellbeing

Switching off: Is anyone else awake at 3am?

If you have trouble switching off at night, then we have something in common. Here’s my story, as well as a few strategies I use to calm my nocturnal thoughts.

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It keeps happening. I go to bed and quickly fall asleep (a couple of glasses of wine probably help!) and then I’m awake again.

It starts. Whizzing thoughts around my head. Forgotten tasks. Regrets. Planning.

I’m prepared for this and start imagining a peaceful stream with water trickling over stones. (Is anyone else doing this at 3:00 am?)

Damn, that never works.

So I begin breathing exercises. (I learned these in a power yoga session. You see the theme here? I jam pack everything in!)

After that I start flipping from one sleep position to another.

Mark, my husband and business partner, used to say he ‘dreamt in spreadsheets’, and I never got it, but now I do.

Isn’t it enough to work a 14 hour day without also putting in hours while I’m asleep, or trying to sleep?

"Isn’t it enough to work a 14 hour day without also putting in hours while I’m asleep, or trying to sleep?"

So why am I awake? What am I worrying about?

  • Cash flow (always there in the back of my mind)
  • Clients not paying on time
  • House not being maintained and cleaned as I would like (if only there were another four hours in the day)
  • Getting enough work for the team
  • Will my kids forgive the hours I’m working when they are older?
  • Current deals being negotiated
  • Will I make our monthly revenue forecast?
  • Will my friends forgive me for falling off the face of the earth?
  • Can we pay our bills?
  • Can I squeeze in squash in the morning at 6:00 am?
  • Saying ‘no’ to a client when I need to
  • Not selling enough online – what happened to making money while I I’m sleeping? (If I did this then I might sleep!)
  • When are we going to be able to take a holiday?
  • Will Mark and I ever be able to spend a whole weekend and not talk about the business?
  • How do we compare to our competitors?
  • Is it normal to work these hours and not yet realise the benefits?

The list goes on.

Between one or two hours later I have mentally exhausted myself enough to fall asleep.

Then the alarm wakes me at 5:45am for squash, and the day begins again!

So, what am I doing to help with switching off?

  1. Write. I have a pad and pen next to the bed where I write down ideas and thoughts. To a certain extent this does ‘outsource’ the thinking until tomorrow.
  2. Breath. Some nights the breathing exercises really do help.
  3. Stay fit. I find that squash in the mornings really gets the blood pumping, so rather than desperately needing a caffeine fix, I am firing on all cylinders when I start at 7:30am. The flip side is by 9:30pm I am falling asleep on Mark (yet again). But as you know, I don’t stay asleep.
  4. Give myself a break. As micro business owners we have one of the toughest bosses in the world – ourselves! It is okay to pat yourself on the back, take an early mark or even fail!

The reality is I love what I do, I love growing Employee Matters, and for now this is my life and I would not change it for the world. AND when I am hugely successful, I will, no doubt – sleep!

What are your experiences with switching off?

Natasha Hawker

helps SMEs understand the challenges their businesses face and unlocks the mysteries of effective HR. She is the co-owner of Employee Matters and author of From Hire to Fire: Everything in Between".

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