I think of our 3am thoughts as messengers. A helpful question to ask is what meaning we give to them.
Waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep because of an active mind can be frustrating. And, if your nights include repetitive, fearful thoughts and worry, it’s not fun.
A friend of mine often spends her ‘3am awake time’ figuring out solutions to situations. For her, this time is invaluable as she sees it as a resource rather than something to avoid or dislike.
When I wake up in the middle of the night, I often find myself in the middle of a very lively creative process, as if I’m joining a lively conversation. I am presented with solutions, ideas, or next steps related to something that I am working on. When this happens, I tend to ask my subconscious mind to store any insights and learnings until the next day so that I can go back to sleep. For the most part this works beautifully.
But my 3am wake-ups haven’t always been this way.
Back in the early 2000’s the norm for me was feeling ‘bored, restless, and that something was missing’. At that time, I didn’t have the awareness or language to be more specific. The feeling was strong but lacked specificity.
On the surface my life was fine. I had a good job, lived a nice life, had great friends…so nothing to complain about really. Yet, I felt what can best be described as unease.
I have tried to remember what I used to wake up thinking about, what used to worry me, alas I can’t remember any specifics. But, what I do remember is the feeling of unease, that something wasn’t right. If you have experienced feelings of unease, I’m guessing you’ll agree with me when I say that it can be hard to explain.
The best way that I can describe the feeling I had is to say that it felt like I was like an observer. I felt out of place, that I was living someone else’s life. That I just skimmed the surface, that life felt ‘mechanical’.
A frequent internal mumble that can best be translated into, “Is this all there is?”, had started to crop up more and more often. There was a sense of not moving forward and at the same time not feeling settled. This paradox continued to nudge me that something wasn’t right, but I had no idea what to do about it.
In marketing it is recommended that you identify the language around the things that your people (your ideal clients) wake up thinking about in the middle of the night so as to understand them better.
When I have done research in the past and asked my interviewees what keeps them awake at night, they often say money, children, family, or work.
Although I totally get it and fully understand why the answer is what it is, historically it has frustrated me somewhat as what I can help them with isn’t found in their external environment or circumstances. It is found within them.
For the above reason, I felt inspired to dive a bit deeper and offer a reframe of what our 3am messengers are trying to tell us.
Reframe and added perspective.
It seems to me that 3am thoughts are mostly fuelled by three things:
These three represent underlying currents of lack of fulfilment, crossed boundaries, feeling powerless, and a lack of meaning and connection.
It is my belief that we can ease feelings of deflation, unfulfilment, unease, fear, and frustration by identifying and addressing the underlying currents of what’s really missing.
Below I’ve listed a selection of worries and frustrations and grouped them into three themes. Each theme comes with a corresponding suggestion for what you can do to remedy what’s missing.
Theme 1: FULFILMENT & FLOW
If this sounds familiar:
-I feel stuck
-I feel held back
-Something is missing
-I want change
…explore how you can bring more fulfilment and flow into your life, and specifically identify what fulfilment looks like, what fulfilment and flow mean to you. I have found that clarifying one’s values and taking steps to align one’s life around their values leads to flow and fulfilment.
Theme 2: BOUNDARIES & AGENCY
If you resonate with these:
-I don’t want to do [xyz]
-Am I true to me
-I feel let down
-I’m tired of holding back
-I’m tired of hiding who I am
-Why do the same things happen over and over
…get clear on your boundaries (your values, what’s acceptable to you and what isn’t) to bring a greater sense of agency into your life, identify areas or situations where you feel like people cross your boundaries, but also define what a greater sense of agency looks and feels like to you.
Theme 3: MEANING & CONNECTION
If you often reflect on things like:
-Is this all there is
-Is what I’m doing worthwhile
-Am I doing the right thing
-Am I doing good in the world
-Am I on the right track
-Why am I not moving forward
…identify what has heart and meaning for you, and what deeply motivates you, as ways to strengthen your connection to your inner guidance and deepen your sense of connection to your power, your people, and your passion.
The above list of worries and frustrations is just an example, your list might look very different.
This reframe is an invitation to look beyond the language and expression of your 3am thoughts.
When you identify and define what fulfilment, flow, boundaries, agency, meaning, and connection look and feel like to you, you create a guide that helps you stay true to you, helps you to embody and live your truth which will greatly lessen confusion and feelings of unease.
It is my hope that this reframe has brought you a bit of inspiration and additional insight.
I love a thought-provoking question so will leave you with this…
If you were to place one of your 3am thoughts/feelings into one of the themes above (Fulfilment & Flow, Boundaries & Agency, or Meaning & Connection), which one would it be, and what steps could you take so resolve the underlying current that is fuelling those thoughts?
I’d love to know. Leave a comment or send me a message.