You take a look at the bedside clock. It’s glowing 3:00am and, truth be told, you’ve probably been awake for an hour already. There are nigglings, plans, and plain old emotions in the form of concerns rushing around your head.
Your mind is alive with thoughts. Many are worries. You lie there knowing that this could go on for a couple more hours, only subsiding into a deep sleep, ten minutes before it’s time to get up.
Emotions play a huge part in our principal roles. A school is a highly emotive place. There are highs and lows all the time. We live for these highs, and in a simple paradox, it is the lows that often make the highs so enjoyable. Like yin and yang, you need both.
The lows can have the power to swamp us, though. Especially if they’re coming at speed, one after another. It can be difficult to keep your head above water. This can result in routinely waking up in the middle of the night for many. Sadly, this is the reality of the job – it is volatile. This is not likely to change any time soon, so what can we do to limit the negative effects of these lows when we find ourselves awake far too early in the morning?
Switch off notifications: Turning off notifications on your phone or device has a significant positive impact on your thought processes. By doing this, you’re essentially putting up the closed sign at the front of the shop. If you do this on your phone each day, it’s a bit like telling your brain that you’re closed for business. Of course, many of you tech-savvy people will have some setting to automatically do this. Whatever works, just shut off those notifications and train your mind to recognise this as shutting up shop for the day.
Consider your brain as being half-open: Science tells us that the human brain is divided into two sides.
There’s a logical side and there’s a creative/imaginative side. At 3am, it really could be possible that only one half of your brain is open for business. If that is true, then it’s likely to be the imaginative side. You know what imaginative types are like – they come up with all sorts of left-field (left-brain) creative ideas. At 3am, your creative mind has suddenly woken up and it’s going to town with all sorts of thoughts. They are feeding your inner worries like wildfire.
Meanwhile, on the other side of your brain, the logical part is still fast asleep. There is nothing available to logically look at what your creative side is doing. There is nothing open to take a breath and say, ‘Hold on, that’s a little bit crazy’. This is why, when you wake up in the morning, you’ll think you’ve solved an issue in the middle of the night, only to find that in the light of day, the solution is actually pretty naff.
3am diversion therapy: It sounds like a great name for a rock band, but it’s a little strategy that we’ve given a name. Basically, there are many ways to divert your thinking from 3am worries. If your mind is open to thinking, then you might as well get it thinking about some worry-less material, not worry-more. This strategy is a bit like counting sheep and, with practice, it is useful. So instead of counting sheep try doing this:
- Remember all the living rooms that you have lived in throughout your life. Including those dirty flats! If there aren’t many, work on remembering where the couch was, or where the TV was, in each room. Don’t focus on the ‘exciting’ memories/emotions that each room may give. You want your brain to be as taxed as possible on the details of those rooms, not on any emotions.
- If living rooms isn’t doing it, try bathrooms, or kitchens, or backyards.
Anything slightly boring and just a little taxing will work. Every time you find your mind wandering back to the big worry topic, stop yourself and re-start your diversion, and each time, make your brain start again from the beginning.
Give in and get up: If you’re really struggling, get up. Make a cup of very sweet Milo and write down your thoughts. Get them all down. Let your mind go wild. Don’t worry about whether anything is wrong or right. The only person who will be judging this outpouring is you. So, you might as well go for it.
Before you go to bed, give in: Crank open your laptop. Don’t check your emails!! Instead, make a list of everything on your mind. Fingers crossed that the list isn’t too long! Write a quick thumbnail sketch like a paragraph about what has to happen with each item on the list. Don’t go into it in detail. If you wake up at 3am, let yourself know that you’ve already got this sorted! This gives your logical side power over your creative side, without even having to wake that part of your brain up!
There are plenty of ways of dealing with 3am worries. You certainly aren’t alone. Your sleep is vital, so finding something that works without reverting to copious amounts of alcohol has got to be a good. Be creative, but don’t let your mind move on to what’s worrying you. That’ll just keep you up all night.