It’s interesting how often you think you’re the only one with a problem only to find out that you’re not alone and, in fact, might be quite normal. A dear friend and I were talking the other day and he mentioned his 5am nightly(?) wake-up in a state of panic. He, like so many of my friends, is self-employed and he never knows exactly what he’s going to bill in the future. He does, however, have a pretty good idea about what he needs to bring in so he doesn’t lose his house, health care, and a meal or two every day. Usually he spends a few minutes tossing and turning and gets back to sleep but not always.
I told him about another of our friends who experiences exactly the same thing. Well, not exactly – his terror arrives at 4am. A third friend told me the same thing. Maybe we should set up a conference call.
It’s easy to think that self-employment is the root of this but I’ll admit to have gone through the same moments even when I was gainfully employed at a corporate job and snapped awake thinking about something that HAD to get done that I was afraid wouldn’t. Any of us who carry authority and responsibility have those moments, I think. It shows we care and understand that along with nice salaries and big offices (one boss used to call it “wearing the long ties” but ties are so last century…) comes accountability.
I still have those moments although mine tend to come on the other end of sleep. There are never enough hours in the day – even when you’re working a lot of them – to finish everything. Although my buddy has been on his own for 30 years or so he’s still worried about making it another month. But he does, as do we all, mostly. Other friends, like me, have only been on their own for a few years and while the future isn’t always clear, it’s coming anyway so why panic? The trick is not to self-medicate, stay focused, and enjoy the ride. Usually I got out of my moments by reminding myself I’d done about everything one could do to assure success. And then I continued to panic.
“What if” is a game you need to play. It’s how you get better and are prepared for anything. Panic is just one side of that game, one that always seems to want to play out at night. Don’t laugh at senior executives if they look tired and worry about the ones that look refreshed all the time. They’re getting too much sleep!
How are you sleeping? When do the moments of panic hit and how do you get back to earth?