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What I Learned from a 4am Freak-Out

July 9, 2012

Have you ever had those middle of the night freak-outs? You know, when you wake up (usually in the wee small hours of the morning) thinking about a troubling situation or a work problem. And you’re absolutely panicked about this issue? 

I found myself in that situation recently. I woke up at 4 am on July 4 with several things on my mind and I couldn’t sleep with all these thoughts running through my brain. In an attempt to get them out of my mind and onto paper, I got out of bed and made a list of the things gnawing at me. Then I climbed back in bed, tried telling myself that things always seem way worse at 4 am, and just try to go back to sleep. I guess it worked because I ended up sleeping in until 9:15 am.

While looking at the list the next morning, I noticed that three out of four of the situations bothering me had a similar theme. I felt as if I was being walked over or talked down to. Since I’m a believer in the adage, “You teach people how to treat you,” I had to look at myself and see what kind of vibes I was sending out in the world.

I don’t think I was directly telling people to walk over me. But I do believe I need to be better about speaking up when something bothers me, even in the slightest. I need to work on being more direct with people. Part of this is my personality. I tend to under-react in the moment, and then later realize that what happened – or what was said – was completely uncool. Then I get mad and it festers in me. Hence waking up at 4 am stressed out. So perhaps trying to be more direct and honest in the beginning is something I really need to strive toward. And maybe by being more direct, people will see that self-respect and act respectfully in return.

This issue is more prevelant in my personal life than my professional one. I’ve never had a problem speaking my mind at work. And I am happy that I’ve had amazing clients in my freelance realm that have been respectful and open to my ideas and personality.

So I guess if I can make a mid-year resolution or goal, I will aim to be more direct and address troublesome situations when they occur. By doing this, hopefully I’ll feel stronger and I’ll won’t be awake to read 4 am on my clock again.

Have you had situations like this? Are there particular things that wake you up at 4 am?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. July 9, 2012 3:30 am

    Ha ha… just wait – about 10 years from now you’ll be waking a few more times. I’m always waking and thinking of the “to do” list, and stress for sure compounds the waking. Keep a notebook by the bed- sometimes good ideas come from these early wake-ups! Hope you resolve the demons and get back to uninterrupted sleep soon.

  2. July 9, 2012 6:39 am

    Insomnia. Ugh! I’ve been sleeping well lately (I hope I haven’t jinxed myself by saying that) but when life is stressful, my sleep suffers. And sometimes I lose sleep for no reason at all. I’m glad that making a list worked for you… it does seem to help sometimes.

    I hope that your new attitude will influence those people who haven’t been respectful of you. If it doesn’t, it’s them, not you. You may just have to guard yourself against those friends if you can’t avoid them. Good luck!

  3. July 9, 2012 7:02 am

    While there is nothing fun about waking up at 4 a.m. in freak-out mode, it does seem like in this circumstance it at least helped you pinpoint the root of what was causing the unsettling feeling. And I agree with Shary above that if you change your reactions and attitude and it continues, then it is something about the other person, not you. And it’s time to re-evaluate that relationship. I hope you start seeing some positive changes!

    I’m prone to the middle-of-the-night freak-outs. Usually it’s needing to go to the bathroom that wakes me up and once up, my mind starts racing about whatever is stressing me out, usually something work-related. And then the next thing I know my alarm is going off so at some point my brain shuts off and falls back asleep!

  4. July 9, 2012 7:39 am

    This post is close to home for me… I’ve been sleeping poorly because of my decision to have a heart-to-heart with my college-student little sister (Big Brothers Big Sisters program). She reacted very negatively and gave me attitude I have never, ever seen – verging on complete disrespect. My very assertive self wanted to tear into her and tell her “how it is,” but thanks to the advice of two wise friends, I have decided that this is ONE situation where I need to zip it (SO hard for me). The twenties … when they want to exercise their freedom and newfound critical thinking. A dangerous time…

    So – I guess there are times when being walked on IS the best route. Your case, of course, is very different. And it’s taking every ounce of energy for me to bite my tongue.

  5. July 9, 2012 11:38 am

    Oh, I HATE those middle of the night worry fests!
    For me it usually centers around fears. And it’s so weird, because during the day I’m relatively fearless and trusting. But there’s some middle-of-the-night-vulnerability thing that happens to me sometimes, and it’s truly terrifying. In the morning it usually all looks much less scary, and I laugh at myself for losing sleep over whatever it was, but when I’m experiencing it, it’s awful.

    We do have to learn to speak up for ourselves, Leah. We tend to be brought up, as women, to feel that speaking up is ‘not nice’. As we age we realize this is B.S. (yes, capped! Haha!)

    You’re a good woman. It’s okay to say how you feel. You’ll find that most people aren’t even bothered by it half as much as you fear they will be. I say go for it. And good on you for your introspection and recognition of the issue.

  6. homespicelife permalink
    July 9, 2012 4:51 pm

    Right on point Leah and well written! I got this post after a sleepless night worry about work and feeling anxious. I am trying to figure out what my salient takeaways are, but I know I don’t like this feeling. I like your idea if writing down what’s worrying you when it happens. I’ll take that as a first step.

  7. July 10, 2012 3:40 am

    I know 4 a.m. very well…. and the anxiety and worry that plagues in the middle of the night. But more, I understand completely what you mean about speaking your mind — I’m like that moreso in work than in my personal life, but I have problems with it in both arenas. It’s a balance for me because sometimes it works better if I just let things blow over. Definitely a constant struggle.

  8. July 10, 2012 11:14 am

    I need to work on being more direct with people too, but I also think there is value in readdressing a situation after you’ve had time to think. “I’ve had some time to think about this and …..”

    Sometimes the heat of the moment jumbles what I want to say and it’s better to cool down first.

    There are never ending opportunities to learn, right?

  9. July 10, 2012 2:10 pm

    First of all I’d like to say good for you for realizing the changes you need to make and secondly the thing that keeps me awake at night is usually worrying about my children! My youngest had a serious love break off a relationship with her recently and was absolutely broken hearted. As there is nothing I can do to ‘rescue’ I definitely spent some sleepless nights worrying about her situation. Great blog post Leah.

  10. July 11, 2012 4:10 am

    Thanks for sharing your 4am lesson, now I’ve learned something too. I think I’ll be able to use your lesson in my life as well. 🙂

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