What Keeps You Up At Night?

There are nights when we stay awake and put our brains to work. For the first time in a long time, I lost sleep last night. Not a lot, probably 2 hours or so. But it was enough for me to reflect on what kept me up at night, and what to do to avoid sleep working!

Here’s how it happened.

First, my mind was clinging onto unresolved work-related issues during the day and the days ahead. I was replaying scenes of difficult conversations earlier that evening which added to agitated thoughts. Then, I was anticipating scenarios of future events that needed lots of logistical planning and detailed execution, wondering if they would get done before my vacation the next day!

A list of what ifs started piling up as I was digging a deeper and deeper hole for myself feeling overwhelmed.

Anxiety. Deadline. Self-Doubt.


Sounds familiar to you?

I thought about getting up to read, or to drink a cup of hot milk. But after hours of tossing and turning, I began to still myself in prayer, asking God for peace and faith. I let go. I stopped clinging onto the workload. I emptied my mind, attuning to my breathing and sensing a gentle calm carrying me to dreamland.

This morning, I woke up feeling rested, refreshed, and grateful for a new day ahead. I realized that what actually kept me up last night was not so much the work itself, but the illusion of control. I was subconsciously trying to regain control over problems that I thought had slipped through my fingers during the day. Little did I recognize that control is illusory and temporary. We live an on-going life that brings the good and the bad often beyond what we can know or predict. So, why did I become restless when it was time to rest?

“Remember, too, that stress is not a function of events; it’s a function of the view you take of events. You think a particular thing is going to happen and that when it does, it’s going to be awful.” – Ellen Langer, Harvard Professor of Psychology.

But prediction is an illusion. We can’t know what’s going to happen. Ellen Langer, Harvard Professor of Psychology, through her decades of research on Mindfulness, reminds us the importance of recognizing the difference between what’s uncontrollable and what is indeterminate.

“Possibility opens up when we see what we can’t control now doesn’t mean we won’t be able to in the future.” – Ellen Langer, Harvard Professor of Psychology.

For me, what’s possible in the future follows my belief that the ultimate control rests with God. Once I remind myself of all the instances where my own effort has been in vain until I take that leap of faith, I feel a surge of peace and power for what lies ahead.



Mable, New York

Mable Chan

Mable Chan is the founder of China Personified. Her contact is mablechan@chinapersonified.com.