Stress can be sneaky. It comes from many different areas of our lives and it can accumulate without us being aware of it.
When I was struggling with sleep, my stress came from my work as well as from some family illnesses. As someone who can usually handle everything, the accumulation of stress caught me off guard. And the result was that I was no longer able to shut my brain off and I couldn’t sleep because of it.
How could I not see what was right in front of me?
Because I was tired and exhausted. Honestly, I did not understand how stress can activate our nervous system to the point of it being constantly on fight or flight mode.
When we are in a fight or flight mode, our bodies release stress hormones (adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol) in order for us to be able to do the task at hand, which is helpful. However, when you are constantly trying to put out fires in your life (urgent emails, hospital visits, cooking extra food for loved ones, etc…), your body keeps secreting all these stress hormones over and over. My switch to turn OFF these stress hormones after a task was done got stuck ON, creating a constant state of fight or flight in my body.
Does this sound like you?
Do you find yourself really stressed all day and you just can’t figure out why you can’t regain control?
When we look at these tasks individually, we could handle each separate event on it’s own. Sending an urgent email might create stress for a few minutes, but then our nervous system calms down again when the task is over. But when we have an abundance of tasks to get done, and we go from one to the other, we never give our nervous system the chance to calm down.
What can you do to create awareness of where your stress is coming from?
Evaluate these 5 areas of your life and give them a rating to see which area carries more stress for you. (0 no stress, 5 maximum of stress)
Are you worried about your health? Are you unable to lose weight, always getting sick and feeling sluggish. When our health is poor, mentally or physically, it can add stress to our lives and affect our sleep.
Are you lying awake at night thinking about your family’s well being? Are you grieving the loss of a loved one, getting a divorce or taking care of an elderly family member? Being a caretaker for your family can affect your well-being and disrupt your sleep.
Pressures in the workplace are unavoidable due to the demands of the contemporary work environment. When that pressure becomes excessive or otherwise unmanageable it can lead to stress that can keep you awake at night.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by debt, unable to save for retirement, worried about losing your job or living paycheck to paycheck? Are thoughts of your financial difficulties keeping you awake at night?
Being spiritual means having a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves. When we don’t feel connected, we start searching for the meaning and purpose of our lives. These inquiries into ourselves can keep us awake at night.
If you need help figuring out which area of your life you need to address in order to regain control of your sleep, book your Optimal Sleep Assessment today.
We all know that sleep is essential for both our mental and physical health.
Did you know that just by prioritizing your sleep and setting boundaries, your chance of getting better quality sleep just exponentially improved?
Setting clear boundaries in certain areas of our lives may be what you need in order to sleep better.
I get it, everyone needs you so it’s not possible for you to set boundaries. I’ve been there believing I needed to be available 24 / 7 for my children, my parents and my work.
I was able to set some boundaries while being clear on my reason behind them and everyone respects them. You can too!
Here are 3 areas of your life you could look at right now and see if you could set some small boundaries.
It’s easy to do extra work now that many of us are working from home. Setting clear boundaries around your working hours will allow for other team members and your supervisor to know when you’ll be available and when your work day is over. That way you’ll be able to transition from work mode back into home life mode easily and not feel the need to constantly be looking at your emails in the evening.
If needed, having a conversation with your supervisor about this new boundary might be necessary. That way everyone can be on the same page.
Family members in our homes.
Let them know you’ve decided to set a bedtime routine for yourself and during this time, you are not available. Make them aware of your decision to set this boundary and the reason why it’s important to you.
If you’ve always been the person they go to when they need anything, then it might take a bit of time for them to get adjusted to your new boundaries. But they will get used to it and ask for help earlier in the day. If they forget and come to you after the agreed time, then gently remind them that it’s your time now and it can wait until tomorrow.
Of course, if it’s an emergency you will definitely help them. But if it can wait, then make them wait. You are taking responsibility for your sleep and it’s important.
People outside of your household.
I often hear, “yeah but my kids don’t live at home or my parents are in assisted living facilities, what if they need me at night?”
Have a conversation with them. Let them know that you are now prioritizing your sleep and that after a certain time, you won’t be available to them, unless it’s an emergency. Come up with a plan together of how they’ll contact you if it’s an emergency(or if required). And also, get clear on what you consider an emergency so they know when to call on you or when to wait for the next day.
Hint: you can set your phone on “do not disturb” and select which calls you want to be allowed. That way you won’t miss a true emergency when you are needed.
I know, you might think people won’t respect your boundaries. But it is up to you to set them and stick to them. You can do it. I know it.
If you need help setting boundaries and/or help figuring out what is getting in the way of your sleep, book your Optimal Sleep assessment today.
I’ve had a few clients show up lately all with the same issue. They are unable to relax enough to get a full night of sleep. One in particular can feel her nervous system activating as she gets ready for bed.
What is going on?
Well, it’s not our natural state for us to be able to relax. Our nervous system is built in such a way to be on alert all the time to look out for danger and keep us safe.
And in today’s world, we are no longer talking about a tiger jumping out of the woods and attacking us. It’s the rush of our lives that keeps our nervous system in a state of fight or flight.
To understand this you need to look at human brain development and observe some basic elements. One major feature is our instinct to survive.
Our natural state is to maintain our sense of alertness in order to protect ourselves.
Relaxation implies that we let down our guard. It means turning off our internal system that is meant to keep us alert in order to keep us safe. This translates itself in today’s world as the items we didn’t accomplish on our to-do list. Or the emails we didn’t have time to reply to. Or all the chores we need to do at home for our family. Or the dishwasher that needs to be unloaded. Or the laundry that needs to be put away. You get the picture?
Unfortunately, our natural built-in system does not come with an on – off switch. It is hard wired and always working. Therefore, when we try to relax, we are often unable to.
So, how do you relax and can anything be done to achieve a relaxed state?
The answer is a “yes”. It can be done. However, your expectations need to be realistic. When you haven’t been able to relax in a long time, it’s going to take time to retrain your nervous system to recognize the state of relaxation.
Your first step is recognizing that you aren’t easily able to relax and then making the choice to change your daily behaviours in order for your nervous system to learn what it feels like to relax. Just like any new skill you are building, small daily consistent actions will do the trick.
Here are a few ways you can train your brain to relax:
EFT/tapping. At its core, it is known as a stress management technique. Most people who do just a few minutes of tapping will feel a sense of calm come over them. Do this on a regular basis and you are training your nervous system to relax.
Meditate. Countless studies are now suggesting that meditation practices have the potential to balance our nervous system settings and help us deal with stress.
Exercise. Exercising like running or walking can help to reduce the feelings of anxiety and clear space in your head.
Because sleep powers the mind and restores the body. It’s what we need to function at our best each day.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, young adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep and older adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
Are you getting in those hours?
I’ve been reading Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Habits and I was pleased to read he also prioritizes his sleep. He realizes that in order to perform well in your life, you need sleep.
Here is a quote from his book found on page 115.
“Well, I’ve become successful sleeping only five hours, so sleep isn’t a factor for me”.
And then his next though was:
“Imagine how much MORE successful I would be with just two more hours of sleep.”
Goosebumps…. He’s right. How much MORE could I accomplish towards my dreams and goals if I prioritize my sleep? I know for me, it has changed my life in amazing ways. I am able to have better relationships with my family, be more present in my life and it has allowed me to be more creative with what I choose to do with my waking hours, because I am rested and ready for anything I set my mind to.
Our bodies are able to function on 5 to 6 hours of sleep. That’s because when we are in Stage 3 / 4 sleep our physical body is restoring itself. And this stage of sleep happens more during the beginning of the night.
When we decide to cut our sleep short by only sleeping 5 to 6 hours, we are cutting down on our REM sleep. Our REM sleep happens more towards the end of the night. It’s during REM sleep that the magic happens. It’s where our mental restoration happens.
Imagine, if you only slept another hour or two how much more rested your mind would be. A better rested mind allows you to be more alert and aware. You’ll be able to concentrate better and feel less foggy. You’ll be able to be present in your life and in the life of others around you.
You don’t have to believe me, try it out for yourself. Start prioritizing your sleep and see how much better your life can get.
Today I want to talk to you about what to do when you’ve tried all the tips and tricks you’ve gotten from everyone and you still can’t sleep.
Do you feel completely exhausted and alone in your sleep struggles? Feeling like no one can understand you because they can sleep so easily while you lay there getting more and more frustrated that it’s one more night without sleep.
Is that you?
It was me a few years ago. Well, ok, maybe I didn’t follow exactly all the steps listed in the article, but I tried a lot of them. And nothing worked.
Because my nervous system was activated beyond the point where I could control it to bring it back into a calm state. I was under a lot of stress. Living in what they call “the fight or flight” response all day and all night. I didn’t have any coping skills to release this stress from my body. And when I would go to bed at night, I had not processed all my emotions from the day because I was too busy “doing” stuff and not enough time taking care of myself.
My words during this difficult time in my life were: “If I just had an off switch for my brain, then I could sleep”.
Sleep hygiene did not give me that “off switch” I needed in order to be able to calm my nervous system enough to go to sleep.
I needed to find something, anything that would help me “switch off” my brain for the night and find sleep again.
And then I discovered tapping. This tool changed my sleep, helped me “switch off” my brain and then my whole life changed in extraordinary ways.
Tapping, at its core, is known as a stress reduction technique. It seeks to address imbalances within the person’s energy system, as well as the energetic influences of thoughts, beliefs, and emotions in the body.
When we add tapping to our daily routine, we can start retraining our nervous system to cope with the stress as it is happening in the moment. Training our nervous system to be in a more calm and relaxed state. What is known as the “rest and digest” state.
By acknowledging and creating awareness around the truth we are currently living (for me the extreme stress I was under every single day), we give ourselves permission to feel those emotions, thoughts, and beliefs and start shifting them into a more positive energy. We are learning how to turn the switch off when needed.
We are so busy being “Human DOINGS” with our to do list. Never taking the time to acknowledge our emotions. We live life on autopilot. I encourage you to start being a “Human BEING” and take a few minutes each day to sit with your emotions and release them, using tapping.
If I ask you the question “What would it take for you to have a good quality restorative sleep?”, what would you answer?
That is a big question and most of us don’t know how to answer that.
Our current lifestyle doesn’t always give us enough time to sleep. And some of us choose to cut back on sleep in order to get one more thing done in our busy hectic schedule. We believe by doing more we can reduce the stress we feel because we will have one less thing on our to do list for tomorrow. But instead, by cutting back on sleep, we are actually creating more stress in our lives by being tired and unable to think clearly because of exhaustion.
We do this without realizing how important sleep is. We NEED quality sleep in order to function at our best. Our body needs it. Our brain needs it. You could even say that the people around you need it since we will be in a better mood :).
But what if I can’t sleep? No matter what I do, sleep just doesn’t happen?
I’ve been there and I understand how frustrating and complicated it can be to try to find sleep again.
But if you ask yourself the question, “What would it take for me to have good quality restorative sleep?” What would your answer be?
I want you to think of this question and answer it by looking at two things.
What can I change in my physical environment to help me sleep?
What can I change in my emotional environment to help me sleep?
The answer will be different for everyone since we all have our unique challenges.
But the questions that I always come back to is “What would it take for me to have good quality restorative sleep?” Because I know that without sleep, my life is miserable. I can’t think clearly, I can’t function. The negative side of me comes out by complaining about my lack of sleep. I play the victim of my life instead of living my best life. And the reason for my negative moods is usually all because I didn’t sleep well. For those of you who can’t get a good night sleep, you know what I mean.
So what would it take for YOU to sleep soundly so it can be restorative and refreshing. What would it take for you to commit to doing whatever it takes to figure out what is getting in the way of your sleep. Once you reclaim your sleep, you’ll be able to reclaim the life you are meant to live. Full of energy, joy and fun.
When I ask myself that question, these are my answers:
On the material/physical side:
No coffee after lunch time since I am sensitive to caffeine. Did you know that 50% of that caffeine is still floating in your brain 7 to 8 hours after you finished that cup of coffee?
I am consistent with my bedtime and wake up time.
I add movement in my day. I ensure I do a minimum of 30 minutes of movement every day. On the days I don’t move, I don’t sleep as well and it’s a reminder to move the next day.
On the emotional/mindset side:
I CHOOSE to make sleep a priority. We all have that choice but it’s not always easy if our mindset believes we don’t.
I keep my stress and overwhelm under control. I have an overactive brain and my brain loves to think all the time. Being organized and not taking on too many projects at one time helps control the stress and overwhelm.
I do a check in with myself before bed and I will ask myself “Am I ready for sleep? Is anything going to pop up in my mind during the night I didn’t deal with?”. If it’s something I don’t want to forget, I write it down (I always have pen and paper by my bed). If it’s emotions, I use EFT tapping on those emotions before bed so I can clear them.
I’ll ask the question one last time. What would it take for you to have a good quality restorative sleep?