Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Get Enough Sleep: Days 23 to 30... 33

I'm late with this blogpost because... well...

Because I was too tired to write it. There, I said it.

I was doing so well, getting to bed early, getting lots of sleep, feeling rested and refreshed, but I got into some bad habits over the past few days. I lay in bed a few nights, playing with my phone or reading when I was clearly too tired to be awake. And yet...

And yet I stayed awake. Why?

I suppose you can get into a zone when you're just too tired to actually do anything that makes sense. This is the zone I get into when I get into late night snacking. I know I'm not hungry... and I know I could just go to sleep and the "hunger" would go away. But for some reason, the part of my brain that is screaming these things to me cannot control the lumbering beast I become when I'm that state.

So what to do? I could say, "Well, just don't get into that state in the first place," but that's not really a way to stop something with the force of a huge, rolling boulder.

I think the best thing to do is to just not beat myself up about it. If there's one thing I've learned with this challenge, it's acceptance: acceptance that mistakes have been made, but there's nothing I can do to change them, so I may as well rest. And acceptance that sometimes I will just not get enough sleep, but my body will rest when it needs to, either by my own will, or by making me have headaches that force me to stop.

So, it's 9:00pm now, and my alarm is set for 5:30am. I'm off to bed. Rest well.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Get Enough Sleep: Days 16 to 22

Of all the challenges I have undertaken on this blog, I have to say this one has been my favourite so far. That's not to say it's been easy. There is a reason it takes thirty days to change a habit. It's because habits are tough to break.

The very day I posted last week about getting myself to bed at 9pm, I stayed on the couch chatting to a friend online until 10. And the next day, I was a frickin' zombie. Not just tired, but tired-looking. People kept asking me if I was ok. I was not ok. I was TIRED.

That night, I went up to bed at 8 o'clock. I think I dozed off at 8:30, and then I was awakened briefly by the hubby coming up to bed. After that, I slept through until 5:00am, when I woke up feeling rested, feeling good that I could lie there quietly for another hour until my alarm would go off at 5:30am for me to get up.

Since then, it's been bedtime at 9, except for Friday night when we went out for a get together for work, when we only got home at 9, and my eyes were already drooping by then. This weekend, I decided I would just get up whenever I was finished sleeping, and that meant I've pretty much stayed on schedule. I'm hoping that means I won't be doing my zombie impression tomorrow.

Another thing I've tried to do is to make sure that anything that is nagging at my brain, either something I need to remember, or something that is bothering me that threatens to descend into my worry-cycle, those things need to get out. And how do I get those things out? With deep mediation? With long bathtub soaks? With more yoga?

While all of those things help, the best thing I've found that works is: saying it out loud. Not just once, but five times, slowly, deliberately, making sure my ears hear it and my brain comprehends it.

I forgot to email those suppliers, but it can be done tomorrow.

I forgot... to email... those suppliers, BUT it can be done... tomorrow.


And so on. Until it's out. Until I can rest.

So far, so rested.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Get Enough Sleep: Days 9 to 15

I've decided that this challenge is largely about two things:
  1. Learning to live my days without trying to cram as much as possible into them.
  2. Figuring out that, no matter how hard I concentrate, thinking about situations over and over and over is not going to make things happen.
I keep planning to get to into bed around 9pm, then that time rolls around and I find myself sitting on the couch, mindlessly surfing the web, and slowly getting grumpier and grumpier until I either go find something to eat to cheer me up, or I snap at the hubby for something stupidly minor. That's the signal that I need to drag myself up to bed. I think that this week, I'm going to really try hard to go upstairs at 9, and that way I'll be in bed and won't have to contemplate the stairs in my exhaustion. Small challenge within the big one, here we go.

I had one night during the week when I woke up and remembered something I'd done wrong at work. I lay there, thinking about it over and over. One side of my brain said, "This is no big deal. It will all be fine." And yet the other side of my brain just kept bringing it up, like an annoying relative that brings up all the embarrassing moments of your life at family gatherings. I struggled with myself to think about something else.

"Hey, what about that sweater you wanted to make? Don't you wanna think about that?"

"Yeah, in a minute. I need to think about that email I sent again."

"No, let's think about yarn, come on now."
"But that email was wrong. The email was WRONG. The EMAIL. It was WRONG."

Of course, by morning, it was all so minor, and really: it DID NOT MATTER. But at least I was only awake for about an hour, as opposed to thinking about it all night. Is that a step forward?

Let's say yes. Onwards...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Get Enough Sleep: Days 6 to 8

I've noticed that I've been having some pretty hectic dreams the past few nights. They're usually not frightening or panicky, just frenetic. I can't really remember what happens in them, just that I wake up with a gasp and I have to remind myself that all is well and I don't have anything to worry about.

I think part of the problem is that I have a really busy, fast-paced job, where one thing comes up after another, and my to-do list is always in flux. I must taking that energy home with me, and it's affecting my sleep.

There's a difference between being tired enough to fall asleep and being actually ready for rest.

I looked up a bunch of tips for how to calm my mind before I sleep. I liked wikiHow's practical list of things to try, even though they were mostly the usual things like counting sheep, warm milk, light exercise etc.

I was most intrigued by this how-to on squidoo which talks more about the underlying things going on in a busy mind. The statement, "I'd rather feel good than be right" resonated with me. Most of the things that keep my mind awake are projects that I need to fix and work on... things that I really can't do anything about at 2:00am in the morning. Why do I feel the need to try to work on it at that point?

Maybe it's because I want to know I will do it right.

And maybe I need to realize that whether I do it right or not is not really all that important at 2:00am. There's not a darn thing I can do about it then.

Food for thought. I hope these thoughts don't keep me up tonight...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Get Enough Sleep: days 2 to 5

Working on sleep is work indeed. I've learned a few things this week:
  1. Trying to turn off my brain is really hard for me.
  2. I'll often eat instead of sleep.
  3. I spend a good deal of my time wandering around in the dark.
Overall, I've had some pretty good sleep this week. I've reached the weekend feeling like I am looking forward to relaxing, rather than feeling completely annihilated and desperate for rest. I've had to make concessions to what I wanted to achieve this week to do that:
  • When I was awake in the middle of the night a couple of nights ago, I decided to stay in bed half an hour later than usual in the morning
  • I reduced the number of exercises I do at the gym for now until I can get my sleeping patterns back under control
  • I have to choose the activities I do the evening to make sure I am ready for sleep when the time comes
Maybe that makes me a boring person, but I really am liking it, if that's what I am. I got to enjoy a Friday evening out without feeling like a zombie. Even after sleeping in this morning, I feel refreshed, where normally I would feel ok, but still needing more rest.

Week one, not bad at all.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Get Enough Sleep Challenge: Day 1

I'm seven weeks into a new workplace, one week into a new job within this workplace, and several hours into sleep deficit with each passing day. I hit the weekend and hit my pillow and sleep and sleep until my body is overflowing with extra rest... then Monday comes along and I do it all over again.

This is not me.

I relish the fact that I am rarely ill. I get the occasional headache, the regular aches after exercise, but head colds and fevers are a rarity for me. I attribute it to the fact that I get enough sleep.

Or rather, I used to get enough sleep.

This next thirty days are going to be focused on remembering that sleep is the base of good health. A commitment to a good night's sleep means that I have to make choices every day that relate to balance, good planning, and a desire to be at my best for my family and my workmates. I could have chosen to call this the "pack my lunch every evening challenge," or the "do yoga every night challenge," but really, all these things could probably be achieved if I looked at the big picture...

And I'll be looking at it from behind my closed eyelids.

Tonight was already a bit of a challenge because I'd planned to be out this evening, but after a late work day, I decided I would forgo the evening's activities and focus on getting my lunch packed, my gym bag ready, and my breakfast smoothie in the fridge. I wanted to make sure I had time to spend with my husband, and to get out for an evening walk with my dog to breathe some fresh air before I stretched my stiff muscles. This means I am relaxed, my mind emptied, my tension gone, and I'm getting ready for sleep, whenever it comes.

I have a good role model for this. We'll work on it together.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lower My Blood Pressure: Update

It's been seven months since I finished this challenge, but I thought it deserved an update. By the time I'd finished this challenge, the journey really only just begun, and it's not over yet.

As of today, I've lost 62 pounds and a bunch of inches off my body. I ran a 10k in September and finished right in the middle of the pack at 1:07:04.55. I exercise every day. Every. Single. Day. I count my calories. I go to bed early. I stretch every night.

In short, I am quite a nauseatingly healthy and boring person.

But today, I went to see my doctor for the first time since we talked about me changing my lifestyle habits to check to see what my blood pressure was like. I was nervous about it, because it was at the end of the workday and I'm always a little hyped after that. I was sure that I was going to hear him say, "You've done well, but there's still so much more to do."

But he didn't. In fact, I didn't even get to see him at first. I saw his medical intern first.

She said, "What can we do for you?" I told her I was there to follow up on my blood pressure problem. She looked up my file and saw all my tests and asked if I was on medication, to which I said no, I was changing my lifestyle habits instead.

"What have you been doing?"

"Exercising, watching what I eat, and losing weight."

"And how much have you lost?"

"Sixty-two pounds."

She did a double-take, blinked twice, and said, "Ww-ow." And when I explained that I didn't want to go down the medication road, and that I wanted to try to change my habits instead, she sighed and said, "Hearing that makes me so happy."

And when she took my blood pressure, there it was:

I am normal.

After that, I saw my own doctor because I wanted to give him something: a photo from me running in the 10k. On the back, I wrote, "Thank you for helping me to learn to live a healthy life." He thanked me and said, "When I drive to the hospital, I always see you walking and running up the path there. Keep it up!"

And well, I have to keep it up, because I'm 16 pounds away from my goal. There have been plenty of days when I just wanted to give up, but I haven't. I have mixed feelings about today, because it feels like I don't have to keep going now, but I know I can't stop yet. And maybe this will always be a struggle... which is a bit depressing. But I've been living like this for seven months, and it won't always be so hard. It's certainly much easier than the alternative.

And that's the point: I am fortunate to get great health care, but I've chosen to try to focus on "care of health" instead. And it's paying off.

Keeping on keeping on...