Finding the Good in the Not-So-Good
In keeping with my most recent post about partying, I just have to tell you a very brief story about something I had the opportunity to celebrate the other day:
I had a horrible night’s sleep!!!
Why is that worthy of a celebration? Let me tell you.
Each of us has our stories of either not being able to readily fall asleep and/or falling asleep but waking up a few hours later and not being able to fall back to sleep, thereby starting ones’ day at an absolutely ungodly hour. I have experienced both, but the first sleep malady has not been an issue for me for many, many months. That was my first reason to celebrate.
My sleep routine always involves listening to a positive, 20-minute guided meditation wherein I usually fall asleep half way through. But the other night, four meditations later, I still hadn’t attained slumber. I tossed and turned, getting frustrated by my inability to sleep, totally disregarding the sleep hygiene advice every sleep expert gives: get out of bed, go elsewhere in your home and read or do something other than counting down the number of hours remaining before your day has to begin. If you stay stuck in bed, you’re also stuck in the anxiety-laden arena of non-sleep where just wishing you’ll eventually fall asleep simply does not work. Why? Because that’s all you’re thinking about and what you pay attention to will only grow.
After a period of three hours of non-sleep, I finally got out of bed and went elsewhere in my home to read thereby changing the scenery and giving my mind something else to concentrate on. I was no longer not sleeping in my comfortable bed, I was reading a book as though doing so was the most perfectly normal thing to be doing at two o’clock in the morning. Climbing back into bed an hour later, I managed to catch a few hours of sleep. That was the second reason to celebrate.
But that’s not all! I actually had three reasons to celebrate as a result of that yucky night’s sleep: I also successfully made it through the day-after, without too much struggle!
Mind you, I’m retired and therefore didn’t have to be super diligent during the day-after’s activities: I didn’t have to operate heavy machinery or get up in front of a classroom or a boardroom and string together cohesive sentences for the benefit of others, but I did manage to do some Holiday gift shopping with my husband and plow through a pile of laundry accumulating in our house without damaging anyone in the process.
Yep, all was well, and I lived to tell about it.
The brain is an organ we need to nurture, support, and appreciate. But sometimes the brain steers us in the wrong direction and if you’re like me, when that happens your well-being can get out of wack.
That’s when I end up having a love-hate relationship with my brain. Bear with me while I explain.
Let’s face it, that most sophisticated computer that rests within the skull that rests on top of the shoulders, doesn’t always get it right, like when the following scenarios occur:
- Insomnia because your brain wants you to figure out absolutely everything needed in order to cure the ills of the world – or at the very least, the ills of the small portion of the world in which you reside. Such future-focused attention doesn’t provide much present comfort, does it?
- Anxiety that doubles in intensity because anxiety is always fueled by fear – a fear that the brain expertly releases because of its innate fight or flight behavior that is simply trying to keep you safe but really overdoes it a bit…or a lot, if you’re me.
- Distraction gets in the way of full-functioning because too much input floods the brain so its ability to compartmentalize, eliminate surplus, and operate properly, stumbles a bit out of the starting blocks.
That’s just a few of the computer malfunctions that can take place within this wonderful mass of gray matter that no living being can do without.
But speaking personally, when I examine each of the bullet points above, I can willingly acknowledge that I might have more control over those anomalies than not.
- INSOMNIA: Instead of obsessing about the future – over which I have no control whatsoever while lying on my bed prepped for sleep – I can do my level best to be in the present where the future has no bearing whatsoever. Breathe. Read a book to sideline the brain’s worrisome thoughts about tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. One thing I know for sure, just lying there being frustrated about my sleepless state won’t do me any good so at the very least it’s a good idea to get out of bed and do something soothing to sidetrack the future-focused craziness going on inside my head.
- ANXIETY: If I address the current state of my being and realistically assess what is and what is not happening – shifting my focus from hyper-alertness broad spectrum attention to in-the-moment reality – my fear of the “what if” has no place in my day. I’ve learned that what I pay attention to magnifies in intensity. If I’m just focusing on that lower back pain twinge, that’s all that exists. You and I both know that isn’t the case but if you’re me, that little twinge may as well be a life threatening stabbing knife.
- DISTRACTION: Understanding that multi-tasking is not productive and is a myth that has been perpetuated over the centuries, challenges me to do one thing at a time so my brain does its level best on one task and then moves onto the next one. The more multi-tasking that occurs, the more chances to make mistakes – some of which can be dangerous; multi-tasking while driving, or taking care of a child come to mind.
Of this I am certain, however: I am grateful for my brain that most of the time serves me very well. You see, my father died from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 89 so I’m well aware of what can go awry in the brain’s circuitry, and there are so many other anomalies and abnormalities that can affect the brain, but I’ll try not to lose sleep over them!!! Although my brain isn’t perfectly normal, I will celebrate that it’s not all that abnormal so I will do my level best to not sweat the small stuff.
And although I don’t believe that it’s ALL small stuff, I can admit that a heck of a lot of it is.
Lighten up Mondays
Lack of sleep is no laughing matter, says me who has recently entered the valley of insomnia and is trying to climb out. My daughter recently turned me on to a sleep/anti-anxiety app called Calm which I highly recommend. For pennies a day, it has thus far provided the respite I need to fall asleep at night. But knowing that even in the ickiest of times, we can find humor, today’s humor focuses on that ever-fleeting element of our lives: sleep.
- I’m not always awake before 7 a.m. but when I am, it’s when I’ve yet to fall asleep.
- I hate when I’m tired and sleepy and when I get to bed, my body says, “Just kidding.”
- People who fall asleep quickly freak me out; I mean, don’t they have thoughts?
- Me: let me sleep. Brain: LOL, no, let’s stay awake and remember every stupid decision you’ve ever made in your life. Me: Okay.
- Dear 3 a.m., we have got to stop meeting this way; I’d much rather sleep with you.
- When I can’t sleep I try counting sheep and then my ADHD kicks in: one sheep, two sheep, cow, pig, Old MacDonald had a farm, Hey Macarena!
Welcoming light from a neighbor’s living room
Have you ever struggled to fall asleep or stay asleep? At some point during that struggle, did you say to yourself (yourself being the only person awake at the time) Screw it! I may as well get out of bed and start my day.
There are far too many of those late night and early morning day-starters for me to recount in this article – the most recent being Monday, December 22nd when my day started at 3:30 a.m. My “best” record occurred a few years ago when I never managed to fall asleep so in that instance my day started the previous day. Read the rest of this entry »