Insights for High Stress Professions
What's your sleep number?
How many hours of sleep do you need per night? To function? To feel rested? How often do you get that much sleep per night?
I need about 8 hours of sleep per night. I can function on as little as 4 hours, as long as they were uninterrupted. When I say function, I can keep my family and I alive and do basic tasks that don’t need much cognitive power. I will be cranky. I will make a lot of mistakes. It will just be a harder day. In short, I will pay for it. To feel rested, to function well, to be a decent human being, I need about 8 hours. I prioritize my sleep over getting everything done, so most nights I do get the sleep I need (unless my toddler decides otherwise). I think I’m the exception when it comes to prioritizing sleep over productivity.
At this point, we all should know that we need 7-9 hours. This is often an area where knowing better doesn’t always mean doing better. So why don’t we get enough sleep? Maybe we rationalize that while most people do need that much sleep, we just don’t need that much. First, only 1% of the population can be classified as “short sleepers,” needing less than a full night’s sleep each night. Second, maybe we have been rocking 5-6 hours a night for so long, that’s our “normal,” but we have no idea how much happier, more emotionally stable and productive we would be if we were getting 7-9 per night. Here’s a hint. If you depend on an alarm to wake up, if you hit the snooze button, if it’s kind of hard to get up and running in the morning, if you don’t feel like a human until you’ve had your coffee in the morning, you aren’t getting enough sleep.
Working with Soldiers, I noticed a slippery slope with caffeine and sleep. The less sleep you get, the more caffeine you need to get through the day. But the more caffeine you have during the day, the less sleep you’re likely to get. I would have soldiers line up across the room according to how much sleep they get per night (no sleep on one end, 10+ hours on the other). Then I would have them line up according to how much caffeine they have each day (no doses on one end, 6+ on the other). Soldiers that were in the middle on sleep tended to stay in the middle with caffeine. Soldiers that got very little sleep tended to move to the opposite end of the room for caffeine intake (indicating they have A LOT of caffeine each day). There’s a chicken or the egg conundrum here. Are they getting less sleep because they ingest more caffeine? Or are they ingesting more caffeine because they are getting less sleep? It’s hard to tell. Work and family demands compete to take more and more of their waking hours, encroaching on their sleep. This lack of sleep necessitates higher caffeine intake to stay alert and functional. This higher amount of caffeine takes longer to leave the system, interfering with our ability to get to sleep.
Why else don’t we get enough sleep? Because it’s hard! Given everything that’s on our plates between work, family, school, hobbies, self-care, etc., there’s just not much time left for sleep. It seems like the easiest thing to sacrifice when you need more time. Maybe staying up late is the only alone time you get in the day. As I said, I prioritize my sleep. It’s a choice I make. This choice means there are dirty dishes in my sink in the morning. This choice means I sometimes miss out on spending time with others.
So what are we supposed to do? We can’t make each day 28 hours. We can’t necessarily delete things from our days to allow more time for sleep. I’m not here to tell you that you need to find a way to get 8 hours a night (you should, but you know that already). I’d prefer you focus your effort on increasing the quality of the sleep you are getting. If you’re only going to get 5.5 hours a night, how do you get the most out of that 5.5 hours? 5.5 hours of good quality sleep is certainly better than 5.5 hours of crappy sleep, and probably better than 8 hours of crappy sleep.
First, however much sleep you are getting, do what you can to protect it (easier said than done with little ones). Make it sacred. Do what you can to establish a set bedtime every night, but more importantly, establish a bedtime routine. A bedtime routine is a simple set of steps that you always do to get ready for bed. Think of the sleep routines you build for toddlers to help them wind down from the day. We benefit from these as adults too. Maybe your routine is to brush your teeth, read a story, and go to bed. Maybe your routine includes listening to music, journaling or meditating. This means avoiding work and screen time. But be deliberate about what you do to prepare yourself to go to bed.
Second, increase the quality of sleep you get by practicing sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is a set of practices that promote good sleep to maximize daytime alertness. Some basic sleep hygiene practices include:
Now that you’ve optimized the sleep you are getting, start thinking about increasing the total amount of sleep you get every 24 hours. How can you shift things around to get an extra ½ hour of sleep? One way to get more sleep is to incorporate naps into your day. Naps can be more beneficial than caffeine for boosting energy and alertness. There are different recommendations on naps, based on what you need to boost.
How much sleep do you need a night to survive? How much sleep do you need a night to thrive? What’s one change you can make to get closer to thriving instead of just surviving?
Ramsey, L. (2015, December 15). People who can survive on 4 hours of sleep a night have these common characteristics. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/some-people-only-need-a-few-hours-of-sleep-2015-12
Reddy, S. (2013, September 03). The Perfect Nap: Sleeping Is a Mix of Art and Science. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-perfect-nap-sleeping-is-a-mix-of-art-and-science-1378155665
Rested Life. (n.d.). Sleep Hygiene Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://restedlife.com/resourceshttps://restedlife.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Sleep-Hygiene-Fact-Sheet-Rested-Life.pdf
#sleep #rest #nap #productivity #energy #thrive #haveitall #haveitall
When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Working with Soldiers, I got to see how they were often bombarded with competing prioritize and how they sorted through the noise to stay focused and productive.
When having Soldier clarify their values, it was common to have a value relating to work (mission first) and a value relating to family (family first). Having two core values of family first and mission first creates some challenges. You can’t have them both come first all the time. It creates an impossible standard; something has to give. When faced with an impossible standard, we sometimes stall until a decision is made for us. When the decision is made for us, it can breed resentment and victimhood.
For example, say you have a core value of spending quality time with you family, and you also have a core value of fueling your best performance by getting 7 hours of sleep a night. You’re watching your favorite show with your family one night and you’re faced with the choice of staying up late to watch another episode (supporting the value of time with family) and heading to bed (supporting the value of you getting enough sleep). If you choose to watch another episode, you are sacrificing sleep. If you choose to go to bed, you are sacrificing family time.
This can feel like a no-win situation. Either way you choose, you are sacrificing something important to you. If you delay making a decision, auto-play will kick in and the next episode will start. If auto-play makes the decision for you, you go to bed late, you wake up groggy, and you will be cranky the next day because you didn’t get enough sleep. Throughout the episode you may even be grumbling to yourself about how frustrated you will be the next day. You didn’t get sleep, and you didn’t enjoy the time with your family. You might be resentful towards your family or towards the show you’re watching for interfering with your sleep.
When we make the choice, we act with integrity and intention and accept the consequences of our choice. Intentionality (making deliberate choices) flips the script. You know something has to give, so you mindfully make the best choice. Then you accept the consequences from your decision. You take ownership over the choices you make--and the choices you don't make.
For example, say you make the choice to watch another episode and spend that time with your family. With this decision, you know you are sacrificing sleep, so you make some additional decisions about what you expect of yourself the next day. Maybe you do a shorter workout or push a few things from your to do list to a different day because you aren’t able to bring your best. Maybe you find a way to squeeze in a nap.
Say you make the choice to go to bed on time. With this decision, you are sacrificing time with your family. You are protecting your ability to bring your best effort the next day, but you didn’t spend as much quality time with your family. Maybe you find another way to spend more time with them another time (do a shorter workout or work it out to stay up late another night).
The goal with this isn’t to choose one particular value over the other all of the time. The goal with this is to maintain your power to make the right decision for you. This helps you maintain healthy boundaries. This helps you maintain a balance of give and take when your values compete with each other.
Which of your values seem to compete? How can you be more deliberate and intentional in the choices that you make to balance this?
Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work. Tough conversations. Whole hearts. New York: Random House.
Rubin, G. (2015). Better than before: Mastering the habits of our everyday lives. New York: Random House.
#values #conflict #collide #standards #nowin #integrity #priority
Are you holding out for your vacation? Are you grinding away while telling yourself you don’t have time for self-care until you’re able to completely get away? There’s another way.
Self-care could be exercise, taking time for yourself, going for a walk, getting a massage, going for a hike, taking a vacation, getting your favorite drink at the local coffee shop; but self-care still gets a bad rap. It’s seen as an indulgence or a reward after working hard. It’s seen as time consuming, expensive and a chore. I can admit that it’s often one of the first things cut from my day when I get busy or overwhelmed; but that’s exactly when I need it the most.
My preferred recovery activities include going to the gym, reading novels, getting massages, and walking in nature, and good chocolate. These activities all take time or money (or both). When I think of the time or money I need to allocate to actually do the self-care I know I enjoy and need, it can just add to the overwhelm I’m feeling. It feels like a frivolous use of my time (which could be spent building my business or spending time with family) or money (which could be spent building my business or helping my family). Then I become trapped in the all or none fallacy, believing if I can’t “do it right” then I shouldn’t bother fitting in self-care at all.
Self-care is one of the things where knowing better doesn’t necessarily lead to us doing better. To have balance, to be a high performer, to be able to give to others, we need to practice self-care. So what are we to do?
To combat barriers (excuses) to engaging in self-care, I recommend the strategy of micro dosing.
In medicine, a minimum effective dose is the lowest dosage of a medication that provides a clinically significant response. In self-care, a minimum effective dose might be a 20 minute walk, a 30 min bubble bath, 2 hour nap, or a 60 minute workout. If that’s the minimum effective dose, what’s the point of trying if I can’t set aside the full allotted time?
In medicine, the concept of micro dosing is gaining popularity. A micro dose is a “sub therapeutic” dose of medication. This dose isn’t high enough to produce noticeable changes, but still has a cellular impact. Applying this principle to self-care, a micro dose might not produce the same noticeable positive impacts that a traditional “dose” of self-care would, but still has a positive impact on your body. It’s more effective to do a microdose of self-care than to do no self-care at all.
The beauty of microdosing self-care is that any recovery strategy can be microdosed.
Therapeutic Dose: 60 minutes of meditation in the morning.
Therapeutic Dose: a 75 minute yoga class.
Therapeutic Dose: full 60 minute massage.
Therapeutic Dose: bubble bath.
Therapeutic Dose: A good night’s sleep.
The true power in microdosing self-care is the compound effects of multiple microdoses spread throughout the day. Maybe I can’t go for a massage as often as I would like, but I can take better care of my body if I do 5 minutes of progressive muscle relaxation 1-3 times per day for my neck and shoulders than if I do nothing.
The best sort of microdose is the kind that’s portable. When you are brainstorming ways you can microdose your self-care strategies, try to think of strategies that don’t require equipment. For example, a 15 minute chair massage as a microdose for a full body massage still requires you to set aside time and money to actually go do it. Whereas progressive muscle relaxation can be done on your own at any time.
What are your preferred self-care strategies? How could you start to microdose them?
Davis-Laack,P (2016, February 8). 5 Myths About Resilience. Retrieved fromhttps://www.forbes.com/sites/pauladavislaack/2016/08/29/resilience-requires-recharging-5-ways-to-unplug-when-youre-short-on-time/#3e347b9525a0.
Forman,T (2017, December 13). Self-Care Is Not An Indulgence. It's A Discipline. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/tamiforman/2017/12/13/self-care-is-not-an-indulgence-its-a-discipline/#6b6a30cfee0c.
Germain, A., & Dretsch, M. (2016). Sleep and Resilience-A Call for Prevention and Intervention. Sleep, 39(5), 963-5.
Pedersen, E. R., et.al. (2015). Increasing resilience through promotion of healthy sleep among service members. Military medicine, 180(1), 4-6.
Scharff,C. (2015, January 22). Recovery and Resilience Connection. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ending-addiction-good/201501/recovery-and-resilience-connection.
Tewari, T., & Mukherjee, S. (2010). Microdosing: concept, application and relevance. Perspectives in clinical research, 1(2), 61-3.
Wiest, B. (2019, January 26). This Is What 'Self-Care' REALLY Means, Because It's Not All Salt Baths And Chocolate Cake.. Retrieved from https://thoughtcatalog.com/brianna-wiest/2017/11/this-is-what-self-care-really-means-because-its-not-all-salt-baths-and-chocolate-cake/..
#selfcare #selfcare #resilience #highperformers #microdose #microdose #microdose #balance #recovery
The Power of Yes
It’s a new year. That’s a fresh start; a time to focus on your goals. What do you want more of this year? What do you want less of in 2019? We want to use this momentum to our advantage and maintain traction, so let’s take a moment to set ourselves up right.
One of my goals for 2019 is to find ways to say yes to opportunities that present themselves. I know this can be a double edged sword. Saying yes can open doors, lead to new opportunities, and springboard my growth and development. Saying yes can also lead to overwhelm, over-extension, and compromising values and priorities.
Everything we do in life has a trade-off. Things cost money; things take time, planning and prioritization; things can be uncomfortable. For example, going to the gym has a fee associated with it, I need to coordinate childcare, I need to schedule time to go (time to get there and back and shower), and it is physically demanding. The reward of being fitter, stronger and of having that time dedicated to taking care of myself is precious to me.
Yet the gym often seems to be the first thing to go when life gets hectic. This is a symptom of not setting and protecting my priorities. It is a symptom of not being mindful of my most precious and limited resources: time and energy. It is a symptom of saying yes to things without thinking of the consequences and trade-offs of saying yes.
When you are asked to do something (even if you’re the one doing the asking), take a pause. During this pause, thing through what you are being asked, and what that will take from you.
Your time and energy are limited. What will need sacrificed to say yes to this? In other words, what will you have to say no to in order to fulfill this yes.
When being asked to say yes to something, evaluating what you have to sacrifice or say no to in order to fulfill that yes provides you with critical information you need to make a decision. Saying no can be very difficult, but saying yes when it overextends your or compromises your values and priorities does more harm to you and your resources than saying yes.
As I move forward into 2019, I want to find ways to say yes to more opportunities; but I will be taking a pause to reflect on what I need to sacrifice or say no to in order to fulfill that yes. Then I will determine whether saying yes to each opportunity is congruent with my values and priorities. I encourage you to find ways to say yes to opportunities that show up for you, as long as saying yes helps you maintain your values and priorities.
#focus #goal #sayyes #tradeoff
In my last post, I discussed how we miss the point (and power) of optimism when we think optimism is viewing the glass as half full and pessimism as half empty.
Optimistic thinking is incredibly powerful, but we have to take it beyond the image of “glass half full” thinking and just seeing the good in everything. We need to identify what we did to fill the glass and what we can do to keep filling the glass. In this, we discover the super power of optimism. In these next few posts on optimism, we’ll explore ways to not only fill the glass, but keep the glass full in the face of events and circumstances that threaten to empty it.
Giving Gratitude an Oomph
A gratitude journal is one of the best ways to build a habit of noticing the good that happens around you. It is key to training your brain to see the glass as half full. The Army teaches this practice as a Hunt the Good Stuff journal, others call it a “5 good things” exercise, others gratitude or “give thanks” journal. In all cases, the basic premise is the same: you make a deliberate habit of looking for the good things that happen in your life.
This exercise can be conducted in many ways:
There is a wealth of research to support gratitude journals increasing happiness, decreasing depression and increasing optimistic expectations about their week and engagement in healthy behaviors (Peterson, 2006; Verkuyten & Thijs, 2002; Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Froh et al., 2010; Frederickson, 2004; Komter, 2004).
My family jokes that my grandma Lela has “Lela-colored” glasses. She has a very special way of looking at the world (as I imagine most grandmothers do). Every Tuesday, she prays for something special to happen to her or someone she loves. And every single week something special happens. Part of this is because we all know about it, so sometimes we made it a point to do something nice for her on a Tuesday, but part of it is she opened her aperture to find something good that happened. What truly gives my grandma her super power of optimism is her reflection of how those good things happened. She did something that helped to bring about that good thing. And she can repeat that behavior to make more good things happen.
We can give gratitude an oomph so it helps build our super power of optimism by taking the time to reflect on the items we identified. This reflection helps us savor the good stuff a little more, but most importantly, it gives us a “what’s next.” The reflection gives us a way to fill our glass even more effectively.
Gratitude is about noticing and savoring the good that happens. But the super power of optimism is about identifying what is next and what can you do to generate more things to be grateful for.
High-Yield Energy Investments
In the Yoga Sutras, there is a moral code called Bramacharya. Most often, when bramacharya is translated, it is thought to mean celibacy. In more modern interpretations, it refers right use of energy. Again, this can often be interpreted as exercising moderation in external or hedonistic indulgences. However, the idea of right use of energy can go beyond external expenditures of energy. We can examine internal energy expenditures as well. Where attention goes, energy flows. If we really think about where our energy is spent (and wasted) throughout a day, we spend an awful lot of energy spinning our wheels worrying and complaining about factors and circumstances we can’t control. Any time something happens to us, are are we spending our energy in the right way?
Low-yield energy investments tend to feel great in the moment. We complain, we vent, we identify other people or circumstances to blame for what’s going on, we look for allies to our point of view. In these energy investments, we tend to stay very problem focused; name the problem, how others created this problem for us, what it would be like if we didn’t have this problem, what we should have done differently to avoid this problem, and how great it would be if the stars aligned so this problem magically went away.
High-yield energy investments don’t feel as gratifying early on, but have much higher payouts. Right use of energy is about staying solution focused. Solution-focused thinking can be fact finding (especially using opposing or differing perspectives), generating solution strategies based on what is going on and what you can do next.
In short, solution focused thinking centers almost entirely on factors you can control or influence to replicate a good situation or improve a less-than-ideal situation. If you can change something about a situation, change it. If you don’t have control over anything about a certain situation, you can still control your perspective and how you spend your energy and attention on the situation. This is where positive action can occur. This is where the super power of optimism sits waiting to be unleashed. In the next post, we will explore how we refine the super power though changing our perspective and identifying where our beliefs and assumptions may be limiting our super power.
Emmons, R. (2008). Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier. New York: Mariner Books.
Malouff, J.M. & Schutte, N.S. (2016). Can psychological interventions increase optimism? A meta-analysis. The Journal of Positive Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2016.1221122
Newlyn, E. (2014, November 19). The Yamas: Brahmacharya, right use of energy. Retrieved from https://www.ekhartyoga.com/blog/the-yamas-brahmacharya-right-use-of-energy.
Peterson, C. (2006). A Primer In Positive Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
#optimism #gratitude #superpower #hope #optimisticthinking #solutionfocused #positivethinking
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