Monthly Archives: March 2014

Top tips for a sweet night’s sleep

I don’t mean to be a drama queen but I feel like I’ve been sleep deprived for years. My youngest child is a bit of night owl. Except for last night, when he slept through the WHOLE NIGHT.

So why do I feel so unbelievably eye-poppingly, body-achingly tired today? More tired than the mornings when I’ve had barely a few hours of sleep?

Temperamental toddler or not, most of you will have experienced waking up from a ‘good’ night’s sleep still exhausted. And what about the nights when you go to bed absolutely exhausted only to find yourself still tossing and turning hours later, unable to find your off switch?

Being sleep deprived has simply become part of life. A massive 96% of us report regularly feeling tired upon waking and almost 30% of us have taken a sickie due to lack of sleep. We’ve become experts at ignoring our body’s signals and pushing through our sleep-deprived state. We’ve got too much to do and sleep is the first thing that takes a hit.

Add to that our digitalised lives, which keep us ‘switched on’ all the time. How many of you sleep with your phone by your bed? What’s the last thing you do before you turn in for the night? Check your email? Twitter? Facebook?

Now, in addition to sleep deprivation’s negative impact on cognitive function, productivity and lifespan, a new study has revealed that lack of sleep causes irreparable damage to our brains

It’s time to take action.

Six solutions to sleep deprivation

1. Pre-sleep meditation
OK, so this is still using your phone just before bed. But using free meditation and mindfulness apps like Omvana and Headspace (my current favourite) to take ten minutes to relax each night will help you drift off to sleep more easily.

2. Get some exercise (in the day)
I know, I know. It’s that last thing you want to do. But in 2013, The Huffington Post reported on the National Sleep Foundation’s poll, which found that people who exercise regularly experience better quality and more consistent sleep than those who don’t. Try some yoga or Pilates, or even better, some outdoor or ‘green exercise‘, which delivers a host of other health benefits including improved mood and self-esteem, and lower blood pressure.

3. Go to bed and get up earlier
According to the chi cycle, your body functions better when you wake up between 5 and 7am and go to bed between 9 and 11pm. Your body will be more in tune with the earth’s circadian rhythms, which offers more restorative sleep. An early wake up also gives you that precious time to exercise before the rest of the house gets up.

4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Your choice of beverage is crucial to good sleep habits. Avoid both alcohol and caffeine 4 hours before you turn in. Caffeine is a stimulant – it makes it harder to go to sleep, makes you sleep more lightly and makes you get up to go to the loo more often. Booze may help you fall asleep initially, but it causes more frequent night wakings, nightmares and headaches.

5. Keep your room for sleeping (and maybe one other thing)
Your room is sacred – only use it for sleeping and sex. Don’t eat or watch TV or have a lively debate. And make sure it’s dark – don’t give your body any excuse to stay awake.

6. Take a nap
Cats and Spaniards are on to something. Having a siesta isn’t lazy – our bodies are hardwired to nap, so there’s no need to feel guilty. No good at napping? Neither was I until I had my babies. Napping is a skill. Learn it.

Start today. Go take a nap and get an early night tonight. Give the coffee and wine a miss and have a cup of chamomile and a quick meditate instead. Let someone else get up for the kids. Your sleep affects every aspect of your waking life – it’s time to take it seriously.

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How to get over your anger in less than 2 minutes

I’ve been angry this week. Pretty much all week. I’m usually a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-raging-temper-then-it’s-over kinda gal but this week I’ve been holding on to my red mist/black cloud for dear life. Stuff has happened. People have not played nicely. I’ve been properly pissed off.
But today I woke up and thought right, enough of this. Time to let it go.
90 seconds of hell
Apparently that’s all it takes. According to brain researcher, author and TED talker Jill Bolte Taylor, it takes “less than 90 seconds” for an emotion to get triggered, surge chemically through the blood stream, then get flushed out – but only if you let it go.
Problem is you don’t, do you? You hold on to it. Or you resist it completely and it sits there, festering. Resisting anger/fear/pain sucks. It sucks energy and it sucks time and if you let it, it slowly sucks your life away.
Be with the feeling
Often rather than deal with uncomfortable emotions (anger, fear, guilt, pain) you avoid (drink wine, watch TV, engage in a little online retail therapy). But if you pay full attention to the emotion, feel it, acknowledge it – all without judgement or ‘shoulds’, it will dissipate. Sure, it may come back, but you’re in charge. Just repeat the process and 90 seconds later, it’ll be gone again.
Know it’s coming – physical signs and triggers
Listen to your body – chances are it’s giving you physical signs that the emotion’s on its way such as a tensed jaw, increased heart rate, palpitations, a tightening in the throat. Whatever your physical signs, these are your body’s alarm bells so pay attention. Also, know your triggers. If you’re meeting someone who is renowned for running late and lack of punctuality really pisses you off, be prepared and ready to manage the anger.
Breathe and vocalise the feeling
Take some slow, steady breaths to deliver a healthy dose of calming oxygen to the brain. Next, focus on what you’re feeling. Then vocalise it. Don’t judge, just say something like “I’m starting to get angry” or I’m feeling anxious about this”. Labelling your feelings buys you time and allows the logical bit of your brain to weaken the fight or flight response.
Meditate like Richard Gere
Richard Gere reckons meditation helps us access the space between thoughts and helps us restrain our impulsive emotional reactions. He uses a lovely analogy to explain this: we may be all stormy on the surface but meditating strengthens our ability to access the calm water below. And remember, a daily meditation practice doesn’t need to be a chore – see my post on meditation frustration for a few tips.
Anyway, Richard finishes his little video on a nice note, so I’m going to steal it. You can’t stop thoughts, but you can stop your attachment to them. It’s the same with emotions.
Anger – I’m sorry. We’ve had our moments but the moments have passed. I don’t want to rock the boat but it’s anchors up for you. Off you go on your stormy way. I’ve got some deep sea diving to do.

Meditation frustration

I hate meditation. No, actually, that’s not true – I just hate the way it makes me feel. I don’t like paying $20+ for some smug muppet in top-to-toe Lululemon to tell me to “quiet my mind”. My mind likes a chat. It’s an over sharer and not a great listener – a bit like me.
Tell my mind to ‘be still’ and it’s guaranteed to go into overdrive. “Ooohhh, Bec there’s that thing you forgot to do. I wonder if blah blah has had the baby yet? You should check Facebook. What are you going to have for dinner? You ate three Tim Tams last night so you better eat something healthy. You’re crap at this meditating malarkey. What’s wrong with you?”

So yeah, meditation is not our friend. My mind and I don’t like meditation because it makes us feel inadequate.

On the other hand, I don’t like to feel like I’ve failed. So I thought I’d give it one last crack and signed up for The 21 Day Meditation Project. Mainly because it’s free, but also because it’s online (so no Lululemon), it’s guided (so someone else tells my mind what to do – she doesn’t listen to me), oh, and the longest meditation is 16 minutes, with most around the 10 minute mark. Even I can commit to that.

I’m on day 9 and meditation is starting to grow on my mind and me. In fact, if we don’t get our daily minutes of meditation, we really miss it. Maybe it’s the not-so-scary commitment of ten or so minutes a day for just 21 days; maybe it’s simply the ritual of having these daily moments to ourselves. But maybe meditation, just maybe, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

In the beginning…

My last post was all about being epic. This one is about momentum. It’s all well and good saying “yeah, I’ll be epic. Easy!” But actually doing something? Now that’s a bit of a challenge. But why? Why is it so hard to actually start something? Not just something – the thing you really, really, really want to do?

Whatever the dream is – starting your own business, publishing a novel, losing weight, becoming a yogi, climbing Everest… writing about natural health and wellbeing (just as an example) – we can be our own worst enemies. I for one spend countless hours thinking up scenarios where things go wrong. How spectacular are the ways in which I fail in my imagination…
You know what? You don’t do, you can’t fail. But you also can’t succeed. And isn’t that worse?
A wise man once said: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” My husband has since fessed up that he nicked it from Goethe. Details. It’s an awesome quote and one I now have over my computer to give me an eloquent kick up the bum. 
So apart from pinning Goethe quotes to my wall, here are my four top tips to help you begin:
  1. Five is the magic number. Whether it’s running for five minutes, writing five sentences, doing five yoga poses, or talking to five new people a day, just do it for five. If you still don’t fancy it after that, give up and try another day. But 90% of the time you’re going to want to carry on.
  2. Breathe. There’s always time to breathe. Try this simple breathing exercise to bring you back into your body.
  3. Schedule it in. Nope it’s not very spontaneous or ‘in the moment’, but it works. Block out the time. Set calendar reminders. Turn off your phone and shut the door. 
  4. Be gentle with yourself. This is crucial. Would you talk to others the way you talk to yourself? Of course you wouldn’t, so stop being so damn mean. If your mind wanders into procrastination or worse, criticism, notice and gently guide it back to the present and the positive.

Right. That’s enough reading blog posts. Get out of here – go forth and begin it.