Category Archives: sleep

Productivity paralysis? 6 daily habits that help you get shit done

Daily habitsA little while ago I made a big life change, leaving my grown-up job for the greener pastures of freelance writing. It’s been a few weeks, but I’m still struggling to get into my productivity groove.

My current daily routine looks something like this: press snooze button, rush out of bed, quick shower before husband leaves for work (optional), throw down strong coffee. Yell at my kids to get their bloody shoes on cos we’re late and mum was supposed to start work 10 minutes ago. Throw sobbing children at childcare worker. Drive home erratically. Procrastinate. Check email. Check Facebook. Drink more coffee. Check Facebook again.

At the end of most days I tally up my ‘productive’ work hours and feel crap about myself.

So obviously I need to form some new daily habits.

Here are 6 daily habits I’m implementing this week in the hope they become as routine as my morning caffeine palpitations.

1. Green exercise
Working at home is bloody hard. I often fall prey to creativity-sucking cabin fever. So I’m getting out and doing some green exercise. A brisk walk/bike ride/stretch in nature can positively impact your health and wellbeing, relieve stress, and promote concentration and clear thinking. I’m sure there is a park or a little grassy area close to you, so no excuses. Get out there.

2. Mindful eating
I’ve got work to do – ooh what shall I eat? Chocolate or an apple. Yes, chocolate. Shit, no chocolate. I wonder if apples and peanut butter are a good combo?

Eating has become a form of distraction for me. I eat in front of the computer or on the go. I make dodgy choices. So I’m making a conscious effort to eat food that makes my body happy and to sit down when I’m eating (away from smart devices). I’m also trying to eat more slowly. Chewing until each bite liquefies makes your food more easily digestible, allowing you to absorb the maximum nutrients. Taking your time also helps your body notice when it’s full.

3. Meditation
I may have mentioned this – meditation doesn’t come naturally to me. I need short, guided meditation or else my chatty mind gets all anxious. I’ve been a fan of Headspace for a while, but my daily meditation habit has become more like weekly. So I’ve signed up to a paid program for some additional incentive and scheduled meditation minutes into my work calendar. The other issue is that when I do manage to meditate, I fall asleep. Which probably means I need to…

4. …Get 8 hours’ sleep a night
According to sleep experts, 6.5 to to 9 hours of solid sleep every night can lower stress levels, may reduce weight gain and can even lower your chances of premature death. Fewer than 6.5 hours a day and your risk of dying early increases by 10%. More than 9.5 hours and your chances of dying increase even more than if you sleep too little… Who would have thought that a lie-in could be life-threatening?

The time you go to bed is important too. According to the 24-hour chi cycle, the gallbladder detoxes the body from 11pm and 1pm, while the liver detoxes most effectively from 1am-3am. So get to bed before 11pm and help your body flush those nasties out.

5. Breathe
I sometimes feel like I’ve been holding my breath all day. Shallow breaths deprive the brain, blood and cells of oxygen, affecting concentration, making you feel grumpy and stressed, and stimulating the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. Focus on your breath for a moment. Breathe deeply in and out of your nose. Fill your lungs. You’ll get an instant dose of calm.

6. Digitally disengage
This is the biggest time-sucker for me. I work at a computer and spend so much time on social procrastination – flicking between writing, checking email, Facebook, blogs, the weather. It stops me facing the difficult stuff – the stuff I’m actually supposed to be doing. Be a hard arse with yourself. Close your browser and email. Turn off all notifications for Facebook, Twitter etc. If that’s still not working, unplug your modem or go somewhere that has no internet connection/WiFi – apparently these strange places do still exist.

Each of these daily habits takes just minutes to do. They may add up to an hour a day, but think about all the time you’re currently wasting on unproductive ‘stuff’ and you’ll see it’s an hour well spent.

Start small. Choose 3 habits and give it a week. Let’s get into the productivity groove together and get into a new habit – making shit happen.

Wanna find out how my ‘habits’ week went? See my Happy Habits Update (warning: it gets messy…)

Image courtesy of gratisography.

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6 simple ways to cope with feeling overwhelmed

how to cope with being overwhelmedI missed a blog post the other week. You may not have noticed, but for me it was a big deal. I’d made a promise to myself you see — when something’s got to give, it can’t be Wellbeing bites. Not the blog.

But it did give.

I made the time, honestly I did. I sat down. Clicked Add New Post… and I couldn’t write.

You see, there were emails flagged in my inbox waiting to be read/actioned, piles of laundry, a messy house, paperwork to be filed, impossible freelance deadlines I’d said yes to, bills to pay, work projects and tasks to finish, a family that needed quality time, and meditation and exercise I wasn’t finding time to do.

I was overwhelmed. “Too much”, my brain and body kept saying. I pushed on. But I still wasn’t getting it done. And what I was getting to was getting done half-arsed.

When you feel overwhelmed, it’s hard to see straight. Here are a few coping strategies that might help.

1. Prioritise and delegate
What truly needs to be done? Really — do you need to clean the bathroom? Will it matter? Will it affect your quality of life? If the answer is no, eliminate it. If yes, ask do I have to do it? Delegate if you can. With what’s left, make a to-do list, order it by priority, and tick stuff off when it’s done.

2. Say no
Do you say yes a lot? Are you constantly trying to please everyone and meet their expectations? Are you scared of looking weak or missing out? Over-burdening yourself leads to decreased effectiveness, and eventually, to burnout. Not productive. Say no when you can. Set limits. You’ll be amazed how much respect people have for you, your time and your talents when you use that one tiny word.

3. Single task
When I’m overwhelmed I tend to flick between tasks, getting nothing finished. Research has shown that you can only process one activity at a time. Multi-tasking makes you feel scattered and even more overwhelmed. Do one thing at a time.

4. Stick to a schedule
Scheduling is not just for work. Book in time for your kids, a monthly date night, time to exercise, a few minutes a day to meditate, an hour a week to write your blog. Use your phone calendar or write it in a diary. Whatever works for you. And stick to it.

5. Sleep
One of the first things to go when you’re overwhelmed is sleep. But sleep is non-negotiable. Lack of sleep causes irreparable damage to our brains. So take a nap, cut down on caffeine and alcohol and find time to exercise — a National Sleep Foundation‘s poll found that people who exercise regularly experience better quality and more consistent sleep than those who don’t.

6. Put it in perspective
I found this quote through my old friend Google. I don’t know who said it — some genuis.

“Being overwhelmed comes from a breakdown of your thoughts about your life, not a breakdown of your life.”

At the risk of sounding like an arsehole, are your over calculating the life altering-ness of this particular problem? Will the sky fall? Look back and you’ll realise that almost all of the problems you’ve ever had are no longer problems. They got solved. It worked out. Trust that this will probably work out too.

Feeling overwhelmed is our body and brain’s cry for help. You can ignore it, let it debilitate or panic you, or see it as an opportunity to slow down, reassess and reboot.

Today I clicked Add New Post, stayed on the page and rewrote things according to my rules.

Overwhelmed with love for Wellbeing bites? Of course you are! Sign up to follow WB by email and I promise I won’t overwhelm you with anything other than you signed up for. 

Image from www.gratisography.com

A beginner’s guide to finding the beauty in burnout

I have to confess. I let things get the better of me this week. There have been tears before bedtime. And after bedtime. And in the office loos. And even a little train sob or two (cunningly disguised with sunglasses).

I’m a woman on the edge. I’m not sleeping. My skin is in teenage breakout mode. I’m snapping at my kids. I’m anxious about everything. I can’t get my shit together. I feel completely drained.

Stress? That’s part of it. Anxiety? Nup — doesn’t quite cover it.

Burnout.

Yeah, that fits. Burnout.

Burnout is the exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation, usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.

It’s a state of joylessness. And it feels pretty shitty.

I can’t tell you how to stop the burnout — I wish I could. But maybe, just maybe I can help you transform your thinking about burnout.

Rather than the idea of burnout as a failure or ending, try reframing it as the precursor to transformation and change. Burnout is a new beginning. A beautiful new beginning.

Here are a few steps that might help you uncover the beauty in burnout.

1. Take a break
When you’re in burnout phase, you actually can’t function, so if you don’t give your body, mind and spirit the chance to recuperate, you’re going to get stuck. If you can, take a holiday, a day or two off, or even just set aside some time to relax. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to ‘fix’ things. Take long walks. Take long baths. Meditate. Breathe.

2. Focus on the body first
When your body feels healthy and recharged, so does your mind. So eat well, exercise gently (but only if it’s fun), nap and get enough sleep. Sleep is critical. Lack of sleep can have a negative impact on cognitive function, productivity, lifespan, and causes irreparable damage to our brains. Get some sweet sleep tips here.

3. Be good to yourself
When we’re in burnout we tend to beat ourselves up. I can’t cope. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be like XYZ? Why can’t I get my shit together? Because you’re burnt out. Your body is trying to tell you something. Practice a little bit of self-love. Stop being a meanie.

4. Now you’ve given yourself some space, create
You’re rested. Now get up and change it up. It’s too easy to simply get back on the treadmill and get burnt out again. Try doing this stuff instead:

Set some boundaries. Whether it’s work or family, say no when you feel you need to. And mean it.

Dream again. Spend some time daydreaming and pose some “what ifs”. Burnout makes you feel stuck. Now’s the time to imagine life without limits.

Be inspired and create. If your burnout’s work-related, start taking baby steps towards doing work you’d love. Start a blog. Do some internet research. Sign up for a course. Contact someone you admire professionally.

Take responsibility. Your burnout is no one else’s fault. Sure your boss is an arsehole and maybe your kids drive you crazy but stop expecting them to change. No one else is going to fix it for you. Assume responsibility and take back your power.

Burnout can be beautiful. It can be the best thing that ever happens to you. Because it can be the first sign of a new beginning.

Take small steps. Brick by brick, you can create something incredible and rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of your beautiful burnout.

Like this blog post? Please share it, tweet it, pass it on. Do your funky social media thang. And while you’re here, please sign up to follow Wellbeing bites by email. Promise I won’t spam you. I’m good like that. 

Why FOMO is making us miss out on health and happiness

When my oldest son was a baby, he wasn’t a big fan of sleep. We used to laugh (hysterically, in our sleep-deprived state) that he had severe fear of missing out, or FOMO.

Today, the whole world seems to be suffering from FOMO, and the epidemic is no laughing matter. Apparently FOMO’s having some seriously negative impacts on our wellbeing and mental health.

According to a news.com.au article, a recent study found that “lower levels of need satisfaction, general mood, and overall life satisfaction related to seeking out social media engagement only insofar as they related to higher overall levels of FOMO.”

And it’s a vicious circle. People who have FOMO check social media more often, which only increases their FOMO symptoms.

Facebook is a prime example of FOMO in action, with its potential to cause insecurity, envy and anxiety.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like Facebook.

I use Facebook to:

  • post (retouched/usually with filter) photos of my family and me
  • circulate these awesome blog posts
  • boast about the good stuff (like 75% of us) and whinge about the bad stuff (like 36% of us).

I don’t use Facebook to:

  • tell the world about my completely average day where nothing out of the ordinary happened
  • post photos of myself looking average with no makeup
  • post average out of focus photos of my kids that aren’t particularly cute or funny.

See the pattern? The ‘average’ stuff doesn’t make the grade.

And yet you look at friends’ Facebook posts and think wow, he’s so photogenic, her kids are so clever and beautiful, his job is so amazing, her life is so much more interesting than mine.

Why is my life so ‘average’?

You know you do. I do it too.

Suddenly that idea that Facebook causes insecurity, envy and anxiety doesn’t seem that far off the mark does it?
Facebook (most social media actually) is a movie trailer. It’s all the best bits. The car chases, the first kisses, the explosions and the heroics. IT IS NOT REAL LIFE.

So what can we do about FOMO so it doesn’t turn into insecurity, envy and anxiety?

Be in the moment and be grateful for your ‘now’
Take a minute to realise that you will always be missing out on something. You will never be able to simultaneously travel the world, marry the love of your life, be glowingly pregnant, be free and single, be an incredible parent, look like a supermodel, run a marathon, quit smoking, lose weight, get your dream job, win the lottery, build a house. It is impossible. Enjoy what you are doing now. Enjoy who you are with at this moment.

Take a digital detox
Yes, I’ve banged on about this before but seriously, just switch off for a bit. A few days ago, I left the house without my phone. I freaked out (FOMO). What would I do on the train? How would anyone contact me? But as the day went on, I actually quite enjoyed it. Since then, I’ve limited my social media use and banned phone checks at wake up and lights out.

Be social in other ways
Make a point of organising an actual face-to-face catch up with friends. Family overseas? Call or Skype. Take a walk outside and look up rather than at a screen. Enjoy reaping some real-life return on investment.

Try JOMO instead of FOMO
FOMO is all about fear. JOMO (joy of missing out) is about joy. OK so its a bit of a lame acronym but the thinking behind it makes so much sense. FOMO is filled with ‘shoulds’ — I should be doing more cool stuff, I should be travelling, I should be more attractive… JOMO is about just being — enjoying the here and now and not missing out by frantically trying to record it through rose-tinted specs for the sole purpose of social media sharing.

You can join the fight against FOMO right now. Turn off your phone. Mute your social media alerts. Go outside and look at the world. Talk to someone.

You never know what you might be missing out on.

If you like this post, please sign up to follow Wellbeing bites by email and/or leave me a comment. You could also share on Facebook (or like Wellbeing bites’ FB page) or Twitter but it kinda feels wrong to suggest that considering the content of this FOMO post….

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.