Posts tagged ‘goals’

February 7, 2013

Sleep for dummies

by Dave P.

I’m so tired, I haven’t slept a wink
I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink
I wonder, should I get up and fix myself a drink?
No no no
~ The Beatles (lyrics by John Lennon)

“I’m so stupid, I can’t even sleep! What’s wrong with me?!!” Those are some thoughts that used to go through my head when I’d lay awake at night, unable to sleep. I’d sometimes get so mad at myself, I’d punch myself in the head. I often wished I could cry myself to sleep, but wasn’t able to. It was pure hell.

Insomnia is a horrible condition. It leads people to drink, do drugs, and give up on life. Michael Jackson suffered from severe insomnia and required medically induced sleep. It eventually killed him. The great American blues guitarist Michael Bloomfield had the same problem. It destroyed his career. He turned to heroin for relief, which eventually killed him.

Unhappiness and discontentment often cause insomnia. When you don’t have something worthwhile in your life to look forward to, it affects your sleep. When you have strong meaning in life, you tend to sleep like a baby.

Everyone suffers from an occasional sleepless night, but when the problem becomes chronic, you begin spiraling downward — out of control. Every task becomes arduous. You can’t think clearly. You feel lousy. Your speech becomes slurred. You can’t remember anything. You don’t feel like talking to anyone. You become irritable. You can’t pay attention. All you can think about is going home and going to bed, but then when you’re in bed, you can’t sleep, and you think about all the things that are going wrong in your life. You dread the coming day.

People who suffer from insomnia often spend a lot of time reading books about insomnia. While proper sleep hygiene is important, spending an inordinate amount of time reading about insomnia isn’t going to help and can actually make your problem worse.

When people are unhappy, they often do things that reinforce their unhappiness, like reading about depression, insomnia, or other problems. They do so because they can relate to the material. We experience temporary pleasure when we connect with something. Even a good cry provides us with pleasure by stimulating the release of endorphins in the brain.

The problem with spending too much time learning about your problems is it strengthens the negative thinking part of the brain. What is needed is the opposite — the exercise of the positive thinking part of the brain! But that’s a bit difficult when you feel crappy due to lack of sleep. But there is hope.

First of all, take a step back at your life and ask yourself where you want to be in five or ten years. What are your goals and aspirations? Don’t factor in your insomnia because we’re going to solve that problem. What do you want out of life? Friends? Family? A career? A nice home? Hobbies? Don’t say, “a lot of money.” While it takes money to acquire some of the things we want in life, it in itself will not make you happy. And be realistic. Setting a goal to learn how to fly will only lead to disappointment or worse if you actually try to fly!

Goals provide us with meaning in life. Now, what would it take to achieve those goals? Set a course. Again, ignore your insomnia for now. What will it take? Training? Additional education? Just hard work? Map out your path. Remember to keep it positive. At this point, it may seem futile because it’s hard to do anything when you can’t sleep, but that is simply an obstacle that can be overcome.

Next, we’ll address sleep hygiene.

Wind down before going to bed. Write down anything that’s bothering you or problems that you need to address the next day. That will cut down on the ruminations and worry.

Meditate before going into your bedroom. Meditation actually gets you into a pre-sleep state with increased alpha brain waves.

Keep your bedroom cool. Your body releases tryptophan and increases serotonin levels as it cools, which cause drowsiness. A hot shower before bed will raise your body temperature, and you’ll feel tired when it cools down. Exercise also raises your body temperature, so don’t engage in any strenuous activities before bed. Sex may be the exception.

You can meditate while in bed to help you fall asleep. Simply observe the sensation of air flowing through your nostrils — the cool air entering and warm air exiting. Listen to the sounds of the night. Feel the comfort of your bed. Just observe.

If you live in a noisy area, some earplugs can help. A sleep mask can provide you with a dark environment — even during the day.

But what do you do when your brain won’t shut down when you’re trying to fall asleep? After all… it’s dark and quiet — the perfect time to think about things without any disruption! We seem to get some kind of satisfaction from rehashing our problems, but it also generates anxiety. There is also the worry about not being able to sleep, which, of course, prevents you from sleeping.

Many people resort to sleeping pills or alcohol to help them fall asleep, which often do help you sleep, but they affect the quality of sleep. You’ll spend less time in deep sleep and not feel refreshed when you awaken. Personally, sleeping pills always made me feel worse than if I didn’t sleep at all. I’d feel dizzy and spaced out the next day.

If you’re not really worried about anything but your mind just won’t shut down, often simply observing your breath can help. But if your thoughts are high in emotional content, extra strength thought-stopping techniques are needed!

I’ve written about this before, but it works well for those who have tried it. Get into a comfortable position and simply close your eyes and slowly and gently move them back and forth. You can combine this technique with mindfulness practice. Observe your breath, but when a thought enters your consciousness, move your eyes back and forth to erase it. Then return to your mindfulness practice. If you’re feeling anxious, move your eyes back and forth until you have calmed down. Then go back to your mindfulness practice.

If you’ve suffer from severe, chronic insomnia, you might benefit from SSRIs such as paroxetine (generic Paxil). They cause drowsiness and reduce anxiety. Ask your doctor if it might help.

Once you get your insomnia under control, you’re free to pursue your goals and reach your potential.

February 7, 2013

Exposure therapy: Experience life

by Dave P.

You Cannot Win If You Do Not Play
~ Steve Forbert

There’s only so much progress you can make by reading or listening to advice. You can develop an understanding of your issues, and you can accept them. You can recognize that it wasn’t your fault if you were abused or bullied. But you’re not going to overcome your problems unless you get out there in the world and experience life.

An obvious application is that of public speaking anxiety. You can develop your skills and self-efficacy that you can deliver a speech competently. You can deliver your speech to your dog, your family, or friends. But until you get out in front of an audience, you won’t be exposed to the elements that cause public speaking anxiety, and those are people!

People, for the most part, are harmless. The chance that anyone in the audience is going to cause you any physical harm is minuscule. Emotional pain activates the same parts of the brain as physical pain, though. Having the right attitude is essential to avoid a negative reaction, and that deals with not worrying what people think about you. People might not like your physical appearance  your voice, or your style. No matter who you are, there are going to be critics. If you like yourself and you’re having fun, it doesn’t matter what others think.

The DISH Method applies to all aspects of life. DISH stands for: Develop your skills, Incorporate your personality, Stop the negative thinking, and Have fun!

To be able to enjoy yourself in social situations requires social skills. You need to be able to carry on a conversation, have something interesting to say, and be able to say it. Some people claim that don’t know what to talk about, which is why they hated socializing. The world is a fascinating place. There is a lot going on out there. All you need to do is open your eyes and learn about it, whether it has to do with people, places, or things. Develop a passion for learning and understanding. Learn how to convey your interests to others. If you have a passion for what you’re saying, so will others. If you are trying to impress others with your knowledge, though, you’re not going to win friends or influence anyone.

Incorporate your personality into everything you do. Your individuality is what makes you interesting. Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Live authentically. If you’re trying to be someone you’re not, you’re wasting time by not living up to your potential.

Stop the negative thinking. People with low self-esteem too often discount the positive and focus on the negative. They think people are just being nice if they get a complement, and they believe that their successes are anomalies. Failure is their natural state of being. They learn that they are helpless — that no matter how much effort they exert, they’re destined to fail. Because of that, they often do fail.

You are the star of your life. Until you accept that, you have very little chance of being happy. Sure, we want others like us;  our relationships generate happiness and allow us to manage stress. But the main thing is that you like yourself, and you can only do that by being the kind of person you would admire and respect. It involves dignity, self-respect, self-assertiveness, and self-growth. It’s about setting goals — both short and long term, and working towards their attainment. Goals lead us forward in life. Never stop learning.

Plato once said, “Life should be lived as play.” I repeat that quote fairly often because it’s too easy to forget and get bogged down in the muck and mire of life. We have the ability to experience pleasure in almost any activity — even work! One of the keys is living mindfully. Even the act of washing the dishes can be an enjoyable experience when performed completely in the present. Observe the sensation of the water running over your hands. Observe the sounds and smells. If you become efficient at the task, you can achieve a state of flow, which generates even more pleasure.

Attitude is everything in life. If you go into a situation so afraid to fail that you’re anxious, you are not living up to your potential. But if you recognize that you are the star of your life and that you’re not here on earth to live up to someone else’s expectations, you can’t help but win. But as the old saying goes: “you cannot win if you do not play.”

January 6, 2012

Goals

by Dave P.

“Our goals lead us forward, they call for the exercise of our facilities and energize our existence.”
~ Nathaniel Branden

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