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If you’ve been following this series of posts on Managing Overwhelm, you may have tried at least one of the active recovery practices I suggested in the last post, and I hope you experienced a lift in your capacity as a result. (Email me - I’d love to hear how it went).
This time we’re going beyond “burnout recovery” to the root of almost everything: rest.
“Active recovery” means activities which put your body into rest-and-digest mode - crucial for dealing with stress in your life. This is one half of a bigger stress management picture. If you really want to build up your resilience, get out of overwhelm forever and be burnout-proof, you need to tackle the other half of the picture, which is your relationship with sleep.
Do. Not. Scrimp. On. Sleep.
The research is conclusive. You need at least 8 hours a night. At least.
Chronic exhaustion is probably driving most of the challenges you’re experiencing right now, whether they are deeply practical or highly emotional.
Lack of sleep affects both your ability to think clearly and stay calm under pressure, as well as physical resilience. Sleep deprivation leads to poor decisions. Disorganisation. Conflict. Avoidable illness (that cold that you pick up because you’re “run down”) all of which can snowball you into chaos in surprisingly little time.
Over the long and short term, sleep is probably the biggest thing you can do to impact your mental and physical health, more powerful than any therapy or personal development activity out there.
Psychiatrist Dan Siegel is said to have been able to sign more than half of his psychiatric patients off after 3 weeks of training in good sleep hygiene. That’s how important it is.
I know you want to get on with your to-do list. AND getting your sleep sorted is the thing that will make the biggest difference to your performance and wellbeing now and over the long haul. Don’t wait for the signs of burnout. Start NOW.
This is one place you can push: get obsessed about going to bed. Go on a sleep hygiene rampage.
Here’s your essential science-backed sleep checklist.
This stuff is universally true for human bodies, meaning that most of it likely DOES work for you. Start working on it now and keep tweaking and persisting til your sleep is bombproof. It will change your life.
Be in bed for 9 hours to get 8 hours sleep
Sleep in a cold (18 degrees C), dark, quiet room
Be careful about caffeine, alcohol and other substances
Hydration through the day
No food 2 hours before bed
Go to bed/get up at the same time every day (including weekends!)
No screens/stress or mental strain 2 hours before bed
Have a power down routine and stick to it (refer to the active recovery list from yesterday)
Get enough exercise (again, not too close to bedtime)
Napping for world domination
I have reclaimed many afternoons from zombie apocalypse by having a short nap.
Not everyone can nap without it affecting their night-time sleep, but many of us, especially when we’re in burnout, actually sleep better at night if we nap.
But there’s a right and a wrong way to do this!
Set a timer and take either 20 minutes or 90 minutes - anything in between and you’ll go into a deeper sleep and won’t complete the cycle, leaving you groggy and underfunctioning.
Think you don’t have time to nap? You’ll probably waste at least 20 minutes scrolling Facebook, getting into an argument or doing something you didn’t want to do but were too tired to say no to. Try it.
And… I know this kind of conversation can be contentious. Hit me up with your biggest objections in the comments. I can’t wait to get my hands on them!