By Laura Berger
Arianna Huffington recently launched her new bestseller, Thrive. I attended a launch event, and during a one-on-one discussion we had after her speech, she asked me write a piece on how women thrive. It got me to thinking about a sound and witty take away from her speech and book—sleep your way to the top!
The three critical inputs to a successful and fulfilling life are:
- The food we eat
- The thoughts we think
- The sleep we get
You will see that the latter two are intricately entwined in a moment, but let’s turn our sights to sleep. How odd that everyone experiences real evidence of the adverse effects of not getting proper sleep (diminished alertness and logic, general health issues, a lesser ability to maintain healthy relationships, increased risk in carrying out physical activities, and even obesity) every day and do nothing. We say we want to fix it, but where do we start?
A good place to look is anxiety.
Just as we can use sleep as a tool to improve our lives, our culture is shifting to promote anxiety as a tool to destroy it.
How many people are in your life that when you call them give you their stress resume with all the reasons they can’t even pay attention to what you’re saying? In an economy seeming to have less true upward mobility, doesn’t it feel like stress is quickly becoming the new quintessential status symbol?
Moreover, anxiety makes you stupid. The more you fuel yourself with stress, the less thought-efficient you will be, and the less sleep you will get. And less sleep incidentally begets more stress and confusion. We can all relate to those nights, tossing and turning, the gremlins scaring us to the point that by the time the alarm goes off, the sky is falling when we should be refreshed for a new day.
And in the context of LifeLeaps, and taking charge of your life path, how can you possibly build the tenacity, endurance, and clear thinking required to be your own navigator under these conditions?
We can’t just transform our lives overnight.
We may need to hold our current job while we start a new business, for example. We can’t candy-coat it. Change is stressful enough as it is.
Permanent change requires deep reflection and unabashed awareness—the exact opposite of self-induced anxiety. We all have a sacred place within us where we experience peace and joy, so how can we tap into it, lower the anxiety, and increase sleep?
Find Pollyanna: Martin Seligman, Director of the Penn Psychology Center, theorizes that 60 percent of happiness is determined by our genetics and environment. Surround yourself with Pollyanna friends. Call, email, text and grab coffee with someone who thinks good things will always happen and finds something good in everything. These friends will help you talk through positive solutions to your anxieties.
Stop hailing cabs: It’s no mystery that your body needs more energy when it burns energy. Exercise prompts your body to replenish that energy with sleep, and secreted endorphins and dopamine are natural tranquilizers for your anxiety. Even fifteen minutes of aerobic exercise per day can help.
Meditate: This doesn’t have to be mystical voodoo, with enough incense to bring three fire brigades to your front door. The important part is to set aside two recurring times per day where you just stop in silence for even five minutes. And if in that moment of silence your find yourself dozing off, great! Don’t judge yourself for not having meditated. You just got a bit of shut-eye! Doing so reminds your body that it is OK to stop every once in a while. Otherwise, your body adapts to its master. You can train it to constantly be on the go to the point of collapse.
Journal: Like meditation, this doesn’t have to be a big production in a diary with a titanium reinforced lock. You don’t even have to write anything profound. How many times have you said or heard: “If I could only get these thoughts out of my head, then . . .” This is a great opportunity to do just that. Your mind constantly witnesses the laws of physics in action and functions, in many ways, based on those same laws. Just free-write—nothing more complicated than a 5-10 minute session per day (you can do this in place of your meditation in the prior point) and babble—or free-associate—on the page. Whatever you do, don’t stop. Words keep flowing to the page, whether they make sense or not. You’ll be amazed at the psychophysics of your mind seeing those thoughts outside itself, and you’ll discover a million insights and solutions that you never dreamed were inside you.
Want to change your life? Would you rather triumph on a foundation of poise or drown in a sea of disquiet? So stop manufacturing stress as a status symbol and begin creating calm! The techniques above are not difficult and provide longevity, happiness, and good health. The true status symbol is life on your own terms which should include a good night sleep. So what are you waiting for?
Two free chapters of Radical Sabbatical, the Amazon bestseller by Laura Berger and Glen Tibaldeo, are available at www.radicalsabbaticalbook.com. They can be found on Twitter @lifeleaps.