Doron Lazarus offers some practical suggestions of how to leave stress and anxiety where they belong and out of the bedroom to allow you to sleep great, no matter what is going on.
Are you feeling that tension right about now? Is it the latest wave of COVID that is causing stress? (As if we didn’t have anything to worry about before COVID). Perhaps it’s a personal financial issue? New job or conflict in the workplace? Having a rough time with your spouse or your kid acting up?
How did I know? Because we are human and part of being alive is having these struggles. And let’s be honest, the Jewish community is not known for our chilled-out personalities and carefree lifestyles. Pesach is always less than a year away and, frankly, it seems that we sometimes make up something to stress about if there is nothing else major going on. I mean, wasn’t your shul’s board meeting a little bit too intense trying to figure out what they’d serve for kiddush?
But how can we go on with our stressful and busy lives without letting these things eat away at our sleep? It’s one thing to feel the stress in the principal’s office or the workplace conference room, but what happens when it doesn’t end there?
How are we supposed to sleep when that stress lodges inside our neck and back, causing us to toss and turn the whole night in discomfort? Or what about when, as our head hits the pillow, our mind is flooded with worry, doubt, dread and planning our entire life?
Insomnia is very real. In fact, we live in the most sleep-deprived generation in the history of the world. The majority of adults in the U.S. will struggle with insomnia at one point in the year, one-third of them experiencing insomnia on a regular basis. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
And the solution is not running away from stress either. Although it does sound nice to leave everything behind and relax in a hammock swaying in the Caribbean right about now, it is not always so feasible; and yes, you can sleep well even with everything going on.
Have you ever wondered, how do leaders of nations and generals in the military actually sleep with the pressure of the lives of millions of people in their hands? The secret is not avoiding stress, it’s learning to filter it out and process it differently.
Let me offer you some practical suggestions of how to leave stress and anxiety where they belong and out of the bedroom to allow you to sleep great, no matter what is going on.
1. Cell Phone: Yes, I know you’ve probably seen this a hundred times, but honestly, really smart people tend to be terrible at this. You have a choice: your smart phone or your sleep. I know it sounds radical, but unless you are a doctor on call, turn your smartphone off at 9 p.m. It doesn’t belong in your bedroom.
2. Worry Time: You need to give yourself time to get that worrying out of your system. Designate 20 minutes a day, ideally in the evening, and get out a pen and paper and pour out your concerns. Plan your next day. Right out some of your emotional angst. If talking things out is better for you then find a friend. You don’t need to come to a resolution, but you do need to process thoughts and emotions beyond your own head.
3. Sacred Space: Kabbalistically, a couple’s bedroom in their home parallels the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem. And that means that the bedroom is for sleep and intimacy — that’s it. Keep your work laptop and your boss’s orders out of there. Working from home can be great; but keep it out of the bedroom.
4. Intense Conversations: How often does it happen that a couple will finally have some quiet time to speak around 10 or 11 p.m., only to then find themselves embroiled in some intense discussion that morphs into an argument about the kids, the finances or the in-laws? Couples do need time to speak these things out, but they need to carve out a different time — not right before bed.
5. Change Your Mindset: 90% of stress is from the way you process the events, not the events themselves. Let’s say you and your family are under financial hardship and drowning in credit card debt. Some things, despite our best efforts, turn out in less than desirable circumstances. But the reaction is up to us.
You can create the narrative in your head. One person might think, “I’m never going to get out of this debt. I’m such a failure. I’m going to die impoverished; it’s all over”. While another person can think, “I have phenomenal coping skills. I will totally get through this. I am inherently precious and valuable no matter how my bank account is.”
So, the choice is yours. Sleep is literally the foundation of our physical and mental health. It’s one of the greatest investments we can make, yielding a bounty of energy, health and success.
Doron Lazarus is a Certified Sleep Science Coach, a Rapid Transformation Therapist and the founder of Executive Sleep Consulting, an online sleep practice dedicated to transforming the sleep of his clients all over the world. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or online at www.executivesleep.org.