I ended my last post by posing a question to the Universe: How do I find the balance between working hard and achieving results, and being fully grounded in my life and peacefully sleeping at night? I haven’t ever achieved this in my adult life. Probably the last uninterrupted stretch was my sophomore year in high school… and that was a long time ago! So, I am venturing out to discover a New Way of Being.
I have always been more in my head than in my body. School came naturally for me and I was praised for learning things quickly and getting good grades. Instead of playing sports, my sister and I spent our free time creating a school with our stuffed animals. When I later became a teacher, I joked that I started on-the-job-training when I was 8 years old. Learning and proving what I had learned was something I excelled in.
That way of being is encouraged in our culture. Many school districts are cutting back on or even eliminating programs such as art, music, P.E. – even recess! – believing it is a waste of time because it is not directly related to learning academic facts. I was easily able to sit at a desk and concentrate for long periods of time, and my teachers rewarded this.
Sleep became a problem for me junior year of high school when I identified too fully with being a star student and put too much pressure on myself to always perform at the top of the class. My strategy at the time and for the following 28 years was to muscle through it. I had to keep applying the pressure in order to force myself to do things even when I was exhausted. It sort of worked. I was able to get a lot done – but at what cost?
Finally, I wasn’t able to live that way anymore. I left my stressful job and spent the next few years re-evaluating everything. I spent a lot more time Being and a lot less time Doing than I had in the past. And it felt really good. Sleep, my health, my marriage, and overall enjoyment of life had never been higher. But this way of life was not financially sustainable. So I needed to step it up again… and here I am, asking the question, “How can I do it differently this time?”
Since I published that last article, sleep has been fantastic. Most nights I haven’t even woken up to go to the bathroom, which is a welcome change. My feelings of being cranky and on edge have given way to feelings of deep peace and well-being, and I am grateful.
These past couple weeks I have finally fully owned that as a person who thrives on learning and mental stimulation, I need to take extra care to connect with other parts of myself every day. While being in my head feels familiar and exciting, it is not sustainable for me to live there all the time. While I need to make sure I honor my commitments to my work and goals and devote the best, most productive hours of my day to achieving them, I need to set some pretty firm boundaries in the evening.
For most of my life I have needed to work evenings to prepare for the next day. This was not good for my sleep or my health, but it was required for my work. My husband is still in such a work situation, so my default is to head for my computer when he heads for his. But this is not a healthy pattern for me. Whether I’m squeezing in some extra work or ending up on email or Facebook, there is something about the energy of staring into that machine that doesn’t allow me to fully unwind. Even though I can usually fall asleep initially, there seems to be a high correlation between evening computer usage and middle of the night wake-ups.
A better choice for me is to engage in an artistic activity. Singing, playing the piano or practicing moves from my dance class – or even watching others perform – all seem to engage my brain in a different way and allow me to unwind and re-calibrate.
I have known for a long time that physical exercise is vital for my sleep, health, and life. I am an exceptionally consistent exerciser, having engaged in at least an hour most every day without fail for over 25 years. For the last ten years I have done this first thing in the morning, and I am completely committed to carving out this sacred space for myself.
What I am realizing is that I need to be just as committed to carving out a sacred space at the end of the day. Sleep seems to be best if I can use the last few hours of the day for artistic expression, connecting with my husband, and tapping.
I need to trust that it is safe for me NOT to work in the evenings any more. In fact, when I stay off the computer and connect with other parts of myself, I sleep better, which means my overall mood and well-being improve, which allows me to be ten times more productive and present during the hours I designate for working.
For the past two weeks I have been in the sleep/wake/work/wind-down cycle I have been seeking my entire life. Thanks to the early detection warning system of my mild insomnia, tapping, asking the right question, and being open to the answers, I feel I am on the right path!