It’s that time of the year: life is full of new beginnings. After sun, sea and sand we return to our everyday lives full of promises to create a more balanced life. We are determined to do something differently – until we are swamped by the reality: mundane chores, juggling between work and home and endless to-do lists. As the positive holiday effects start to go down the drain, frustration takes over our rested minds. We soon realize that our minds are crowded with too many things to do and there we are again: back to all our bad habits. Why is change so hard?
I have found out that we all have our special journeys and we only learn when we are at risk of losing it all. Why ? Because we don’t want to give up any of the nice things in life and, yes, inevitably changing requires giving up. The best news is as we learn new habits, our perspective what is “nice” changes as well. This, in fact, is absolutely revolutionary. Don’t ever rest with a thought that what you see now is the whole truth. Your perspective changes as you change and grow.
Back to business, back to insomnia. The number one reason for insomnia is work related stress. This is me. My self-image has been very much dependent on my perceived success at work. When I worked in a corporation (for the biggest bulk of my adult life) I was used to appraisal, positive feedback and constant promotions, and oh boy how I miss that now! Working on my own (and as a consultant) means that positive feedback is a very, very, very scarce unnatural resource. But one gets used to everything, even to silence. Luckily I am pretty self-driven meaning I don’t need anybody to give me actions points and push me further. I typically take very good care of that myself…
More than ever before we suffer of stress, anxiety and dissatisfaction at work. We might even be so exhausted that our holidays are full of tasks and projects because we no longer can detach and relax. We might need long sick leaves to heal and gain healthier perspective to life. But entrepreneurs can’t even have that. So what to do instead?
What is my top tip to better manage work stress and as a consequence sleep better? As usual, I think it’s a combination of a few things. Find my favourite ones:
1. Restrict your work day. You might have a demanding boss (even if it’s you), colleagues and projects but in the end of the day, the choice is always down to You. You make the choice how much your work dominates your life. Your boss will “use” you as much as you let her or him. Not because he/she is evil but because this is how it is. The only thing you can change is you. Moreover, never fall into a trap that you only have one alternative in life. You have many. It’s up to you identify them and decide what is your best path. You are not the victim of your life, unless you let so.
2. Keep your dignity. We toss and turn because we think we have behaved badly, poorly or wrongly and in general made bad decisions (leading to regret, shame, anger). Write every email like you had all your bosses on cc. And I mean all of them. Never be the one who is behaving badly and I promise one thing – you will sleep So Much Better. This doesn’t mean you can’t defend and “fight” for the things you believe in. Of course you can. You just do it with style.
3. Give positive feedback. This doesn’t cost you a dime but giving, and especially giving intellectual property, is the biggest gift of all. Learn to give, and miracles start to happen. People give you back. And even if they don’t, you still feel good! Give publicly, give behind backs. The latter can be even more rewarding because you try not to draw attention to you – and everyone sees this. But trust me, it will come back to you in the long run. And as you feel better about yourself, your mind is calmer and you sleep better. What’s there to lose?
4. Reward yourself. Think about one concrete work goal and one concrete reward. Then, make the goal and reward yourself! I have made great bonus plans to myself and just forgotten and skipped the reward part because of money worries or hectic times. Wrong. Life is to be enjoyed!
5. Plan your days. Plan your month, week and days. Personally, I might be overdoing it but in general and according to many studies this helps. Striking over actions points feels ever-so-good every single time. It also gives you structure and clarity. After a while you learn to be more realistic about what is doable and what is not and you also learn to put yourself more realistic goals for each week. Then you make them and are pleased with yourself. It’s a self-feeding virtuous circle. Last but not least, you don’t need to ponder about things to do at night when they are already listed.
6. Stop pleasing and over-thinking. We think way too much what the others think about us. I thought this is mostly a female problem but I have read recently so many blogs from guys who have tried to make a break-through with their start-ups that I now know this is everyone’s problem. We put far too much of energy, time and thoughts in trying to please others and think what they think of us. Which is usually: nothing. Make a conscious decision just to be yourself and if it isn’t enough to some, then simply let them go. How liberating!
7. Take mini-breaks. Call it meditation, mindfulness or a coffee break – doesn’t really matter. The key is to distance yourself from work on regular basis. Have you ever followed when you resolve problems or get ideas? These small miracles typically happen when we are not trying but resting. Re-learn to rest. Even if it’s 5 minutes at a time. A short stroll at lunch time can be your salvation. Find it, enjoy it. Calm mind at day leads to calm mind at night.
8. Prioritize worries. Unless you are going through an acute stress (death, divorce, unemployment, etc), re-think your approach to worries. In general terms, we worry too much. In a way we all acknowledge that worrying is useless, but we still keep on doing it (especially at 3-4 am). Next time put your worries into 3 categories: 1) worries that are so tiny that they don’t matter in one week’s time. Don’t put any energy into them, they simply aren’t worth it. 2) worries that are not in your hands. It’s totally pointless to worry something that is beyond your own power 3) worries that you can impact with your own actions. Start making decisions and deal with them.
That’s it for now. Any thoughts?
Yours sensitive sleeper,