2017 hasn’t been the best year so far. I had a lovely relaxed Christmas with James which included seeing lots of friends and we had a really chilled New Year. Lovely. However, a mixture of being stressed about a few things I had to plan and sort…plus getting into bad sleeping habits over the holidays (going to bed really late, getting up late) meant that I was laying awake wide-eyed at night waiting for peaceful slumber to come. When it did finally come, it was only for a few hours.
Two, nearly three weeks of that started to send me a bit mad. It was affecting everything, I felt like a zombie during the day and was laying awake in bed getting more and more frustrated, which was obviously making it worse.
I took actions to try to relieve the stress I’d been feeling, but by that point it wasn’t those things that were keeping me awake. It was the anxiety of not being able to get to sleep itself.
Argh! Catch 22!
Lots of people suggested many things…most of which I tried, but none of them helped. I did the little rituals I usually fall back on like listening to meditation apps (Headspace, Sleepfulness etc.), having lovely sleepy scents, which had always helped me in the past…but they just weren’t cutting it this time. This was proper insomnia, not just a little sleep blip.
Three weeks of little sleep meant I was an anxious wreck. I was fearing going to bed.
This is why I haven’t blogged so far this year. I’ve just been trying to get through the day without messing anything up too badly at work. Lucky for me, Jan is pretty quiet in terms of evening events. But I did miss a lovely one at The Mansion in Roundhay with Dine. And an ecommerce conference with work.
I’m starting to get back on top of it in the past few days. I’ve recognised that this is now a mind game.
My mind was on overdrive chattering away. On the worst night, my mind had leapt to deciding I wasn’t ever going to have good sleep again…which would result in me being off work long-term sick, which would mean my wage would disappear….which would mean I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills….which would mean I’d lose my beautiful house. Sounds daft now, huh? But at 2am strung out and anxious? The threat felt very real.
The Chimp Paradox
I’d been reading a great book called The Chimp Paradox in the latter half of last year and I really needed reminding of the big ideas behind that. It’s not a case of trying to ignore the part of my mind that was chattering away and being ‘crazy’. Also, the more I’d try to ‘control’ it, the worse it would get. I had to work with it and soothe it.
Taking Away Pressures
I started by taking away any pressures the next morning. I told myself that there was nothing I couldn’t rearrange. I’m usually very conscious of not wanting to let anyone down, miss any meetings, waste a train ticket to a work conference etc. – but I had to tell myself I could miss these things and it wasn’t the end of the world. It didn’t matter if I didn’t sleep till 6am. I could sleep in. People would understand.
I read a bit of a book called ‘This book will make you sleep’. I found that the intro was pretty unhelpful…it listed all the bad things about not being able to sleep…how humans really need sleep and it’s terrible not to get it, it really affects your mental and physical health. Great, thanks guys…I knew that already…I didn’t need to get MORE anxious?! The chapters after were more helpful, thankfully. Just don’t read the intro bits.
Keeping The Monkey Mind Occupied
I was chatting to friends about the issues I was having and my friend Paul suggested watching Monkey Mind. Really similar to The Chimp Paradox. You have to keep your monkey mind (the chattering bit of you) occupied with a boring task. Thea said she often got up and did something boring like unloading the dishwasher, pairing socks.
Both these bits of advice helped a lot.
That night, I did get back up and unloaded the dishwasher. I told myself it was totally OK to do this. Sleep would come when it would come. When I went back to bed, I felt slightly more tired…but after maybe an hour of keeping my monkey mind busy and telling myself there was no such thing as perfect sleep…I drifted off.
I’m still anxious as I go to bed. It’s going to take a few more weeks of getting on top of my sleep to get rid of that. I’m hoping that in a few weeks this will seem like a bad dream and my sleep pattern will be ‘back to normal’. Whilst remembering there’s no such thing as normal.
I hope that explains why I haven’t blogged for a month and why I’ve been pretty quiet in social media.If one of you ever goes through a really bad insomnia patch, this might just help you.