Routine Archives - Do The Work!

Category Archives for Routine

Meditation Daily Challenge in Our Facebook Group

OK, so it’s not an official ‘Meditation Daily Challenge’… but over in the Facebook Group I’ve started posting about keeping up with my daily meditation practice.

Forming and keeping a habit can be hard, especially when there’s mental health issues in the mix. So, I thought we’d get some accountability and support going in the group.

My first post about it went something like this…

So, September was shit. I stopped my daily meditation and have slid into October in a mental health nosedive. These things are not unrelated. I’d love an accountability buddy (or a few) to get back on track with. I’ll post my morning profile screenshot and you can join in the comments with how you’re getting on in your practice. I use the Calm app and they gave me 5 guest passes for 30 day free trial https://www.calm.com/gp/ys3she (not an affiliate, I just like the app!) If you want to use that til they’re gone 😊 but feel free to meditate however is best for you! Let’s just do it every day?

https://www.facebook.com/groups/dotheworksystem/

And I’ve been posting each morning (usually!) since then.

Accountability in a Meditation Daily Challenge

Accountability is really important when taking on any daily challenge… but why does it have the power to move the needle from failure to success?

  • We perform better under observation.
  • We get honest feedback from others.
  • It forces us to follow through on commitments.
  • It creates firm deadlines for important tasks and habits.
  • It keeps us grounded in reality.
  • We can learn from each others’ successes (and mistakes!).
  • It prevents little problems from turning into big ones.

(Read More Here)

So far, it’s been really helping me stay on track again, and Regular Routine is so essential to my well being!

Now granted, it’s only been a few days, really, in the grand scheme of things…

Meditation Daily Challenge Progress - 8 days

But there’s a couple of awesome folk who are stepping up to the Meditation Daily Challenge with me, and it’s great to check in each day and get that feedback on everyone’s progress.

Want to Join Us? – Click Here for the Facebook Group!

And if you’re seeing this after October… please feel free to join the group anyway, and throw up a post asking for an accountability buddy for this habit (or any others you want to get locked in).

Daily Affirmations – Do They Work?

I’m a bit of a skeptic, by nature, believe it or not, and daily affirmations sounded pretty hokey to me, at the start.

Things have to make logical sense to me before I can really invest in them, get behind the ideas, put it into play in my own life.

That being said, experience has taught me that there is definitely more to this world, and beyond this one, than we currently understand. More than can be explained by logic and the factual reality we believe we are experiencing.

Psychology has taught me that there are ways in which we can create our own reality.

“So much of our experience in life is a direct result of the thoughts we have. When something good or bad happens, we have thoughts about it, and those thoughts will lead to feelings, good, bad, or indifferent. Those feelings might make us take action, and those actions are going to be good, bad, or indifferent as well. Since all of these life experiences and actions originate in our brain, and our brain is like layers of software that spits out thoughts, what if we could change the software? Do we have to swallow everything that comes out of our brain hook, line and sinker? Is our brain so perfect that we are absolutely 100 percent certain our thoughts are always spot on perfect about everything we think about?”

Who Is Programming Your Brain? – Psychology Today Article

So, what if we started to actively programme our own brains?

This is where Daily Affirmations come in…

There is a wealth of information online discussing daily affirmations, and whether they work or don’t work. Google that shit and see for yourself.

At the end of it all though, you’ll probably find as I did; that the majority most successful people in the world – in a wide range of fields and disciplines – use some variation of daily affirmations, every day.

And there’s reams of advice and examples about what to actually say, write, and/or think for your daily affirmations.

1,132 Positive Affirmations: The Ultimate List of Daily Mantras

With regard to the “Do They Work?” question in this article, I can only tell you that they are working for me.

My Daily Affirmations

This is part of my summer morning routine – which may change, admittedly, when we get in the back to school cycle again come September.

For now though (and I recommend it especially if you’re trying to establish new programming), I’m writing my affirmations out each morning.

They go into my bullet journal each day. I include my goals for the month, and the daily affirmations, right alongside my daily tasks.

The affirmations themselves are mainly prosperity and abundance based, currently, but also include self worth (“I serve, I deserve”) and self care (“Rest is necessary”) elements.

As I write them, I say them out loud, creating a feedback loop from eye to ear to mouth to hand to mind, and around again.

I use my yellow pen for goals, my gold pen for affirmations… except for the one I’m writing out multiple times each day.

That one goes in red. It says:

“My affirmations work for me, whether I believe in them or not.”

Well, no harm in having a solid foundation programmed into the brain code. Right?!

Learn How to Start Your own Bullet Journal

How To Create Your Summer Morning Routine

You might think of a summer morning routine as having a more relaxed, low energy kinda vibe; and they can be, for sure. But we need some structure too!

When you’ve got kids (or at least when everyone around you seems to be moving in the same school season rhythm), it’s all well and good to be disciplined and structured in the mornings.

I mean, you might not be… but you can probably see a more pressing need at least for a bit of order and routine when it’s below freezing outside and the very last thing you want to do is set foot on that cold floor and start your day.

For some of us, getting the kids to school on time is a rather pressing need on those wintry mornings, and it keeps us on track. But then the summery mornings hit… and that impetus disappears like snow under sunshine.

I found myself in this position at the end of May, after a month long illness when my usual routines were all askew anyway, and to be honest, I floundered.

Knowing it was coming, I tried to mentally prep myself for it. Nearing the end of my last Bullet Journal and setting up a new one for June, I started with a brain dump of all the things I’d IDEALLY like to have going on in a Summer morning routine.

This is what I came up with (the parts in pink pen came first)…

Morning Routine Brain Dump in the Bullet Journal

From there, I moved over to the blue pen, and began numbering out the order I wanted to do them in, and blocks for where the things might be happening, eg. Block A is while I’m still in bed, before I get up.

It got quite messy, but that is really OK.

A Bullet Journal is supposed to be functional first, and it can be pretty or creative or arty or neat after that, if you want it to be. It’s really, truly alright to mess it the feck up any time you want or need to.

That being said, my next phase was to sort out the Summer morning routine page so that it was usable and didn’t make me itch trying to read and make use of it.

Summer Morning Routine Sample

As you can see by my “Use the Loo” entry, I got very specific and step by step – including everything I could think of and trying to move from one space to the next in a natural flow of what made sense for each item and area.

Now.

We’re in week 2 of June as I write this, and I can honestly say I have yet to complete an ideal summer morning routine, as per this plan.

I’ve hit some of it some mornings, and most of it on some other mornings. And I’m ok with that.

This Summer Morning Routine, Schedule, Plan or whatever you want to call it is really just a guide.

My main problem is that I faff about, not really knowing or remembering what I should be doing or what I want to be doing (thanks, Trauma Brain!), and end up reverting to procrastinating on the phone.

Sometimes that’s on social media, but most often it’s work stuff that I just fall into before I even get out of bed, and that is just no good for me (or really, for anyone else I’m trying to serve or support – it’s not my best work!).

With this plan, I have something easy to refer to, as my Bullet Journal is always to hand… because part of my night time routine is to bring the BuJo and some water up to bed with me!

If you need a hand setting one up for yourself – you can check out this class – Bullet Journal for Beginners.

Hope that’s been helpful!

Procrastination… or, Overchoice?!

We all know the feeling. So much to do, so many places to be and things to accomplish, so we do… nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Ok, maybe not entirely nothing. We might convince someone they are wrong on the internet in a heated Facebook debate. Or, find a terribly important thing to clean thoroughly, in minute detail. Or, give ourselves repetitive strain injury because we refresh the Instagram feed so often.

Sound familiar?

Then begins the downward spiral of further overwhelm, panic, guilt and shame, leading to further overwhelm, panic, guilt and shame… Yeah. You get it.

The thing is, it might not be procrastination. Or rather, it might be procrastination due to overchoice. What’s that, you say?

Overchoice (choice overload) occurs when many equivalent choices are available, and making a decision becomes overwhelming due to the many potential outcomes and risks that may result from making the wrong choice.

Having too many approximately equally good options is mentally draining because each option must be weighed against alternatives to select the best one.

It’s very much related to Decision Fatigue – the deteriorating quality of decisions in any given day or other long session of decision making. We have a limited number of quality decision making ‘tokens’ each day, as it turns out. And when we spend them, they’re gone, til we can re-set and accrue new tokens (ie, sleep).

Author Tim Ferriss recommends a Choice Minimal Lifestyle, with 6 basic rules or formulas that can be used to limit overchoice and decision fatigue, and seriously cut down on the resulting procrastination.

  1. Set rules for yourself so you can automate as much decision-making as possible (see the rules I use to outsource my e-mail to Canada as an example of this)
  2. Don’t provoke deliberation before you can take action.
  3. Don’t postpone decisions or open “loops,” to use GTD parlance, just to avoid uncomfortable conversations.
  4. Learn to make non-fatal or reversible decisions as quickly as possible.
  5. Don’t strive for variation—and thus increase option consideration—when it’s not needed. Routine enables innovation where it’s most valuable.
  6. Regret is past-tense decision making. Eliminate complaining to minimize regret.

Why not start this path by setting a very simple set of steps you can do in an unthinking Morning Routine? Same hygiene practice, same sort of clothes (or set them out the night before, or 5 outfits ready on hangers at the weekend!), same breakfast.

Try it for 7 days, and see how you get on.

Executive Dysfunction in Depression & Anxiety

I just can’t do the things I know that I need to do…

Sound familiar?

It’s something I hear time and time again. Something I’ve repeated myself regularly. Executive dysfunction hits those of us who live with anxiety and depression, and it hits us hard.

What is Executive Dysfunction?

First off, we all know I’m not a medical professional. You know that right? Not a doctor.

That said, I’ve lived with this shit for years, and a lot of them were years when I’d no clue what was going on. No idea that what was happening to me every day wasn’t normal. Wasn’t my fault.

Coz that is a big thing. We’ll come back to that one.

Executive dysfunction is a term for the range of cognitive, emotional and behavioural difficulties. Executive functioning is an umbrella term for many abilities including:

  • Planning and organisation
  • Flexible thinking
  • Monitoring performance
  • Multi-tasking
  • Solving unusual problems
  • Self-awareness
  • Learning rules
  • Social behaviour
  • Making decisions
  • Motivation
  • Initiating appropriate behaviour
  • Inhibiting inappropriate behaviour
  • Controlling emotions
  • Concentrating and taking in information

Source: https://www.headway.org.uk/about-brain-injury/individuals/effects-of-brain-injury/executive-dysfunction/

Depression and anxiety have been found to be associated with dysfunction in these executive processes, and an inability “to generate or implement adequate performance strategies has been postulated in depressed participants”.

Source: https://jnnp.bmj.com/content/66/2/162

Insomnia is a common symptom for both depression and anxiety, and sleep deprivation makes executive dysfunction even worse.

Some Coping Strategies for Executive Dysfunction

I know, you’re sick of hearing about it. But in all honesty, my Bullet Journal (what’s a Bullet Journal?) has been the absolute saving of me with regard to coping with executive dysfunction in my own life.

If you’re dealing with this recognised medical difficulty or disorder, please understand that it is not your fault.

Please don’t beat yourself up for not being able to do the simplest of things. The things you know you “should be doing”. Or “should be able to do”.

Stop that. Try this.

Here are some tips based on those from the U.S. National Center for Learning Disabilities:

  • Take a step-by-step approach to work.
  • Rely on visual organizational aids.
  • Use tools like time organizers, computers, or watches with alarms.
  • Make schedules and look at them several times a day.
  • Ask for written and oral instructions whenever possible.
  • Plan for transition times and shifts in activities.

To improve time management:

  • Create checklists and estimate how long each task will take.
  • Break long assignments into chunks, and assign time frames for completing each one.
  • Use calendars to keep track of long-term assignments, due dates, chores, and activities.
  • Write the due date on the top of each assignment.

In short, I manage my executive dysfunction by writing everything down. And I mean – EVERYTHING. I store and organise all that written stuff mostly in my Bullet Journal, which is a useful system for doing that. But any analogue planner that you like will work just as well. I just love the complete flexibility of the Bullet Journal.

I also have huge wall calendars, digital calendars with notifications set to give me plenty of time to work in stuff I’ve forgotten, and a series of phone alarm reminders that tell me things like “Take a Walk”, “Eat Lunch”, “Tech Off at 10pm”, and “Take Your Meds”.

My best advice though, is to start where you are, right now, and take a tiny step forward. You don’t have to get all this figured out right now. Go easy on yourself?!

Pick just one thing that you know will improve your life if you’re doing it every day, and pick a sensible time at which to do it. Transition times are a good idea – see this post for more on developing good habits.

Now, do it for 2 minutes. Seriously. Just 2 minutes – but do it every day. For a week. For 2 weeks. Just for 2 minutes, every single day.

If you miss a day? That’s ok. Just start again the next day, and rebuild your streak. Mark it on a calendar. Tick a box in your Bullet Journal. Cross it off a daily to do list. Whatever works for you to show your progress.

Because every single time you do that small 2 minute thing, you’re telling yourself that this is something you can do. You’re rewiring your brain to understand that this is something that you do. Every day.

Don’t worry about not seeing progress by only doing the thing for 2 minutes. You’re moving in the right direction. You’re 2 minutes better off than you were yesterday.

You are the type of person who can do this thing.

Take THAT, executive dysfunction.

Gaining Mastery – a Daily Investment

“I would not have a god come in
To shield me suddenly from sin,
And set my house of life to rights;
Nor angels with bright burning wings
Ordering my earthly thoughts and things;
Rather my own frail guttering lights
Wind blown and nearly beaten out;
Rather the terror of the nights
And long, sick groping after doubt;
Rather be lost than let my soul
Slip vaguely from my own control —
Of my own spirit let me be
In sole though feeble mastery.”
― Sara Teasdale

I like that poem. It highlights, for me, my own struggle to gain mastery of my life.

That starts – always – with me coming back to centre, and continuing my work to gain mastery of my self.

What is Mastery?

The definition we’re going for is more ‘comprehensive knowledge or skill in a particular subject or activity’, than ‘control or superiority over someone or something’. Although both can fit, depending on what mastery is needed in your life.

For example, I would like to gain mastery in the area of my professional expertise – Irish heritage – that is a ‘comprehensive knowledge or skill’. I already have authority, both professional and personal experience, and a certain amount of expertise. But I’m not yet at ‘mastery’, to my mind.

Now, this does beg the question of when is enough, enough?

Some folk will tell you that to gain mastery, you need to practice a thing for 10,000 hours and you’ve got it down, but that’s debatable. You can read some of that debate here.

For the second definition, I personally apply that to myself only. I mean, I’ve no interest in control or superiority over someone else. That’s a LOT of hard work right there, even besides the obvious ethical considerations.

And it usually pertains to controlling my ‘negative’ aspects; post-trauma and mental health problems, and all the associated issues that come with that.

So mastery can mean ‘becoming a master’ at something, or ‘mastering’ your personal issues in a positive way. For either of these, doing a little every single day is the right way to get started.

Daily Investment in Mastery

For the first challenge, to become a master in a particular field, requires practice. That seems obvious, but it’s a little more complicated than that.

Practice for mastery requires not just Naive Practice (repeating what you already over and over), or Purposeful Practice (with well defined goals, focus, and regularly pushing past your comfort zone).

To truly gain mastery, you’ll need Deliberate Practice; which is purposeful practice, but with the element of coaching or teaching added to it, through a clear training program with a professional in the established field.

[You can learn more about that here.]

And the second challenge is truly an ongoing thing (for me at least), and a constant process of improving little by little, going off track a bit, and just continually bringing myself back to the process again.

For this, I keep coming back to my daily routines – particularly the Morning Routine.

I can’t emphasise strongly enough how vital a routine is for me, in my quest for mastery of my personal issues in a positive way.

What works for you?


Get Started on your Bullet Journal

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7 Steps to Effective Time Management

We could all use a few time management tips. Like, I know I could use some time management tips. So here’s 7 of the feckers.

Definition of ‘get organized’: to arrange one’s things or one’s affairs so they can be dealt with effectively. eg. He never knows what he has scheduled or where anything is. He needs to get organized. (Merriam Webster)

Start with your Productivity Baseline… so you can see where you’ve improved. Then get going on more effective time management, with the following 7 steps.

Time Management Step One – Brain Dump

Write it all down. In whatever system you use, take a note of EVERYTHING that you need to spend time on.

You can create this task list for the day ahead, for the week, or for the month. A year is pushing it a bit far – too many variables.

Whatever time frame you choose though, take a few minutes at the start of it (or the night before) and load all your tasks into a brain dump page.

Time Management Step Two – Categorise

Task Categorisation for Time Management

This Week in my Bullet Journal

Now, decide your categories. What are the groupings that make sense for you. For example: Family Stuff, Work Stuff, Personal Stuff. Or to sub-divide a work list, for me the tasks fall into the categories of Courses, Clients, or Content Marketing.

There might be some cross over between categories, so in my bullet journal I allocate a colour per category and just mark them out. (see pic)

Time Management Step Three – Prioritise

You have to complete most important task first. Especially if it’s something that’s part of a bigger project or goal that’s important, but not urgent. We all have a tendency to push those out, and the guilt/shame/fear/overwhelm of having that looming can really eat away at ya.

Doing the Hardest/Most Important thing first is the golden rule of time management.

For each day, identify the two or three tasks that are the most crucial to get to, and do them first. My advice would be to go for:

  • One task that will move a long term project or goal forward.
  • One task that is a thing you want or need to get in the habit of doing every day.
  • One task that is on a deadline.

If you get those done each day, you’re already winning like, no matter how much the rest of the day might get away from you, as it often does.

And for the rest of the tasks, just list them by number, in order of importance.

Time Management Step Four – Schedule

Now you have your priorities straight, you have to make time for them to get done. How does your daily schedule look?

If you don’t have one, that’s ok. You can do it day by day, or set one for the week, and adjst as you go.

On a page (in your Bullet Journal, ideally, and if you don’t have one – get started here) – write out a list of all the hours in the day. I prefer vertical, it gives more space, but whatever suits you is grand.

Block out anything essential, like sleep 😉, commuting or the school run, meetings/appointments, eating, that sort of thing. Stuff that has to be done and can’t move around, time wise.

Mark in some down time, ideally not on the phone or computer – it’s important to do this first, especially if your task list is busy or overwhelming… because you NEED the relaxation time to make sure you’re being effective with the rest of your time.

Then block out your time that’s left (1 or 2 hour time blocks work well for most things), and slot your tasks in.

If they don’t all fit – well, you only have that many hours in your day, and you’re doing the work that HAS to get done at least. It’s an important lesson to enable you to see what you need to let go, or delegate.

Time Management Step Five – Deal with Distraction

What is it that distracts you? If you don’t know off hand, it might be that it’s a habit you’re unconsciously losing time to every single day. Even if it’s only a small thing. All those minutes, fifteen minutes, half hours really add up over the course of a week or a minute.

When you have work to do, you need to focus, and that means identifying and eliminating your distractions.

So, turn off the phone, or put it out of the room. Disconnect the doorbell. Hang a do not disturb sign. Put on noise cancelling headphones and some strong beats or classical music with no lyrics.

Get to work and stay working.

Time Management Step Six – Find the Flow

Pick your first priority and get to it. Set a timer, and resolve to work on that one thing for that amount of time, without distraction or switching focus.

How long is on that timer depends entirely on any number of factors such as how much you are dreading doing it, the type of task, your experience with deep work, and many others. For example, I find that getting started is the hardest part of any work, and I know I’m not alone in that.

If I really don’t want to do something, I will set a timer for say, 5 or 10 minutes, and agree with myself that I’ll do it for that long, and then see how I feel. Mostly, I’m ok by then and just keep going. Occasionally, it’s just not the day to be doing that thing, and I know I have at least tried. I move on, and try again the next day with the same technique.

For longer or bigger projects that require concentration, like study or writing or design, it can help to set a 25 minute timer, take a 5 min stretch/water break, do another 25 min, and so on for the course of 2 hours, then take a longer break. This is called the pomodoro technique.

Or, if you don’t want the distraction, just set yourself a timer for 60 or 90 minute blocks (you’ll really need to stretch and give yourself a mental break after 90 minutes, please).

Time Management Step Seven – Rest

No really. This is maybe the most important step here.

Some people think sacrificing sleep is a smart way to get a couple of extra hours into your day. This is not smart. This is the exact opposite of smart.

You most likely need 7-8 hours of sleep for your body and mind to work effectively. Overnight, bits and pieces of information are transferred from your tentative, short-term memory to stronger, long-term memory. This is a process called consolidation, and the research is clear.

After people sleep, they retain information and perform better on memory tasks, ie, you can work more effectively.

So, rest more to do more.

 


Get Started on your Bullet Journal

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Morning Routine Part 1 – Hydration

You’ve just spent (hopefully) 7 or 8 hours asleep, right? Hydration is essential!

Why though?

Well, around 60% of your body IS water. So, hydration is sort of important like, to make sure all that watery stuff stays topped up and performing the way it needs to.

Trying to live, work, function with dehydration is like trying to run a car with no fuel, only worse, because the car is not made up of 60% fuel, is it? No. It is not.

Just like a car though, your body needs to warm up in the mornings. You can’t expect it to go from 0-90 along a motorway every day with nothing to ease it into that top speed.

This is where your first thing in the morning hydrations steps in. It’s a warm up of sorts.

You’re kickstarting your metabolism, and knocking out that slight dehydration we all have after being asleep all night, before it gets a hold of your systems and starts doing nasty things in there.

You can see some of the problems of dehydration here.

Room temperature hydration is optimal for helping your digestion get moving. And if you can take a squeeze of lemon in it, even better, as this too aids the digestion in warming up.

This also aids in the protection of vital organs and tissues, carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells, lubricating your joints, helping dissolve nutrients and minerals to make them accessible to your body, and regulating your body temperature. All great stuff!

Again though, why is it important to do this first thing in the morning?

Specific Benefits of Hydration First Thing

  • You’re cleansing your body – drinking water on an empty stomach helps to cleanse your colon, which then increases the efficiency of your intestine in absorbing nutrients.
  • You’re supporting your bowel – adding that extra hydration first thing will help prevent constipation, bad digestion and intestinal infections. Winning!
  • Your other internal organs will thank you – plus your lymph system, which goes on to balance your body fluids, in a positive cycle of healthy hydration.
  • Your immune system needs that hydration – after the night asleep with no support, all those little worker soldiers are tired from fighting off infections and such. In my head that’s how that works anyway.

I dunno. I’m not a scientist. All of this makes sense though, and you know it.

Just drink water as the first part of your morning routine ok? Leave it by your bed the night before, and get it into you as soon as you wake up.

It certainly won’t do you any harm, and you might even poo better!

 


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Survive and Thrive through Family Pressures

What good is a routine or a system if they blow apart under stressful times or family pressures?

No good, that’s what.

Which is why I’m back at my desk today, doing the work, despite my own serious and traumatic family pressures this past weekend.

I’m not going to go into details… sorry, but I just can’t. Suffice it to say that an old and ugly issue has reared its head rather strongly again, and I’m in bits over it.

The crux of it came on Sunday, though it had been building for a while. On Monday, myself and Jon took a mental health day.

Coping with Family Pressures – The Mental Health Day

In the morning we went and did some errands that had been bothering us for a while, small easy stuff to take care of and enable us to feel a little in control of the day. I did some self care things, such as a repeat prescription for my meds (which is usually a pain in the hole for me first to find time for, and then to actually get out of my comfort space and make happen).

We talked a lot, and once the day to day stuff was under control, we made a joint decision to invest in ourselves, in our health and in our future happiness. We went and bought bikes.

After that, we shopped a little for things to improve our home space, including both indoor and outdoor plants. I was working away in the garden when our friend arrived to share a dinner, tea and chats – so we got to hang out with someone who understands the family pressures, and supports us.

To finish up our evening, we headed in different directions to unwind and relax in the ways that suited us, which we both needed individually.

He built things and took care of his dinosaur ‘family’ in a virtual world (playing Ark on the Xbox), and I headed to a Rose of Tralee watching party with family and friends. It’s an Irish ‘lovely girls’ pageant that’s in it’s 59th year (in 2018), and I’ve never watched it before, would you believe? Maybe you would believe.

We have a horse in the race this year though, so to speak – our friend Kirsten Mate Maher is the Waterford Rose, and she is an amazing person who I would truly love to see representing Ireland world-wide.

The whole experience was strangely soothing, helped along of course by the Rosé wine, and hilarious readings from Irish Twitter’s reactions to what was happening on screen.

All in all, the day worked exactly as we needed it, to ease those family pressures somewhat, at least.

Taking a deliberate, considered, mental health time-out when something big hits is absolutely essential.

When you struggle, as I do, with those pressures on a day to day basis, there is a very real danger that a stressful event can tip the balance toward something very negative.

But if you can press pause, do things that you know will provide relief and support – both short term and long term – ask for help if you need it, and use that time to ground and regroup, even a little… the next day becomes a bit easier.

SUGGESTION – Keep a running list of those things, or even make your own mental health time out plan in your Bullet Journal, so that you have something ready prepared to fall into, if a stressful situation hits you suddenly. Nobody needs to be trying to make a healthy and sensible plan in the midst of a crisis, right?

And once you’ve taken that time out – that’s when the routine kicks back in.

I know what work I need to get to get done today. I have my monthly and my weekly plans and master tasks to simply fall into, without having to think about it too much.

I also know that my work might not be completely productive or entirely perfect this week, this month, this year – depending on how the family pressures continue to play out as we go.

However – I have a system. I can press pause, reset, and slide back into this routine any time I need to. As many times as I need to.

Because I will survive, and eventually, I will thrive. And I hope I can help you to survive and thrive too.

 


 

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Your Sleep Cycle

I woke this morning at the wrong point in my sleep cycle.

The first thing I knew was an annoying cock crow that confused the fuck out of me. Not a real rooster mind you – I use a random selection of bird noises to get me up each morning. I’m not even sure why… maybe the different sounds stop me getting used to the alarm? And, generally, I do like to wake to more natural sounds than the ‘Reveille’ (that bugle call used by the military to wake everyone at sunrise), or a version of ‘the Auld Triangle’ going jingle jangle, like they used in Mountjoy prison to wake the inmates.

Alright so I know there’s other options for alarm noises to disturb your sleep cycle, but I was going for the most annoying but effective ones I could think of. Your methods may vary.

What is the Sleep Cycle though?

A sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes, and during that time we move through five different stages of sleep – some of which you might already be familiar with, at least in passing. The first four stages make up our non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, from very light sleep during Stage 1 to very deep sleep in Stage 4, where it’s really tough to wake someone from. When we’re in NREM sleep, we don’t have much (or any) muscle activity, and our eyes don’t usually move. But all of our muscles are still functional, which changes when we move to the fifth stage, when rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occurs.

REM sleep is when most of our dreaming is going on, and though our eyes are not constantly moving, they do dart back and forth, up and down. Nobody really knows even yet why our eyes move, but one of the generally accepted theories is that it’s related to visual images we’re watching play out in dreams. During this stage of the sleep cycle, our eyes are going like nobody’s business… but the muscles that move our bodies are paralyzed (except things like the heart and diaphragm, coz obviously we’re still alive and breathing).

This paralysis sounds a bit grim, but it’s actually stopping us from getting up and moving around while our subconscious and unconscious are doing their thing, which is useful for those of us who don’t want to walk out into traffic in our nighties, or attack the person sleeping next to us because we think they’re doing something nasty due to a dream that’s going on. A breakdown of this natural paralysis is why people go sleepwalking or get night terrors in which they do some pretty awful things while effectively unconscious.

Honestly, you don’t want that.

 

A typical night’s Sleep Cycle

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just running together a couple of 90 minute sessions and calling it a night. To understand your sleep cycle, we have to get that they change throughout the night.

During the first two to three sleep cycles, you’ll spend most of your time in deep NREM sleep (stages 3-4), but in the final two to three sleep cycles, you’ll be more in REM sleep with some lighter NREM sleep. It’ll also change according to when you fall asleep, as the earlier parts of the night tend to bring more NREM sleep, and also what stage of life you’re at, as kids tend to get more deep NREM sleep than adults.

 

How to Optimise your Sleep Cycle

Getting woken in the middle of REM sleep, like I was today, is not ideal.

It leads to that sensation of grogginess, a poor reaction time, and general fog that’s actually called sleep drunkenness, or confusional arousal. Being woken from REM can cause significant mood problems, and your blood pressure goes up. Like, it’s not optimal at all at all.

There’s tech you can use to track your sleep cycle and wake you naturally based on finishing one and before you start another. That’s amazing, but I don’t have that tech. (If you use something like that and find it useful, would you mind popping over to Our Facebook Group and giving a recommendation?)

Generally, I stuck with analog, and just tracked my sleep and how I feel the next day in my bullet journal, over about two months (not perfectly, as we’ve seen I’m not good at filling in trackers) to try to figure out what’s best for me.

I came up with a minimum of 7.5 hours and a max of 9 hours, if I can get it. That’s 5 or 6 sleep cycles, respectively. So I figured out that if I need to be awake by 8am, I’m going to sleep by 11pm to get my 9 hours, and that means tech off by 10pm and reading, journalling or talking (or Jon reading something not too interesting to me!) til I fall asleep, which usually takes around the hour to wind down.

Have you figured out your own sleep cycle yet?

Be well

L x


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