It seems like whenever I write about sleep or taking care of oneself or how parenting isn't really *that* difficult my kids like to help me put my money where my mouth is. They're cool like that. This past weekend Gerry woke up Saturday and Sunday in the wee hours of the morning (think 2-3 am) and stayed up for several hours. The second time I had stayed up to write and had barely gotten to sleep when he woke up. He didn't go back to sleep until 6:30 am so that night I basically pulled an all-nighter with a couple doses of dozing in there. Believe it or not the past few days weren't that bad though. I've learned a lot about dealing with sleep deprivation the past 6 years!
This post is mostly aimed at parents of babies and young children. A lot of the suggestions are more for stay-at-home moms (or dads), but some may be adaptable or applicable to working parents too.
Without further ado, here are 15 Things To Do When You're Sleep Deprived:
1) Maintain your coffee/caffeine intake at the same level as usual (I try to stick to my normal 1 cup in the morning) This way you will be able to rest when the moments arrive and you will feel better too (I don't like that jittery feeling I get with too much caffeine).
2) Shower and get dressed early. It will make you feel more awake and able to tackle your day. Or stay in your jammies and enjoy the fact that you can. Either way works.
3) Try to get out of the house early - go to a friend's house, the playground, or take a walk. Nothing too ambitious, just something to get you moving. If it's nice outside fresh air is especially helpful. Getting together with friends is an automatic spirit-lifter too.
4) If you don't have enough energy to get out, don't beat yourself up about it. Remind yourself that you need and deserve rest. Call your mom or a friend if you can't see someone in person.
5) If you have small children and are trying to get rest, lie down on the couch with them while they watch a show (or two!) If you cuddle with them they may not even notice your eyes are closed.
6) Listen to a meditation track on earphones while you "rest your eyes" (I have a few on my iPhone). A 15-20 minute meditation often leaves you feeling refreshed, sometimes even better than a long nap!
7) Play Music (I have nothing to add to this one.)
8) Have a nice, hot, cup of tea in the afternoon. My favorite right now is peppermint which is good for your digestion but it also can make you feel more alert.
9) Use of essential oils - I like to breathe in some peppermint for alertness too! If you have a headache some lavender is nice on your temples.
10) Make sure to play with your kids early and often in the day. If they have your focused attention early on, they will be more likely to accept you need some rest later in the day when you need it more.
11) Instead of focusing on how little sleep you got (recounting exactly how many hours, what time you were up and for how long etc.) give yourself positive affirmations that you will get the rest you need.
12) Make sure you go to bed earlier than usual when it's possible. If your kids are actually asleep at a decent hour go to sleep when they do and DON'T STAY UP TO BLOG... er, I mean stay up doing whatever it is *you* do late at night ;-)
13) Make sure you eat well - healthy, real, and immune boosting foods (I'm thinking garlic here... mmm garlic). Homemade chicken soup is good, and if you're lucky like me your husband or someone else who loves you might make you some. But keep food simple - especially for the kids. Leftovers, fresh fruit and veggies, frozen food, and if you are really desperate anything in a box. Again, do not stress about exactly what you are feeding your kids - some days you're just trying to get through the best you can!
14) Slow down as much as you can and release all expectations. Let go of accomplishing housework, cooking, your latest project etc. If your kids are tired too (which often happens) they probably need your presence more. Just be. Play games or watch shows together. Shower or take a bath together. Cook together. Nap together. I think you get the idea.
15) Remember all the times you've made it through tiredness and became rested again.
As I wrote this I was struck by how many overlapped with my list of things to do to lift your mood when you feel depressed. Also this could be a list of things to do when you're sick and you're home with your kids too! A lot of these things are great things to do every day but when I'm tired they are even more important. And the more habitual these things are, the easier they are to do and remember when you really need them!
Do you have any tips you can add to my list? What helps you get through your tiredest days?
I began the week with a heavy weight sitting in my chest. Like a dense, flat stone wrapped in achy despair, I could physically feel Depression getting comfortable inside of me, making breathing difficult, much less any other activity. You know the feeling - when you have zero motivation or desire to DO anything, and the voice in your head (the critic, censor, gremlin - whatever you call it) gets louder and harsher every minute - especially because you didn't *do* anything all day (more accurately, you feel like you didn't do anything even if you did a lot). "You are a terrible mother", "Every choice you've ever made is questionable..." and let's not forget, "What's your problem - your life is amazing and you have nothing to complain about!" and on and on and on...
What triggered this emotional despair? Why did I have this unwelcome guest living inside of me?
The house felt small, confining... and very messy. Of course I had my period (again?? really? didn't I just have it last month?!) - so maybe it was hormones? My parents visited the prior week - a very, very fun day, but also too, too short - was it the normal sadness I almost always feel after seeing them? Of course the house was a disaster. The weather was cool and gray, so maybe it was a seasonal thing. Or was it the less than supportive exchange between me and my husband the other night? The sadness I felt soon amplified by my own thoughts, even after he apologized. And - did I mention my house was (I mean is! it's kind of it's normal state) a MESS?!
But I decided it mattered little why I was feeling this way. And being no stranger to the feeling, I took matters in to my own hands the best I could. Monday night I was slouched low on the couch surrounded by chaos, toys littering the floor, and no dinner to be found when Mike got home from work (this is often the case when he gets home, it was only my *internal* environment that had changed). I could not think of one thing that I wanted to do even though I knew there were plenty of things I "should" do. I looked up at him and said, "I'm going on a jog." He didn't argue, only asked, "Can we come too?" And so we all went on a family jog/bike ride, bike trailer and sneakers ready to go in a few minutes.
I don't know why I was so inspired (as exercise is still not even a weekly habit yet, much less a daily one), only that I was thinking of the runner's high I've gotten before and how amazing that feels. And I thought afterwards I will be motivated to do other things. And it was just as I expected! After that short jog and some fresh air I returned home re-energized and ready to tackle the dishes in the sink.
Depression wasn't quite ready to give up so quickly though, and Tuesday morning the dull, heavy ache returned, as did the dark thoughts of how my life could be better if only this or that were true. (Oh and did I mention that my dear son stayed up till after 1 am the "night" before?) Again that evening we laced up our sneakers and temporarily I shook the big "D" off my trail. That night I reflected on the last time he wasn't so easily shaken and stayed for several months. I remembered how I finally got him to take a long hike - it was a good conversation with my husband. I made a mental "note-to-self".
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday brought beautiful fall weather, time with good friends, and a new, inspiring book. I'm feeling like I may have evicted Depression from his comfortable bed in my chest so I distilled my experience from this week into a list: 10 Things to Do When Depression Tries to Settle in For a Stay:
Take Care of Your Basic Needs:
1) Move! Exercise is always important, but never so much as when you are feeling down. The natural feel-good hormones released and rush of adrenaline you get are enough to expel bad feelings for at least a little while. Lethargy is "no more", and you often have enough pep afterwards to tackle a few other things you didn't even want to look at before. And even if you don't want to do "other things" you can feel good, because, hey - you exercised!
2) Rest - This is really important if you haven't had enough sleep. Make time to rest. Of course this does NOT mean lie around on the couch watching soaps or in bed under the covers all day. It means if you are drained to take care of yourself and not run yourself further into the ground.
3) Eat well - take the time to prepare healthy foods for yourself even when you don't feel like it. The act of cooking alone helped make me feel more accomplished this week.
Beyond the Basics
4) Don't think - This is especially true if you are tired - and often sleep evades us when we are depressed. Tired thinking is NEVER helpful (and I NEVER use the word NEVER!) Our thoughts often become cyclical and more negative with time when we are down so we spiral farther and farther down into sadness. Best to just recognize we are tired, sad, or whatever else and that now is NOT THE TIME TO BE THINKING!
5) Breathe, Meditate and Mantras - this is especially helpful if you are having a difficult time with numbers 2 or 4. Deep breathing is very relaxing for our whole selves. Meditating is a powerful way to rest your mind, body, and spirit and get to a calmer, lighter place. Another way to evade those negative self-defeating thoughts is to have a few handy mantras to repeat with your inhale and exhale - "Breathe in Peace, Breathe out Love", "Rest my mind, calm my heart", and "Be here, Be now" are a few of my current favorites. And of course don't forget Affirmations! If you're having a hard time stopping the flow of thoughts at least you can redirect your mind with some kind, loving thoughts towards yourself.
6) Vent - Let those closest to you know how you are feeling. Get the feelings OUT of you. Of course you don't want to constantly be talking about your woes either, but it doesn't do you good to bottle them up. Find a couple (or in my case a few more than that!) of trusted loved ones who you know will listen and honor you.
7) Connect - similar to number 6 yet different. If you're a parent with young kids - plan a play date with friends that you all love and feel comfortable with. Call your mom or best friend. We are SOCIAL beings and being alone with dark thoughts and feelings only exacerbates loneliness. Of course when we are feeling depressed it is often the hardest time to reach out - and this is why it is imperative that we do.
8) Get out! Get outside or at least out of your house. If the weather is nice go for a walk. If you have kids get to the playground. Fresh air and a change in scene is so crucial to the health of our spirit.
9) Listen to music - For someone who was pretty heavily involved in music in the past I've really gotten away from it since having children. But this past year I've begun to have music be more a part of my daily life again and it is such a powerful mood-booster. I love me some Pandora!
10) Plan a party! I'm not kidding. Tuesday Marisol started planning a party, and all I could think was, "Really?! I do NOT want to plan a party right now." But by Wednesday I had embraced the idea and we are in full on preparations now. There is literally no time for me to wallow because I have to get ready! If not a party, plan something in the near future that you have to work on.
Usually when we are feeling sad, lonely, or depressed we don't "feel" like doing many or any of these things. Sometimes we just have to make ourselves pick one and just go for it. I know for me it made a huge difference to try all of these things this week.
What things do you do to turn things around when you are feeling blue?
1) Go early and often
2) Embrace the Grittiness
3) Enjoy as many sunrises and sunsets as you can (in our family that means more sunsets!)
4) Make friends where you are
5) And invite some to share the fun with too!
Most importantly - go with the flow and enjoy the ride!
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.