When It’s Someone Else’s Fault

My resilience often falters when someone else causes me grief, stress, anxiety, or you name it. My desire to find wine goes up, I complain more and I loose sleep. The truth is that it is easier for me to blame someone else for my own lack of resiliency than to take responsibility for it.

I have worked in an environment where showing up to work became increasingly difficult. I would break down in tears when the disrespect and arguing from a coworker had reached its max. I disliked who I was, who I was becoming. I made every aspect of my life about my challenging work environment. I spend all my time being angry. I slept in fits. I had difficult conversations, yet nothing changed. I finally decided to leave.

Life went back to normal. I slept, I found my resiliency again and I was able to make it through the pandemic’s quarantine with strength of mind and heart. I started another endeavor, a volunteer opportunity, and again had difficult conversations, navigating expectations and creating boundaries. I began to my faltered resilience. The difference this time…I realized my deficits more quickly. I committed to not be leaving this endeavor. Instead I need to find ways to remain strong and keep moving forward.

I spent some time with my counselor first. We talked through ways I can change the way I am thinking. I need to keep retraining my mind to tell myself the right things. I can find new ways to focus, especially before I sleep. I can make sure I am getting physical activity as often as I can to put my energy into other places than just my thoughts.

If you are like me, difficult conversations can happen even when I’m not my best, but I’m often exhausted for several days after. Finding space to recharge and reset is key for my resilience. It’s easy to blame someone else or other situations for my “stressed out” mind, but I am responsible for my own actions and reactions. Claiming my reactions as my own is the first step to finding that space. If I don’t like my response, I have the opportunity to change it.

Forgiveness is also important in my resiliency. Time spent over the years in an unforgiving attitude caused bitterness and a poorly trained mind. Now, I am quicker to forgive because I know the value it brings to my mind, my heart and even my body. I still have a lot to learn about forgiveness. Forgiveness means being willing to let go of the hurt someone else has done to us. No conversation needs to occur with the other person, especially if they are unaware I am holding something against them. I have to be willing to acknowledge I have been hurt and I am choosing to let it go. Forgiveness becomes a daily habit until my mind has been retrained. Sometimes forgiving someone takes longer than I would like, but I keep doing it. Eventually my heart and mind are changed and I can walk in the freedom of that forgiveness. (More to come about forgiveness in a future blog.)

I’ve heard it said “hurt people, hurt people”. I hurt people sometimes. I have to forgive sometimes. I have to apologize more often than I would like to admit. Retraining my mind is an ongoing activity. I can’t imagine that I’m alone in this. These are all aspects need to keep myself resilient. As hard as it is, I hope you find some strength in knowing you are not alone and we do not need to keep blaming other people for our own failings.

On this Memorial Day weekend, if you have served or have experienced the loss of someone in our military, thank you. Thank you for sacrificing your time, energy and even life to protect us.

-ST

The Overdone Escape

Have you heard a coworker say, or maybe you are saying it yourself, “I need a bottle of wine”. Where the normal “glass of wine” used to preside, the whole bottle has become the lingo. Or maybe someone wants to “numb out” and binge watch their favorite show all day. Maybe it’s a routine stop after work to indulge in something else which will keep his or her mind off of the stressful day. Even excessive exercise can be an escape.

All these can be symptoms of burnout. The Mayo Clinic talks about symptoms on their website: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/burnout/art-20046642

The Mayo Clinic offers these questions you can ask yourself to see if you have the symptoms:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

I do believe these can be causes of other things besides job burnout, but it is important to keep an eye on it.

So what can we do if we answer one or more of these questions? We have been talking about some of these things. If you are having physical symptoms, consult your doctor and your mental health support. We have talked about the importance of having someone listening and helping to bring light to ongoing issues. I also recommend talking to your supervisor/boss/manager or mentor within your job. Being able to ask for understanding or help can be incredibility liberating. Setting appropriate goals can help you get back on track. If you are physiologically unsafe to bring it up with your superior, consider other avenues to gain support or look for other job opportunities. If you are unsafe, confide in a trusted friend and find a way to get the right help.

Other options can come from relaxing techniques, exercise, definitely sleep and the mindful training we talked through earlier this year. Being able to pause during overwhelming and stressful experiences either after work, during work or even before heading into a stressful day can give you the mental break you need without reaching for a substance or habit which can be detrimental to your long-term health and wellbeing.

I recently heard an author mentor in my own life, Dallas Willard, talk about habits. He said we have to find the root of the problem before we can change. I agree, and in the same way, we can’t just slap a bandaid on burnout. We have to go to the root. Whether we are drinking a whole bottle of wine without realizing it or being so critical of coworkers we are loosing friends at work before we recognize our patterns, we need to search for the roots of the problems. What causes us to hit the bottle or be harmful with our words? (Check out my previous blog about habits.)

Let’s first realize our patterns which might be symptoms of burnout. Then, start looking for the roots of these habits. Next week, I will talk about my own burnout and steps I took to find the roots of the habits. I look forward to having you join me!

-ST

Back to the “Why”

An exercise I have done often, and seen done during resiliency workshops, is to review the reasons “why” we do what we do. Why am I a nurse? Why am I an ICU nurse? Why do I choose to work as well as be at home with my girls? For example, a nurse might answer the why question, “I enjoy helping people. Nursing is fast pasted and ever changing or I find it gives me something important to be a part of.” For a different profession, the “why” might be different. No matter what the reason, if it is a life-sustaining reason, it can be helpful to return to it regularly and during seasons of burn-out.

We don’t all love our jobs, at least all the time. If we live off feelings, we can be hot and cold about it all the time. Life is hard and finding joy at work can be challenging. We may have seasons where it’s easy to get to work and other seasons we can’t help but hit the snooze button one too many times. What is the cure? A job change? Easier said than done when you have bills to pay and health insurance to hold on to. Per recent reports the risk of going without health insurance keeps 1 in 6 people in their jobs (1). Forbes says the other reasons people stay in their jobs is: security, friends at work, already know the job, age, too much work to find something new, and not knowing what might end up being worse (2).

Being reminded of your “why” can help you rejuvenate or help nudge you towards something different. Maybe it’s time to ask for more opportunities in the area you love. Maybe you are hustling too much and need to slow down, delegate more and set aside some time to enjoy life.

In her book The Best Yes Lisa Terkeurst writes about not being able to do everything 100% to the best of our ability. We have the opportunity to do some things amazing, but to have that expectation of ourselves all the time creates too much pressure and poor results. Her book was instrumental in helping me understand that not only do I have to know my “why”, but I have to pick the areas which are most important for me to focus on.

So what about you? What is(are) your why(s)? Why do you come home early some days? Why do you stay late? Why do you strive so hard at work? What sending you back into the madness the next day? What fulfills you in your job and what might you focus on to find life in it again?

Being brave and asking some “why” questions can help you assess how your work, your side hustles and even how your volunteer work is going. Is it all going great? Do you think about doing something different? Do you need to slow down? Be proud of yourself for asking these questions and being willing to contemplate where you are and where you want to be. I hope going back to the “why” helps you find more resilience in your life.

-ST

References: 1. https://www.webmd.com/health-insurance/news/20210507/fear-of-losing-health-insurance-keeps-1-in-6-us-workers-in-their-jobs 2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2018/01/05/the-ten-worst-reasons-to-stay-in-a-job-you-hate/?sh=5421418c2fc7

Keeping Life-Giving Routines

One of the ways I recommend finding resilience during stressful situations is through routines. For example, when I experience a difficult shift at work (either I have lost a patient, it was too busy and stressful, or someone was rude) I launch into a specific routine to help me process and find my way back to my baseline. I head home, listening to music which helps me process (Country music is always a go to during these moments). I don’t talk to anyone when I get home and jump into the shower. I stay there until I have processed what I need to either to be kind to others or to be able to sleep without having ugly dreams.

We have to process our stress. We have to find a conclusion or resolution. Sometimes we have to grieve the conclusion. Sometimes we need extra love for ourselves to forgive or to adjust to a new normal. A routine helps us keep moving forward in the midst of the stress. If we have set routines we can calm our minds and our bodies so we can actually do the work stress requires of us.

When I am stressed out, anxious or overwhelmed, a routine helps me become more centered. I go for a walk, or sit and remember what it going well with my life. I make a point to check-in with someone else so I can get out of my own head. Sometimes I just need to brew a cup of coffee or do 30 minutes of yoga. Slowing down a bit with a set routine gives my mind and my tightly held body a break in the midst of the stress.

When it is hard to get out of bed some mornings (much like today) it’s usually because I feel overwhelmed by my “todo” list in my head or the difficult conversation I need to have. I can be stressed even before I get out of bed. It’s these days when I put one foot in front of the other and do the next needed thing. Resource: I’m digging into this concept of the “next right thing” by listening to “The Next Right Thing” podcast with Emily P. Freeman. She has a book out too, so I’ll be grabbing that on my kindle as soon as I can.

A morning routine can be hugely beneficial for creating space to return to my baseline. Routines can help our brains relax and find the normal about life. A routine can help similarly when we go through stress. I know when stress hits or a difficult shift ends I have a routine to go to first. I don’t have to wonder what to do depending on how I feel. I do the same routine every time. When I don’t follow my routine, when I choose to ignore it, I inevitably have bad dreams, a bad attitude and it takes me longer to normalize my thoughts and my body. Stress can happen longer than one routine does, so returning to similar routines over the length of the stress can also be helpful.

Pause to think about your own routines. Do you need to have them ready in your back pocket as your go-tos during stress? Are your routines vital and beneficial or are they harmful for your mental health? A routine which includes a bottle of wine instead of just a glass or numbing out on social media repeatedly may not be the routines you want to have. A routine which is life-giving and is kind to you and others can bring you back to your baseline rather than hiding the stress instead of working through it. We have to be able to process the stress all the way through and routines create that space for us to do this.

My wish for you this week is to enjoy one or more life-giving routines to help create space to process and grow. I’m headed to brew some coffee and journal as one of my daily routines.

-ST

Writing a New Story

As I shared last week, a resilient life is one where stress can be managed at a good baseline. There are seasons where we are more heightened or stressed, but after the season ends, we should be able to return to our former level of stress or something close to it. This can be incredibly difficult to do and if we struggle to return, it can cause more stress and anxiety.

When I was young I was diagnosed with a pain syndrome which affected my muscles. I do not remember a day I have not experienced pain. Long story short, I had lots of therapy and then went into my own daily care by the age of 14. Around the same time I was at a breaking point and life wasn’t great. I needed help and I needed a new perspective. Being a child/adolescent with a chronic illness can do a toil on a developing mind. I had shame over my desire to not continue life. I felt guilty for costing my parents excess medical costs. I was consumed by surviving the pain.

By the time I was 16-years-old I was better with the care I took to rehab, strengthen and press forward. I took this ambition to overcome into and through college. It was constant survival mode. I became increasingly more sick in college and had to learn to advocate for myself in every area of my life. Through my determination I rarely let myself relax and relent in my pursuit to make it through. Other stresses in my life mounted and I was tightly wound. I made it through nursing school and started my career as a pediatric nurse.

That’s when I broke. I had operated at such a high stress level for so long I feel a part. I had stuffed emotions, shame and hidden things so deep inside it took months to dig it all out. I found a safe place to process, to grow and to be emotionally exhausted. I could not be who I wanted to be for my patients and their families if I wasn’t okay myself. I also couldn’t maintain my health with the stress I had put on myself.

For me, this breaking point took me to a mountain (literally) and a gut-honest submission to my God. It then took some hard conversations and creating a new way of living.. It eventually took me to a new city, new job and a new community where I could be the revitalized me. I also found a therapist who I have now known since I made this commitment to my mental and spiritual health. The old me was exhausted and burnt out. I had to create a new normal though hard work, years of hard work. This baseline I talk about does not mean you decide one day to be less stressed. It takes a decision to find a new way and then daily little decisions to live differently.

One of my favorite things I have done recently is to have a story summary for my life. Each year can be different. For me, this year’s summary is: Loving myself through my story. This keeps me grounded to my baseline. It brings me back when shame, guilt and pain creep in to control my heart and mind. It reminds me to be gentle with myself and to love myself through the stress and the pain of daily life.

Whatever you are in your story, take a few minutes today to consider if you are running and avoiding, if you are striving for something you believe you need to achieve, or if you have a story summary to write or rewrite. We don’t have to find a better baseline overnight. It takes work. We need to assess where we are first before we can head in our desired direction. Make a plan to determine where you are at, where you want to be and how you are going to get there. If you are in a current stressful season, find healthy ways to make it through and plan to reassess once you have rested a bit. We can all get there. Give yourself some love today and be gentle with those around you as well.

We will keep working towards resilience in the weeks ahead.

-ST

Stress at Baseline

It’s not uncommon as a nurse to bring stress from regular life to work, especially to the first part of a shift. Stress from home, piled on top of an abnormally busy assignment, can cause stress for anyone. To have a patient become critical on top of it all has the potential to push a nurse into full blown fight or flight mode. In my profession when it rains, it seems to pour every time. We all jump in to help in hopes we all survive with patients thriving by the end of the shift.

I am sure this is similar to other professions. Whether you are pouring over someone’s coffee order or rushing to solve a problem, stress can hit us in a variety of ways. In my experience, the fight or flight mode doesn’t just apply to life threatening events. As a photographer, capturing the first kiss at the end of a wedding ceremony can put me in the heightened state. Flying over the Rockies after a trip to the west causes enough turbulence to send my heart rate through the roof. Being busy and assuming I won’t get everything done in time can cause trigger this response as well.

Let’s be clear. Stress is normal. When we are healthy, we learn to cope with the stress. We must keep our stress level at manageable because the fight or flight situations do come. Once higher stress occurs, endured and survived we need to be able to return to our normal stress level, our baseline. For example, as a nurse our stress should resolve when the shift ends, the patient gets better, or the situation comes to an end. Once it ends, we can move into a recovery mode. Our heart rates begin to normalize, we realize we haven’t gone to the bathroom or eaten for longer than normal, and we start to process the stress experience.

Pictures help me understand concepts so I drew two to show normal stress and recovery verses abnormal stress and recovery. The first picture is normal life. This person has a baseline which might adjust over time. I have found my baseline has adjusted as I get older because of “adulting”, higher stress jobs and adding family to my responsibilities. As this person goes through life, he or she has experiences which can cause some stress or extended stress which cause that fight or flight mode. Once this person goes through these experiences, resiliency is used to return to baseline.

Resilient LIfe

In the second picture we see the person’s original baseline, and stress experiences. After each experience he or she does not return to normal baseline. A new baseline is created until it becomes as high as other stress experiences previously were. This person ultimately lives at a higher level of stress. It will take less and less for the fight or flight mode to hit. Because the normal stress level is constantly elevated, this person has less opportunity for stress management during high stress experiences and recovery after.

Non-Resident Life

We need resiliency practices. Our mental and physical health are not meant to be at an elevated level all the time. Sure, we have seasons where we are at a higher level, but we must reduce our stress after these seasons so we will be in a better place when the next stress hits.

Here is an an example from a few weeks ago from my work. I witnessed a nurse arrive for her shift and be given a busy assignment. A critical patient admission was added. This nurse began showing signs of low resiliency. These signs included being quick to be angry, tearful, unable to be asked questions without snapping back and making statements about the injustice of the situation without seeing everyone was equally as busy. The shift was rough and we all have them. Not knowing what home life was like I just assumed it was the situation of the day. I hoped the situation would resolve.

The next shift I worked with this nurse the signs of low resiliency returned. There was no critical patient, a less busy assignment and no foreseeable reason for tears. When I was finally able to talk with the nurse I learned her home life is overwhelming. I knew that helping this nurse recover in better ways after long shifts would allow for greater longevity during this nurse’ career. Although the unit’s nurse mentor may not be able to change this nurse’s home life, I encouraged providing more unit education around critical patients, stress management and mental health support in hopes of helping this nurse.

We need to be able to return to baseline after stress because stress will occur again. Developing skills and habits to return to baseline are essential and can start now. We can’t avoid stress and some of us may even run towards it. Life without stress wouldn’t promote growth or courage. Stress, however, should not be allowed to rule our lives. We have the power to return to our normal level of stress and live courageously and with resilience. It takes practice, time and effort.

In the next few weeks we will dive into some practices to help us return to baseline after we make it through stress.

-ST

When the sun is out, but it’s still grey inside…

The sun is very bright today here in the west side of Denver. This morning I photographed an extended family who was finally able to come together to celebrate a little one born during the CoVid-19 quarantine. The photos will show spring’s arrival. I then had lunch outside with a friend. My arms soaked up the sun, giving me a nice tan line. Here in Colorado we crave the sun after a long winter. Everyone else seems to be outside and happy, but we can still feel grey inside.

I have spent many a sunny day wondering why the world seems so happy and hopeful when I am struggling with a loss, a season of grief or a recent trauma. As an ICU nurse, loosing even briefly known-to-me patients create experiences where other’s happiness and my melancholy self just doesn’t seem to add up. Our community has come together during these past two weeks to grieve the 10 lives lost during a recent shooting. It’s a tragedy which affects countless others. Our personal family has gone through stress and fear while a family member was in the hospital this last week plus, too. No matter who you are, we all have seasons and situations which are more difficult than others. The hard part for me is when my grey season doesn’t align with the sun shining and I perceive that everyone else seems to bask in its happiness.

Finding the strength to sit in our own experience is key for our resiliency. We need to be able to work through the hard stuff in order to find those sunny days. Let’s not forget..our experiences are just as important as anyone else’s. Everyone has seasons of sunny days and grey days. When grey seasons persist, depression might occur. (If you believe you are depressed more than a grey season, please talk to a medical provider or a mental health provider.) A few of us choose professions where we help others find their way out of their traumas, pain and stress. We must find ways to process and move past these experiences or we won’t be able to sustain when rough seasons hit our personal lives.

Comparisons: Being jealous of other people’s happiness can robe us of finding our own. Comparing ourselves to someone else’s happy seasons will never get us out of our grey ones. Comparisons may even prolong ours. Being envious of another’s season may also cause us to struggle when asked to celebrate someone’s happy moments. We might miss some incredible memories which could help us find our own joy. A word of caution: We can lean on other people’s happiness, but in doing so, be careful to not steal their joy and ruin their experience.

Gratitude: Gratitude is the antidote for feeling sorry for our own experiences. Gratitude allows joy to fill our hearts and minds, and allows us to find some new perspectives. It can take our eyes off our hardships and bring life to our lives. Joy comes when we do the hard work to work through our stuff. We can all find joy and strength to get through the grey seasons.

The sun is out, and hopefully, you are enjoying a sunny season. If your season is grey and difficult, it’ll be okay. You can do the hard work. You can find the joy to move forward. I encourage you to find your safe people to be present and process with. Be reassured, it’s okay to let the sun shine and to let the grey season linger a bit longer while you are doing the work. I believe it’s in the grey seasons where we have the greatest potential to grow. Take heart, you will find your sunshine again.

If you practice the faith tradition of Easter, may tomorrow be full of joy, blessings and sunshine.

-ST

When the flashbacks prevent sleep…

My heart and prayers go out to the community of Boulder. Thank you to all the courageous men and women who were present and who arrived to rescue and to protect. I am humbled by your sacrifices and grateful to your entire families for theirs as well.

Reflection – in case sleep has gone by the wayside.

There is no way to unsee, or un-experience something. Things flash quickly to mind at a second’s notice. For me, emotions flood to the surface and bring me back to traumas, heartbreaks, and the inhuman moment I have witnessed. Whether firsthand or secondhand trauma, there seem to be few words to explain the process our minds, hearts and bodies go through.

Flashbacks and fears come more swiftly when the evening activities have decreased and the lights are turned down low. Our imaginations start to drift, and as much as we don’t want them to, images and sounds infiltrate our dreams, waking us up in cold sweats and hearts pounding. This is, if by chance, we fall asleep. I believe what happens in our sleep demonstrates how we are truly doing. It can show when our spirits are crushed and our hope is deferred.

Flashbacks and fear loves the darkness. It can hide and the “tough” persona can hang on. We fear giving secondary trauma to anyone who has to hear our story, so we hold it in. Or, we vomit everything over and over to anyone who will listen. In both cases, after a while we wonder where our friends are and why they aren’t as available. Our significant other, or spouse, don’t know what to say. They grieve with or for us, but they also have their own process of grief if involved.

In my experience, knowing who to talk to before the trauma hits decreases the time the flashbacks and fear have time to hold on. When we speak our experiences, our fears, and our shame into the light and out loud it has less leverage and less ability to be hidden. When we bring something out from the hidden places it commands less power over us.

I heard this incredible story of a nurse who was doing his mental health rotation years ago in nursing school. He was in an adolescent inpatient hospital. This young girl needed to sleep. She had seen unspeakable things. Everything she had experienced was not only at night, but she dreamed about them every night. She had stopped sleeping. As you can image, the mental health issues around months of not sleeping were overwhelming. Nothing was working. This nursing student asked his instructor to change his practicum to night shifts. He sat by her bedside for several nights in a row. The minute she jerked awake from a dream, she would yell. He would speak to her and kept his hand on hers. She began to sleep, no longer as paralyzed by her fear. Over time, she was able to work on her fear during the day because she was sleeping more at night.

Sleep goes a long way towards healing, so, please, begin to speak so your experiences cannot stay hidden. Find a professional therapist, a counselor, a coach, or a peer to listen and help you bring to light what you have seen and what you continue to remember. Don’t linger in the flashbacks. Don’t minimize your experience when you hear someone else’s story. Speak truth out loud truth over your life, your safety or your ability to overcome. Let the light in to those hidden places.

It’s never too late to ask for help. Planning ahead for your safe person is great, but if today is the day you need to talk to someone, don’t wait. There are many opens, but here in Colorado there is a crisis service: https://coloradocrisisservices.org/ or call them: 1-844-493-TALK (8255). Or check out https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists to find a therapist near you.

I pray sleep upon you and restful spaces where you can be free to let the light into those hidden places.

-ST

The Balance between the To-Do List and Slowing Down

My house is a disaster. The laundry needing to be folded is piling up and the refrigerator is showing evidence that our home is practicing scarcity. My to-do list has been stacking up, but my ability (or inability) to prioritize the next urgent thing takes me further from accomplishing anything on my list. I am overwhelmed by my inadequacies and I slump over in tears.

It’s the day after I return home from a little R&R. The sunshine during my little trip brought joy to my heart. Restoration and perspective seemed to come hand in hand during my short trip. My friend, who I was visiting, and I walked for miles over the course of three days, talked about life and relaxed on the couch together, laughing over the comedy we choose to watch. I slept and I ate good food. I walked on the beach and photographed a baby bump. Everything was perfect. I cherished the time I was able to slow down.

Now, the day after I returned home, I start the day determined to help my soul stay refreshed. I make it about 10 minutes. I am quickly overwhelmed by my to-do list. Maybe my break from life created space for my brain to get back on track, but now I see more clearly what I haven’t accomplished. It also reminded me of the goals I have neglected. On the bright side, maybe slowing down doesn’t just help us rest, but it can also give us clarify around what is important when we are productive.

I wonder about the true relationship between productivity and allowing some space to slow down. There must be a balance somewhere. Giving myself permission to be productive is just as powerful as giving myself permission to slow down. My soul seems to need both to be centered. Carving out time for both appears to be key.

What is the balance for you? A little slow down time in conjunction with productivity? Or, do you blaze ahead until you have nothing left to give before you slow down? What if we do both? Finding the boundaries within our productivity, learning when to slow down and choosing to set both as priorities can help us build resilience into our every day lives. When stress comes, or the feelings of inadequacy over our to-do lists overwhelm us, finding our way back to the balance will be essential for a sustaining way of life.

Donald Miller talks in his course, “Hero on a Mission”, about productivity being best in the morning when our minds are the sharpest. He also talks about giving ourselves rewards (little dopamine hits) when we accomplish a daily goal or task. Rewarding myself is hard for me to do, but I am determined to reward myself with small moments of slowing down after accomplished tasks. I believe it will bring a better balance to my life.

-ST

Sleep…what I am Missing

I am sitting outside during this glorious Colorado day. My youngest is sleeping in the car after errands so I take a few moments for myself. What a treat to have a fresh wind, the warm sun and a gentle spirit of renewal in the air. The mountains are still snow capped and we have moved into the season of spring days bookended by snowstorms. The snow comes quickly, melts quickly and saturates our brown grasses in hopes of green May colors. This is also when my winter blues start to fade and hope sneaks into my heart ever so gently.

This past week I reflected that my winter blues seem heavier this year than previous years. Working night shift and sleeping very little during the day before and after a shift enhances the bluish hue in my mind and heart. I love working at night, but, news flash, I’m not as young as I used to be. My life is more clustered with responsibilities and agendas than it was when I was in my twenties. Finding the resiliency to get the to-do list done seems a bit harder lately.

I knew I needed to dialogue about this with my equally driven friend. As we enjoyed coffee this morning, we talked about simplicity and decluttering our lives, yet moving forward with our goals. We also talked about sleep. When people, like the two of us, are driven and goal oriented, sleep doesn’t seem as important. We can become so run down, almost to the point of shut down, before we go to bed early and unplug our alarm clocks. For me, the fear of decreased momentum shows up when I decide to take a day of rest. I fear that I might loose track and forget to accomplish something.

My other problem is that I want to be liked. I want to be successful in ALL my endeavors. Yet, two things happen when I don’t sleep. The first, I don’t like myself. The second, I don’t have the capacity to do one thing well, yet alone my entire list of goals. In my mind I may be loosing momentum, but taking a few years off my life due to the lack of sleep sounds way worse.

I have decided I need to build some sleep into my resiliency plan. My goals will only be as good as the energy I can put behind them. Choosing to sleep, thus improving my mental capacity, my concentration and my overall health, needs to be as important as the foods I put in my mouth and the exercise I choose to participate in. Sleeping more cannot be a sign of weakness in my life. It needs to be a sign of wisdom and strength.

This week, I am going to schedule sleep into my daily life. I will plan when I go to bed and when I will get up at least one day. I will plan it around what my body needs, not around my other goals. I want to see if one night of good sleep a week will increase a positive outlook around my future, provide momentum around my goals and increase my desire to speak kindly to myself.

How about you? How’s your sleep life? Do you need to sleep more so you are more likeable to yourself and everyone around you? Do you need to say “no” to something so you can rest? Or are you struggling to get out of bed every morning? Would a conversation with your doctor, therapist or good friend/loved-one be needed to acknowledge the “blues” you are experiencing and to get help?

Whatever your case might be, take some time to figure out what you need to do around sleep and make a plan to do it. It might just make some of us feel like we are still in our twenties…okay, a girl can hope, right!

-ST