Having the discipline to exercise regularly hinges on this one basic thing....
Here is an ancient exercise scientifically proven to activate the parasympathetic system and bring calm and balanced mental functioning. The pattern is: left exhale, right inhale, left exhale, right inhale / right exhale, left inhale, right exhale, left inhale and then repeat the entire pattern.
By Paul Brundtland
If you are reading this we probably have something in common. That's no stock photo heading this article, that's me. A 2008 study by the National Sleep Foundation found that 42% of respondents woke up at night at least a few times a week(1). We are not alone in this condition known as "middle of the night insomnia" or "maintenance insomnia".
Sometimes I'm in bed, realize I'm not dreaming anymore, and then after not falling back to sleep, I look at the clock....
"Ahh!! I still have 2 or 3 hours before I have to get up. Why am I awake?"
Yes, I know that this is not an easy question to answer, and a quick search of the internet will produce a multitude of reasons from, I ate too soon before bedtime, to my stress level is too high, to actually if I'm awake it means I SHOULD just wake up and start my day (there are many who believe that is a secret to success and a fulfilling life). Neither doubting nor addressing any of the aforementioned theories, sometimes I'm just tired and want to sleep more. Period. I don't want to have stinging eyes and a foggy brain. I want my first moments of the day to be with a refreshed body and mind, want to stretch my arms out while looking at a sun that got up at least a little before me.
When I was thinking of writing this post, I kept hesitating because I thought I should wait until I found a universal cure for insomnia. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous and I'm actually laughing to myself as I write this. If you have every read my articles, you may know that I am a recovering perfectionist.
Anyway, this morning I decided that even if this is not the almighty formula for beating insomnia for everyone in every situation, I want to share it anyway. If I can help one person, it will be worth it. The advice is safe and it has worked for me countless times so hopefully it works for you as well.
The most important point is not to allow yourself to worry about the fact that you are not asleep. Don't judge it as a negative thing, as that will create emotional tension and make it even harder to sleep again. Just try to accept it as the present situation. No more, no less.
Make sure you are not overheated.
Some researchers believe that losing a small amount of heat to the environment helps to induce sleep (2) . If your blankets are too thick, or you are wearing too much, the body's temperature may rise, and it might become more difficult to stay in a deep sleep (3). One option is to take off the blanket for a short while and see if you become sleepy again.
If your thoughts become clear, it's time to make a move
If you are still dreamy and your thoughts are not really related to waking life, you may just fall asleep again. Once you start thinking about yesterday, tomorrow, things you wish you hadn't done, things you really want to do etc, it will be much harder to turn your thoughts off sufficiently to doze off again. The comfort of the bed can also have the effect of simply perpetuating the awake state. This is where the tips really begin.
Let yourself leave bed, or at least sit up and remove the blanket from at least part of your body. The point is to allow yourself to get less comfortable, so when you lie down again a little later you will really feel the delicious difference. Sitting on a chair could be a good option.
If you have thoughts running through your head, WRITE THEM DOWN. Writing can be a very simple means of expressing thoughts and emotions. Once they are written, they have been expressed, and you may find your mind is clearer. Pennebaker PH. D and Evans in their book Expressive Writing site journaling as a key practice in improving general health and dealing with emotional issues.
Let Emotions Run Their Course Without Analyzing Them
If you have don't have any particular thoughts, but you just feel emotionally tense or negative, sit with the emotion for a few minutes WITHOUT ANALYZING IT. Cut your thoughts and just go fully into the PHYSICAL sensations you are experiencing. If you find your mind searching for thoughts to connect with the sensations, let them go and just focus on the body once again. Watch how the physical sensations develop or just remain. When you feel even slightly different, really take note and allow the new sensation to develop. Let your body go through the process without judging it.
If you have performed either of the above options, you might start to feel a bit more relaxed, and your mind may start to drift to dreamy thoughts. That's the time to slide back into bed, enjoy the comfort, and get some more sleep.
If you are still feeling too awake, there are a few more things to try:
Once again, with any of the above choices, once you start to notice your thoughts getting dreamy, head back to bed, exhale and enjoy drifting back off to dreamland.
To your health
Felt like speaking rather than writing today. Applying Yogic philosophy when injured.
By Paul Brundtland
As a strong believer in integrated well-being, my regular exercise routine includes cardio, yoga, strength training, meditation and relaxation. As a part of my cardio/strength training, I often do burpees. At one point, after deciding to really step up my number of burpee sets, I noticed some knee pain. It was not very strong, but as it seemed to get worse each day I did the burpees, I started to rethink the exercise, and decided look into its origins.
In 1939, New York physiologist Royal H. Burpee designed the first version of the burpee as a quick test of fitness for those who were already in good health. This original exercise did not include the push up (people would simply squat, go to plank, jump back to squat and come back up to a standing position). This was meant to be done only 4 times. Mr Burpee would take a series of heart rate measurements before and after the exercise and then calculate the heart's blood pumping efficiency. The resulting equation would give an indication of overall fitness. Burpee himself spoke against doing the exercise in high volumes.
Doing several sets of burpees, we can feel the impact on the knees when we jump both into and out of plank position (the position the body is in before lowering in a push up). There is a high dynamic load on the knees during these two movements.
In the version I propose in this video, this dynamic load is dramatically reduced, due to gently placing the knees on the ground before and after the plank, and by moving one leg at a time. Because of removing the jumps to and from plank however, the cardiovascular aspect is reduced. The remedy for that it...learn the exercise by heart and do it as quick as you safely can!
This burpee variation can be used as a part of a HIIT (high intensity interval training) routine. As with all HIIT routines, be sure to stay hydrated and watch your action/rest ratios. For beginners that should be 1:2 (e.g. 30 seconds of exercise and then 60 seconds of rest).
To your health
By Paul Brundtland,
Mindbody counsellor and coach
Many of us know that feeling, that nagging voice inside saying "No, I want it THAT way". Even when we say "Sure, it's fine!", there might be a little (or a lot of) tension in the gut that says "Why am I agreeing to this? This isn't fine at all!".
One can argue that perfectionism can bring out the best in us and others in certain situations. The great inventors, artists, scientists, engineers and architects in history undoubtedly found themselves struggling to realize exactly what was in their heads, and pushing those involved past what had been previously considered acceptable.
In daily life for many of us perfectionists, we're often not talking about finding the perfect angle for a structural member in a building. We might be more at the scale of finding the perfect angle for the hat on our head or getting our look for the day perfect. Maybe it's the perfect way to end an email or expecting the perfect response at the perfect time from a colleague , friend or partner.
"What's wrong with that?", you may ask. Well, nothing, if it causes you no tension and doesn't drive the people around you mad.
There is a point when perfectionism leads us away from a "perfect" experience of life. This is to say, the feelings associated with having it "just right" actually can cause us to miss the beneficial qualities of having it in all its glory just "as it is".
Believe it or not, these negative feelings can actually build up and cause not only constant mental tension but chronic physical pain as well. In his book Healing Back Pain Dr John Sarno sites perfectionism as a major contributing factor to a decrease in blood flow and resulting muscle pain in an overwhelming majority of cases of chronic back pain.
So, how can an urge to do something right end up doing something so wrong, in both the mind and the body? To see the connection we can look at the origins of our perfectionism. Many of us become more and more perfectionistic with age. Why? Protection. Protection from unwanted results on one level, but on another level, protection from the associated feelings around having those unwanted results.
Picture this for example: at age 3 doing something wrong and your mother saying "No". You feel bad. You don't really know much about subtleties in feelings so it's just simply bad.
At age 15 you try to kiss a boy/girl who doesn't like you that way. They move out of the way with their hands in front of them and you feel not only bad, but now you know it is embarrassment. Another negative feeling.
At 28 you think you are in line for a promotion at work, only to find out that not only did you not get the promotion, you are actually fired! You feel not only bad and embarrassed, you become very aware of a feeling of failure. This is once again, a feeling that drains your body of positive energy.
It doesn't matter what negative feeling it is, as long as it is negative, we want to be protected from it, especially if we have been drained or hurt in the past and we don't feel particularly strong. We can become more and more sensitive to them as each new negative feeling reminds us of, or triggers a variety of negative feelings from the past. They build up and we become afraid of feeling them.
This fear of negative feelings can become so strong that we try to carefully build our lives as "top security" structures that will keep us safe; keep us feeling good. This good feeling is not that great at all though when we think about it. It's too delicate. Think about the contrary: the exhilaration we feel when we do something successfully even though we were previously afraid of doing it. This is a much more resilient good feeling. We feel happy AND strong. It's hard to tell if that pure bright feeling comes from the success in achievement or the defeat of that old predator called fear.
The first time I went rock climbing, it was great to look up at the cliff I had "conquered", but even better to know that I was not afraid to do it again. Even though it had just been a minor fear of heights, knowing that I had not let it stop me from climbing made me feel purely wonderful.
Beating something as obvious of a clear fear of heights is easy, in a way, because we know some ways to get over it. It's an easy target. What can we do about these other more subtle fears that drive our perfectionism?
Becoming conscious that they are fears is the first step.
Realizing that our reactions to "imperfect" situations and actions that others do are based on a build up of negative emotions from past experiences is another. We are not just reacting to one clerk who didn't give us good enough attention, we are also reacting to EVERY clerk that didn't give us good enough attention AND a teacher who ignored our burning question in class AND even something seemingly unrelated as falling off the curb and scratching our knees a trillion years ago....the list goes on and on and gets longer as we grow. We are not practicing our work presentation 50 times just to ensure we have a positive result, but also to avoid another one of those bad feelings.
As written by Keijzer and Geiger in NERTI (The Key to a Life without Hyper-reactivity or Phobias), and also Ekart Tolle in The Power of Now, when we do get triggered, we should stay in the moment and allow our body to feel as it wants to without reacting to it. If possible, take several minutes to just observe your body without trying to stop what is happening inside. Observing it and allowing it to follow its course is the essence of the cathartic process and if it is allowed to run its complete course, this can erase the links to past experiences.
Find out more about liberating yourself from the baggage of past negative experiences by looking into Mindbody coaching, Vipassana programs, EFT and NERTI.
Look out for my future blog about finding the balance between using your wisdom from experience but living fearlessly as though you've never been hurt.
To your health
Image by Markj Sebastian