Thursday, June 28, 2012

Easing Stress by Adding Mystery to My Day

Will my husband be able to get out of bed today? Will I need to call my parents to come take care of the kids? Will I get everything done that needs done today? As a mom and caregiver I found that my thoughts were overrun with the negative anticipation of the next crisis.

One day, I read an article in a women’s magazine about how adding an element of mystery can spice up a relationship. Right now my relationship was fine, but my own life definitely needed some spice. How could I add mystery to my life?

That Friday was my monthly self-proclaimed Donut Day. Once a month I would treat myself to two donuts and a coffee for breakfast. For a year I had been getting the same thing. This month I decided to spice things up a bit. I asked the server to pick my donuts for me and then I turned my back to the counter. She handed me my closed bag. The two minutes that it took me to get from the counter to my car were very exciting. What kind of donuts did she give me? Chocolate? Cream-filled? Glazed? I couldn’t wait to open that bag!

Those turned out to be two of the most relaxing minutes I’d had all week. To be thinking of something fun instead of something stressful was wonderful. I arrived at work with a smile on my face instead of a pounding headache.

My first attempt at adding mystery to my life was successful so I decided to try again. In making plans to meet a friend for dinner I asked her to pick the restaurant and only give me the address for my GPS. When getting dressed one Saturday I had my daughter pick out a shirt and then I based my outfit on it. I bought a crazy flavor of potato chips that I had wanted to try and waited a couple of days before opening the bag.

Now I'm constantly thinking of ways to include some positive anticipation to my day.  If my GPS takes me on a route that I'm not sure of, I can just go for it and see where the GPS leads me.  When I'm reading a book and get to the last chapter, I can set the book aside for the day or an hour to let myself anticpate how things are going to end.  There are so many possibilities!

The negative anticipation is still there, but the added spice of mystery provides me with enough of a break to keep pushing ahead.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My Sleep Solution

One way that stress attacks me is by affecting my sleep patterns.  Most nights I am asleep literally seconds after my head hits the pillow (This is so annoying to my husband Jamison who will be talking away before realizing that I am already fast asleep!).   However, some nights I lay there unable to get my mind to stop.  Other nights I am suddenly wide awake my heart pounding and mind racing at 3:00AM unable to return to a peaceful slumber. 

Besides stress disturbing with my sleep pattern, my husband has a difficult time sleeping due to his chronic illness.  He is often up and down throughout the night.  I used to sleep through all of his noise and movement, but now the slightest thing can wake me up.  I may not fully come awake, but my deep sleep is still interrupted.

As a result of these interruptions, from stress or Jamison, I was exhausted.  This was impacting my mood, my decision making and overall enjoyment of life.  After reading several articles about sleep, talking with friends and trying out some options I discovered my sleep solution . . . a simple five-step ROUTINE!  I found that doing these five simple things as I crawl into bed helps me to relax and prepare my body and mind for a peaceful slumber.

STEP ONE: A hot cup of decaf tea.  Most often I enjoy a cup of Chamomile Tea with a touch of honey.  The herb chamomile is a well-known natural relaxer.  (There are many other kinds of tea.  It's important to make sure that whatever tea you drink is decaf.) 

STEP TWO: Lavender lotion.  According to, lavender calms the mind, eases stress and tension and relaxes the body.  Lavender comes in many different forms - oil, dried, lotion, powder or candles.  I've tried different forms and prefer to use it in a lotion.
STEP THREE: Sleeping Mask.  I received the BEST pair of pajamas for Christmas - thick soft flannel ones.  They came with a matching sleeping mask.  I dug it out from the bottom of my PJ drawer and gave it a try.  At first I felt really funny wearing it, but now I love it!  The mask blocks out any light from the TV, laptop or hallway.  I have quite a collection of masks now! 

STEP FOUR: Music!  I listen to Jim Brinkman or other instrumental piano music on my I-pod.  My son blasts his rock music so loud that I don't know how he sleeps through it.  I like my music quiet and calming.  Once I'm fast asleep Jamison will take my ear buds out for me or some nights I turn my I-Pod off on my own without even realizing it. 

STEP FIVE: Getting tucked in!  This may sound really silly, but it has become my favorite part of my Sleep Routine. Once I crawl into bed with my mask on and ear buds in place, Jamison pulls the covers up, tucks them in around me and kisses me on the forehead (We quickly discovered that a kiss on the lips leads to a mouthful of lavender lotion - not very pleasant!).  As a couple dealing with a chronic physical illness, this is a time of connection for us.  Jamison has struggled with feelings of not providing for his family or not being able to "take care" of me since he is unable to work and can't financially provide for us.  This is a way for him to "take care" of me and a time for me to feel taken care of.  It is very intimate and soothing.   

My routine is not always full-proof and I don't always follow all five steps every night, but I have found that even doing a couple of the steps helps me to sleep better.  There are many other things that I read about and tried that are said to help improve sleep such as a warm bath, Melatonin or a foot massage.  As with most other aspects of our health, what works for me may or may not work for you.  You have to find out what works best for you.  If you struggle with getting a good night's sleep for whatever reason, I encourage you to explore your options and find your Sleep Solution!  Getting enough sleep is an important part of leading a healthy life.