To Sleep or Not…

Cover of "White Christmas"

Cover of White Christmas

To sleep, or not to sleep—that is the question:

Whether it is better for the mind to ponder

The outrageous thoughts and dreams

Or to tackle the sea of problems

And by challenging end them.  To wake, to sleep—

Which one—

Yes, which one.  It is some ridiculous hour when by all logic you should be sound asleep yet you find yourself wide awake for reasons beyond your understanding.  So what do you do?  Do you lie in bed trying to get to sleep?  Do you get up and do some work?  Do you turn on the TV in an attempt to distract your thoughts?  Or do you wake up someone up to help you go back to sleep?  Which to choose?

“It appears that every man’s insomnia is as different from his neighbour’s as are their daytime hopes and aspirations.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald realized that one solution may work for you but may not work for your friends.  You are different in personalities, dreams and experiences from others and even at times your personality, dreams and experience changes from part of your life to another.  So finding a solution to the sleeplessness today, may not work tomorrow.  This is why you need to have multiple solutions ready at a moment’s notice.

 “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep I count my blessings instead of sheep…”  Bing Crosby’s gave this advice in the 1954 classic “White Christmas” when his soon to be girlfriend was having a hard time sleeping because of her pestering sister.  This is a reasonable approach which does work on occasion mostly because it distracts you from the thoughts that are consuming you in the middle of the night.  Counting your blessings is about focusing your thoughts on the things you are grateful for instead of the things that need to be done or are causing you anxiety.  This attitude of gratitude has a calming effect and you might find that you fall asleep while counting all of your blessings.

“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying.  It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep.”  Dale Carnegie’s advice suggests that is it better to get up and work then to worry.  If you are struggling with a deadline, thinking about the email you forgot to send, or just realized a solution to a problem you have been pondering, then getting up and tending to the issue may be the very trick that allows you to get back to sleep.  The little bit of sleep that you lose in productive work may actually be less than the sleep you would lose lying awake in bed worrying.

“You sleep alright?” asks the railcar employee to Eric Little as they arrive in London just before the Olympic trials from the movie “Chariots of Fire”.

“Like a log,” replies Eric Little waking up from his overnight railcar and looking at the newspaper.

“Aha, must have a clear consciousness,” he replies.  A clear consciousness is one of the many ways to encourage the elusive sleep.  Oftentimes as your mind rests, you become aware of mistakes from the previous day.  If the thoughts that consume you are about your mistakes or other people’s mistakes then it is best to develop an attitude of forgiveness.  Forgiving yourself and others is one way to clear your conscious and allow sleep to return.

“Come, blesséd barrier between day and day,

Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!”

William Wordsworth concludes in his poem “To Sleep”.  Sleeping will rejuvenate your body and mind and is essential for productive living.  So the next time you find yourself sleepless, change your attitude to an attitude of gratefulness, an attitude of productivity, or an attitude of forgiveness and see if one of these does not help put you back to sleep.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

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When Small Spaces Equal Big Fears

Have you ever found yourself in a small tight space like a storage closet, a closed MRI, or an elevator and out of nowhere you felt like you were going to lose it?  Suddenly your breath seems lost, your palms and underarms sweat, your heart races, you feel light-headed and your stomach does flips.  The next thing you know, you are looking for a way out and analyzing how fast you can escape.  Then you become angry because you have not escaped yet and the desire to run away fast is so overwhelming that you could scream.  If so, you might have experienced an anxiety attack.

The problem with anxiety attacks is they happen when you least expect it or worse, when you really don’t have the time to properly deal with it.  But it cannot be ignored.  If you chose to ignore the anxiety attack and deny its’ existence, it will come back again and again with a vengeance.  The best plan for action is to revisit your last attack in your mind and look for the following clues as to the cause.

Check your environment.  Many people do not handle small tight spaces well and have a fear that the space is closing in on them.  If this sounds like you then analyze the other times when you have experienced an anxiety attack in the past.  Is it only in small spaces?  Does the size or location of the exit have an effect?  Look for patterns in your anxiety as a clue to what maybe causing the anxiety in the first place.

Check your thoughts.  Once you have identified a pattern ask yourself, “What was I thinking?”  Were you thinking that you could not escape?  Were you thinking that the space was getting smaller and smaller?  Were you thinking that you could be attacked?  Once you know your thoughts and now that you are no longer in that same environment, ask yourself, “How realistic was my fear?”  Even mild fears tend to be irrational at times but when mixed with anxiety, they can grow into a larger than life fear that becomes hard to overcome.

Check your emotions.  Now that you know your pattern and have identified your thoughts, ask yourself, “How was I feeling?”  Your feelings in that moment are likely to be intense.  If you experienced anger or a form of it such as frustration, tension, irritation, hurt, hostile or rage then the event most likely triggered something from your past.  Ask, “What does this remind me of” to uncover the real anxiety producing event.

Anxiety attacks do not happen in a vacuum, they occur for a reason and sometimes that reason is rational but it manifests itself in irrational ways.  By spending some time analyzing you last event, you can prevent future events and learn to keep small spaces equaling small fears.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Help for Hurting Families

There are times in our lives when things happen that hurt us.  Perhaps it is the disappointment of our children, the broken trust of our spouse, the betrayal of a friend, the abandonment of a family member, the failure of a business, or the rejection of a neighbor.  Whatever the incident, we have a choice to either deal with the hurt or bury the hurt.

Often the reason we bury our hurt is because we don’t want to feel the pain.  We instead turn to some sort of medication to stop the pain as if the pain is the problem instead of a symptom of the problem.  Medication does not necessarily come in the form of drugs, some medicate themselves from pain through excessive shopping, eating or drinking or perhaps fantasy thinking through gambling, pornography, television or video games.  Whatever the medication, the goal is the same, to dull or distract us from the pain and hurt we feel.

But we can choose to deal with the hurt instead.  The process is threefold beginning with recognizing the hurt has occurred, than responding constructively to the hurt and finally restoring the damaged relationship.  With each step, the hurt diminishes over time allowing the stress of the incident to fade.  However this process is not easy as many get stuck in one of the stages thereby not fully completing the steps and allowing the hurt to continue far longer than needed.  Let’s examine each of the steps more fully to better understand the process.

Recognize.  Our ability to recognize and be honest with the hurt we feel greatly impacts our ability to heal.  Honest is the most difficult step because it requires us to admit to our pain and reach out for help.  We often think feeling pain will make us weak or venerable for more pain, ironically the reverse is true.    For it is in our honesty first with ourselves and later with those around us that we are able to begin the process of healing and restoration of relationships.  By not being honest, we continue to lie to ourselves and those around us thereby setting ourselves up for even more hurt in the future.

Respond. Once we recognize the hurt, our response to the hurt can either destroy or rebuild our relationships.  Angry outbursts, vengeful thoughts, ignoring others, and manipulation schemes are all examples of unhealthy responses to hurt which will eventually destroy the relationship.  Alternatively, by lovingly confronting the hurt and processing it in a constructive environment, we can work towards the next step in the healing process.

Restore.  Only after the hurt is recognized and then responded to properly can true restoration of a relationship begin.  Broken relationships continue to cause pain even if they are distant; however healthy relationships allow us to prosper.  Healthy relationships allow room for mistakes without judgment, for boundaries without control, for security without anxiety, and for safety without fear.  They provide peace in our lives which ultimately brings harmony and freedom from strife.

One of the lessons learned from giving birth to children is that from the greatest pain comes the greatest joy.  Just as in child-birth, the pain is an indication of the upcoming birth of a child so the hurt in our lives can bring about unexpected joy through restored relationships.  We are not created to feel only joy without pain; instead we feel the greatest joy after the pain.  Use the hurt you feel as an opportunity to grow past the pain and into the joy of a restored fellowship with your child, spouse, friend, family member or neighbor.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.