Burnout

The Best Way to Compound Your Stress

The Best Way to Compound Your Stress

It took me years to figure out this simple thing.

We have lot of stress in our lives. My stress isn’t more or less than anyone else…the fact we are human, and we work our butts off to pay bills so we can live, and we have relationships to juggle around our work life, and kids to raise in the middle of all that…

Then…

We need to find the car keys, right now, because we’re late for work, and since we forgot lunch, we grab a candy bar or nothing at all, then deal with stupid on the highways and byways to get to work—mention nothing about traveling around accidents and road construction, and still…we might be on time to work.

Then…

We deal with the gossip at work, the insincere co-workers, the work we wish we didn’t have to do, and the idiotic boss who doesn’t know their own job no-less try to tell us how to do ours.

Ugh! I get stressed just writing this.

***

I’ve noticed through the years that if I don’t take care of myself then the stress that just seems to be as natural and normal to our lives like breathing and farting, seems to compound to levels that are nearly off the charts.

For example…

When I stop doing idea lists and let my mind stagnate, then I’m not able to come up with quick solutions to problems and I contribute less to those around me. My brain seems to become sluggish.

When I allow negative people into my life and engage in gossiping and say Yes to everything and don’t pay attention to taking care of my emotions, then I tank and become negative myself and all the energy seems to drain out.

When I quit praying, meditating, and taking care of my spiritual side, then I find myself getting hard, irritable, easily frustrated, and less focused on what’s important in my life. Apathy creeps in and begins to choke love, faith, and hope off and I stop being grateful for life and those precious people around me.

When I go days without a physical workout, I feel dull, everything seems like an effort, and stress gets lodged under my skin and tumbles around in my guts like broken glass.

All those things mentioned above, combined, will compound your stress.

But the best way to activate a hideous feedback loop whereby the stressors in life seemingly grow out of the silliest situations, get entrenched, and you sink daily until you break the cycle of this one thing.

Sleep.

Rather, the lack thereof.

Every time in my life that I’ve allow myself to think that the key to success, excellence, and the pursuit of whatever is somehow tied to pushing myself to the point of exhaustion where I get 3 to 5 hours of sleep, every night, I end up dealing with emotions, thoughts, and physiological responses of my body that sabotages anything resembling success.

I did it for years in my last career thinking that the more sleep I sacrificed, the more I would get ahead and would be a better leader. It was just the opposite.

The less sleep I got, the more depressed I became.

I even knew the studies that came out at that time that screamed to us that an individual who stays awake for 24 hours has the cognitive process and reaction time of someone who is inebriated with a blood alcohol content of .100—you are considered legally too drunk to get behind the wheel of a vehicle of most states at .080.

After a period of time of operating on 3 to 5 hours of sleep, I would get muscle tremors and cramps. My guts felt like they were always quivering. My head had constant pressure. My vision was blurred. There were times when I could feel my heart race, then slow, then it was like my heart muscles would vibrate.

I would hallucinate while on duty at night and during the day. I’d enter into these micro-sleeps where the brain shuts off for microseconds at a time and when it’d fire back up, it’d fill in the gaps with some crazy shit.

I really thought I was going crazy at the time. I operated like this for years too. Even on days off, it got to the point where I couldn’t sleep at all.

Lack of sleep was a badge of honor after a while. I would brag to other supervisors and colleagues about how I never slept and just worked all the time, like some weird game of “Mine is bigger than yours”.

Emotionally I was a wreck.

Life is hard enough when everything is working good, but not to get proper sleep, it’s like a death sentence to the emotions.

Depression is practically guaranteed when sleep is disregarded.

Sleep deprivation has its own strange cycle where it locks a person into its stranglehold. I got to a point where my circadian rhythm expected to be awake after just a few hours of sleep. So, even if I wanted to, I just couldn’t sleep right.

Stress?

Yes, stress and sleep deprivation walk hand in hand and love each other’s company. It’s the most surefire way to stay stressed out.

It’s crazy, isn’t it? We get stressed over things we can’t change and will stay awake thinking about those things, or issues in life, or money problems, or whatever it is that stresses us out…losing precious sleep.

And yet, sleep is the very thing we need to reset our brains, heal our bodies, and comfort our hearts.

And…those who don’t get enough sleep, 7 to 8 hours a night, live shorter lives than those who do get proper sleep. Some studies state that we shave off at least 10 years of our lives by not sleeping properly.

***

Sleep, self-improvement

I’ve even take a nap once in a while

One of the things I set out to change in my life a few years back when making some radical decisions about the direction of my life was that I needed to figure out a way to get some sleep, any sleep, and more the merrier.

And, one of the best things I ever did was to ban my cell phone from my bedroom.

I know, when you’re on call in the middle of the night like I was, that’s not always an option, BUT, it sure is on your weekends and days off.

Getting rid of electronics—TV, laptops, iPhones, iPads—out of the bedroom, or anywhere near I sleep has been a game changer.

I normally get to bed earlier too these days. But not today because I worked, took care of life events, and now it’s well into the night, but trust me, once I hit the publish button here, I’m going to shut this laptop down and go shut my eyelids.

I’m going to tell myself that everything is going to be okay and the money issues, relationships, life events, and everything else that vies for my attention will be there in the morning so might as well think about something I’m grateful for and get a good night sleep.

 


Photo by Alexas_Fotos

Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in Burnout, Life Hack, Living Better, Self-Improvement
What if You’re Running on Low?

What if You’re Running on Low?

I read a blog in which the author said he was able to relate to the fact that we hurt, struggle, and go through lonely times. He spoke about how we’re all connected and we’re really not alone. Usually, this particular blog helps me, but this time…it didn’t.

Sometimes it, no matter what it is, just doesn’t seem to help.

2006 was an unbelievable year. For some reason, I decided to go to church at the first part of that year. I lifted my hands at the end of the morning service, and it dawned on me, I felt a complete loss of hope that I’ve never felt before—in church of all places.

A lot was going on then. A lot had affected me.

In 2005 I worked a record number of suicides. Being a cop, you see the worse of human nature. You see what others to do each other; sometimes, to themselves.

I think it sucked something out of my soul then.

Suicide messes with your thinking. I saw more than I ever wanted to.

I thought, What were these folks thinking right before they did the deed?

I wondered about the pain they felt…inside. About the hope they lost.

And yes, I’ve thought it through myself.

When you’re out of hope, when you’ve fallen off the edge inside, when the last strand you’ve been hanging onto comes undone…you think of ending it all. At least…I did.

Some things suck the life out of us. Drip by drip, it seems to leak out of us.

Sometimes, it comes as a flash-flood. You don’t even see the train coming and then, BAM!

Afterward, all you know is that you hurt—an indescribable loneliness, even when there are other people in the same house as you.

There’s that ache that doesn’t get touched by a blog post, by a special word, by a text, email, or written whatever.

“How did you regain hope?”

It’s hard to explain.

It’s how I lived that helped me more. It’s the day to day decisions on how I spent my own time that even today seems to have made the difference; but, back then…admittedly, I had no clue that anything I was doing at the time was helping.

I got to a point where I just didn’t feel—apathy set in and set in hard. Nothing. Nada.

Cut me, I’d bleed, smile back at you and the fight was on. I pushed partners out of the way of dangerous situations to be the first one through the door.

Deathwish? Yeah, probably.

But, here I am…still alive, writing about what it’s like to lose hope.

I really can’t explain it.

The loneliness, despair, and utter dismay I felt from the loss of hope then…

I found myself clawing and scratching for anything that moved to help alleviate the pain. It felt like I was drowning and couldn’t take another breath, and it’s an ache that doesn’t go away with any drug, nor alcohol.

Worse, when you lose hope, passion drains out of you like…I don’t know what. I just wrote like a leaky bucket, but I erased it because that’s stupid.

Passion just leaves. I have no idea where it goes. One day, you’re all excited about your thing. The next day, it’s the last thing you want to tinker with.

But…here’s what I did then. I do it now, and I know that somehow, someway, it helps; just like it did back then.

Take a few moments right now. Close your eyes, and tell yourself, “I love you.”

Really, go ahead, right now. “I love you.”

Do that a few times, then simply listen to your own breath, quietly, for a few moments.

Take another deep breath, open your eyes, and whisper, “Thank you.”

Now take yourself outside, and go for a walk. Look at the trees, notice the colors in the rocks and pebbles below your feet, and then gaze up at the birds and clouds above.

Then, as you gaze at nature, whisper, “Thank you.”

That’s it. That’s all you need to do—right now. Nothing more.

Does it fix things right now? Absolutely not. But…

It helps.

Little by little, every day.

Drip by drip, every day: you and I will refill our glass.

Right there, you and I have taken care of our four pillars.

  1. Spiritual = you just spent a few moments meditating.
  2. Physical = you just took a walk, long or short, fast or slow, it doesn’t matter; you exerted some energy walking.
  3. Mental = you just gave your mind a rest as you focused on the nature around you while walking.
  4. Emotional = you practiced gratitude by saying “thank you” for things that are peaceful and soothing.

Good job!

Those four things do not take much effort. Honestly, somedays, there’s not much left in me to exert much effort.

Yet, the times when we’re weak, out of breath, and our lives seem to have fizzled into thin air before our eyes, taking a few moments doing the above may seem a little strange, awkward, or silly…but…

it helps.

Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in Burnout, Life Hack, Living Better, Self-Improvement, Suicide