I have been known to say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Repeatedly. It’s a terrible thing to say to myself. It’s considered bad “self-talk,” because not only is it negative and degrading to the importance of sleep, but it’s as if I’m declaring that I don’t deserve something so essential to good health and well-being. But I don’t really mean it. I don’t! I always go to sleep. Eventually.
That said, I plan to stop saying it as of right this moment. That is, as of 10:27 p.m. I will no longer say the words, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” In fact, I’ll do one better than that. I’ll make sure I log off my laptop and go to sleep by 11 p.m. The fact is, I’m tired, but it’s hard to shut down with my to-do list only halfway checked off. It feels wrong and stresses me out!
We all know sleep deprivation contributes to stress, which contributes to depression and anxiety, which can also lead to substance abuse, which might then require substance abuse treatment or rehab of some kind, as well as countless other issues. And avoiding the following may help too:
- Striving for perfection
- Having too much on your plate
- Not saying “no” to anyone even when the word is clawing at the inside of your brain like a feral cat trapped inside a house full of rabid dogs
- Having unreasonable expectations of yourself, and everyone else
- Spending too much time crunching numbers and thinking/worrying about money
- Not putting a time-limit on your work day
- Spending all day long with your favorite screen
- Watching TV shows that cause the completely unwarranted concern about fictitious characters like the poor Gallagher kids on the Showtime series Shameless.
- Worrying about anything (because it doesn’t change anything)
The list of ways to carry on a stressful way of life is inexhaustible. So, can we just “stop the insanity,” as Susan Powder used to shout to urge people to jump on her weight-loss bandwagon? It’s easier said than done. Case in point: It’s 11:01 and I’m awake past my self-imposed curfew, since my mother isn’t here to demand I turn the lights out. Playing beat-the-clock is certainly not a recipe for decompression. I really need to give myself a break. I mean, why stress myself out with all the people in the world strategically positioned and, dare I say, eager to do it for me?
It makes a great case for Stress Awareness Month, which has been sponsored by The Health Resource Network (HRN), a non-profit health education organization, every year since April 1992. Think of it as a cooperative effort to inform you about the dangers of stress and how to cope.
Dr. Morton C. Orman, M.D., and founder and director of HRN, says, “Even though we’ve learned a lot about stress in the past twenty years, we’ve got a long way to go. New information is now available that could help millions of Americans eliminate their suffering.”
This month, Dr. Orman invites leading healthcare organizations across the country to develop and spread helpful educational materials about stress, and encourages public forums, discussion groups and any other kind of community event to get the word out, with the understanding that stress is a silent (and sometimes rather audible) killer. The fact is that too often people aren’t “in touch” enough to gauge how much stress they’re really under and the adverse effects that can create physical issues that aren’t detected until serious damage has been done.
But what is stress other than a feeling of discomfort in your head, chest or clenched fists, depending upon whether the source is chronic or acute?
Psychology Today defines stress as “a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. …it’s an omnipresent part of life. A stressful event can trigger the ‘fight-or-flight’ response, causing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to surge through the body. A little bit of stress known as ‘acute stress,’ can be exciting---it keeps us active and alert. But long-term, ‘chronic stress,’ can have detrimental effects on both your physical and mental health. You may not be able to control the stressors in your world, but you can alter your reaction to them.”
So that means I can still watch Shameless, as long as I remind myself that it’s all just a story from the land of make-believe. If I do that, will it actually reduce my stress level before going to sleep on Sunday nights? I’m not sure. But I’m willing to give it a try, if only to avoid the stress I’ll experience if I have to deprive myself of the pleasure of watching it.
My entire point is there’s no real escaping stress. Every human has it; it’s how you handle it that matters. Yes, even those who live in the Himalayas far away from revolting television programs, and all television for that matter, have stress. They just stress about different things and I can’t even say I would know what. Feral cats of the larger variety perhaps?