I had times when I just could not sleep. It was some of my most fearful times. I would go to bed hoping I would be able to fall into some kind of slumber and sometimes I would fall to sleep only to find myself awake at 1am with my mind racing about all kinds of things. I just wanted my mind to stop working so I could experience the pleasure of just one good nights sleep. It just kept alluding me.
I tried everything but there I would be night after night wide awake. I felt so alone and things I would think of I could do nothing about. How memories plagued me. I would feel so much more afraid than I did in the day light.
Why, oh why, could I not just close my eyes and be asleep. I would feel exhausted in the day time but would get through the day. Yet I just knew when it came time to go to bed the struggle would start all over again. I felt so angry that this terrible torture would start every night but I could not find the answer.
No I did not have a sleep disorder. I did all the tests for that. It was so depressing and debilitating. I felt like I was walking dead in the day time. I started not to be able to feel anything at all in the day time but at night I could not stop my mind racing.
You cannot function in any meaningful way when you don't sleep. I was afraid to take sleeping aids as I had heard so many stories of women who developed other difficulties as a result of that.
I finally knew I had to get help processing my trauma and fears because they were the reason I could not sleep. I learned about sleep hygiene and that my thoughts had to be peaceful for me to achieve at least some quality sleep every night. When a woman has emotional breakage she often does not know why she cannot sleep. It is a process to understand what it is that is keeping you awake. Some people have medical conditions which can be correctly treated medically so as to restore sleep. I was not one of those.
I am so grateful today that I sleep every night and don't prowl around in the dark waiting for the next disaster to happen. If this happens to you do not give up. Take the time to find out what the source of your night time discomfort is through a therapeutic process and see if you can get a sleep pattern re-established. Talking to a professional therapist may help you more than you know. You may need a little pharmaceutical support for a time.
Don't just spend night after night in racing thoughts and imaginings that may never happen. Get a medical diagnosis to rule either in or out any medical disorder you might have.
Some women just need a complete break from the demands of life to process and re-establish a sleeping balance again.
Sleeping is a healthy gift. If you have lost the gift of sleep don't just accept that is the way things are always going to be. Check all the therapies that might work for you.
Try not to use unhealthy methods to sleep such as alcohol. This will perpetuate the cycle.
Sleep can be regained.
If only it were that easy, right? The reality of this time is the stress and anxiety that is brought about with all of the event planning, home decorating, the school pageants, shopping, cooking and baking, finding the perfect gift (that is within our budgets which have already been pushed to the max), the family members that we dread seeing, the weight we have gained over the last year, finding something to wear since we never have time or money to do any real shopping for ourselves, the holiday office parties that will produce hours of awkward conversations and forced smiles, and the list goes on and on....
This time of year we seem to be bombarded with messages telling us we have to have all the pieces in place for a perfect holiday or we will (in some way or another) be the cause of the chaos and stress for everyone we are with. Oh and not just one individual seems to hold us to this, but many, many of our various neighbors, friends, family and colleagues. This can be extremely stressful and frustrating because it can make a potentially happy and connected time of year unnecessarily stressful. We seem to be getting further away from the most important part of the holiday season – the connection and time spent with those we love. People think that spending money and buying gifts is a substitute for love and intimacy. Ironically, most individuals would ultimately prefer the latter.
So, how do we keep ourselves sane and actually find some happiness throughout the holiday season? Well, here are some tips I find helpful for surviving the holidays:
- Realistic Expectations – Don't expect everything to be perfect. You won't get everything you want, things will go wrong, and you probably won't feel like Bing Crosby singing "Jingle Bells". Allow for mishaps and don't create expectations that you or others are not going to live up to unless you become a cartoon character that lives in an enchanted castle.
- Loneliness – Some of us may not be around as many of our friends and family this year and that can cause us to feel lonely and depressed. There are many events going on that you can volunteer with, go window shopping without purchasing anything, enjoy strolling around the neighborhood looking at decorations, get yourself out and about to help with the lonely feelings.
- Gratitude – Don't focus on the material things, but the things that matter most to us – our relationships. Take a moment everyday to make a gratitude list of what you most appreciate and what you really need to feel fulfilled in life. You will soon find that recognizing the simple things that you are grateful for can improve your outlook.
- Intentions – We may find ourselves zipping through the holidays in a blind rush, forgetting what the season is truly about. Whatever your beliefs, pause for a moment and consciously consider what you feel the holidays are about, what is important to you. This may be spending time with family and friends, remembering what you are thankful for, or giving to those in need. There is no right or wrong intention, just whatever feels right to you. Live your truth. The holidays are a great time to think about your mission statement for life for the next year. Ask yourself, " Is this the life I want to be living?"
- Boundaries – Don't be afraid to set boundaries. Holiday stress can come from many places, not the least is overbooking yourself and your family. Many of us feel like we cannot say no; that it is not polite or nice. This is not true! You have the right to set healthy boundaries for yourself and your family. Fatigue, over-scheduling, and taking on too many tasks can dampen your spirits. Learn to say no and don't feel guilty. Try delegating as much as possible and manage your time wisely. If you choose to do less you will have more energy to enjoy the most important part of the season – friends and family.
- Self-Care – Give yourself a break; create time for yourself to do things YOU love and need to do for your physical and mental wellness; aerobic exercise, yoga, massage, spiritual practices, taking long fast walks or any activity that calms you down and gives you a better perspective on what is important in your life.
- Awkwardness – After the first moments of hellos, how have you been, catch-up and remembrances of times past, topics of mutual interests often wane. If you are not into the football games or the never-ending health challenges of your three oh-so-favorite aunts, you may often find yourself feeling awkward. One of the worst things you can do is fill your time with negative self-talk inside your mind as you stew over hearing these things and are creating a miserable time for yourself. But the worst thing is to drink too much for your own management and make a fool of yourself that you will have to live down the rest of your life. A great stress reducer is to start a puzzle, play games of chess or checkers, or some other option in which you can appreciate each other more.
- Toxic Food – Okay, I will be the first to admit that I love holiday treats, but one of the worst foods you can consume is processed sugar. The heavy doses of sugar will send you on a roller coaster with a significant downward spiral. A high level of consumption can result in a level of toxicity in your system, which even low-level allergies can begin to pledge you. Do not let the holidays become a reason for over-indulging and hangovers. This will exacerbate your depression and anxiety. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is a depressant. I will say it again, ALCOHOL IS A DEPRESSANT. People with depression should not drink alcohol.
- Memories – Holidays are significant anniversaries of events for us all. They remind us of people and times we enjoyed as well as regret. There are individuals we miss and missed opportunities that we wish could come again. Then there are also times we want to forget but the stage is set that the cues are so powerful we can't seem to get the thoughts and images out of our minds. If we are successful in coping through those thoughts and images, don't worry.... It never fails that someone (Cousin Eddie) will be sure to remind you and want to talk about them. Allow yourself the time to process, remember, and grieve if necessary.
- Generosity – One of the best ways to stay calm, content and cheerful this time of year is to act generously with your loved ones, co-workers and friends. This doesn't have to mean your spending a lot of money. You can be generous with your compliments. You can generously offer to do a loved one's dreaded errand. You can generously write a fun, short poem. When you are creative with your gifts and thank you's, people appreciate your real, heartfelt sentiment.
- Forgiveness – Learn and practice forgiveness and acceptance. If some of your friends or relatives have always acted out or made you feel bad, chances are that won't change. If you know what you're getting into, it will be easier to not let them push your buttons. If things get uncomfortable go to a movie or for a drive and allow yourself time to regroup.
- Put on some rose colored glasses – When people try to push their bad habits on you during the holiday season, tune into their motivations. For instance, before you get annoyed at Aunt Bessie, who keeps urging you to try a piece of her famous chess pie, or your co-worker Carla, who keeps trying to fill your glass with alcohol, first take a deep breath. Then, step into their shoes and realize that Aunt Bessie is just showing that she loves you, and Carla is merely trying to be convivial. Then graciously thank them for their misguided attention. Rather than view your situation with annoyance, be grateful instead.
And always remember to add some humor into your holidays. Laughter is great therapy in any situation. I sincerely hope your holidays are a wonderful time of year for you and your family. Take the time to create the experience you deserve and desire for yourself this holiday season.
If you are really struggling during this holiday season, take a look at Brookhaven Retreat's website at http://www.brookhavenretreat.com. You can also contact me on my personal cell at 865.712.4372 if you would like to know more about Brookhaven Retreat and what we can do to help ladies who are struggling.
Get back to reality Miriam. If you don't want heart attacks, World War III or a threat of divorce you need to get focused. Pies, cranberry sauce, stuffing, stuffing and more stuffing!!!!!!
Oh my goodness is it 25 or 26 counting uncle Joe's new wife's brother? Wait a minute that doesn't include the kids' table! Maybe I should do little lighted scarecrows for their table!
Every year I ask myself why my house? You know why Miriam! " Oh Miriam, we can't wait to see what theme you're going to use this year, you are so crafty", " Miriam we love it when you have the little surprise gifts at each place setting", " "Hey, Miriam you make a mean spice punch." "Oh my gosh, is this house really 10,000 square feet"?
You know what the problem is, Miriam can't say no. She is overwhelmed and unappreciated. She really wants this year to be different. For some reason she takes on this paramount task right after Halloween to make sure her family feels like they could be experiencing the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock. Complete with all the food and fanfare. Before the evening is over and once the family drama surfaces no one is sure if a lot of giving of thanks is involved in the Thanksgiving celebration.
Miriam spends way too much on decorations and the caterer then hides the receipts from her husband.
She calls and invites family members who constantly remind her husband that he is way too good for her and why doesn't she get a job already!
She buys magazine after magazine looking for the best decorating ideas trying to be more over the top than last year.
She doesn't call her favorite cousin and invite her because her husband's sister can't stand her.
She does have to invite her husband's nephew who always shows up smashed with a case of
She prays that all four of her children will come, but she's not quite sure about Matt, her oldest whom they haven't heard from in weeks since he dropped out of law school and his dad told him he was a disgrace to the family.
Of course her husband's personal assistant, Meagan will be there. Good old Meagan, who always looks like she just stepped out of a photo shoot. She never fails to capture everyone's attention with one tale after another about how she managed to get my husband through yet another crisis while on their latest business trip. Nope, she doesn't have to call her. For some reason Meagan has a personal invitation to all of their family functions lately. I bet she can't make a mean spice punch!
This last thought reminds her that she has exactly two hours, to drink the last bit of her weekly stash before her husband gets home. She only buys enough for the week. She keeps telling herself, "this way I can keep tabs on it, whatever that means." It sounds good!
The Thanksgiving holiday is days away. No one sees the anxious days and nights of preparation. No one sees the self –loathing and Miriam's desperate need to feel accepted. No one sees the empty wine bottles that have to go out in the special trashcan at the end of the week.
This holiday season say no to others outrageous expectations, take time out for yourself, realize you can't fix the world, pace yourself, and most importantly seek professional help if you become overwhelmed.