When I was younger, I felt invincible. I partied hard with friends almost every weekend. ‘Sleep is for losers’ I would tell people – ‘I only get 5 hours a night!’
I’d go to bed exhausted on a Sunday evening. But, on Monday I was always in the office at 6.00 am, preparing for the week ahead. And from 09.00am, I was straight into the flow of management meetings and execution.
I felt hungover and tired alot. But, I pushed through it and usually felt OK by Tuesday. I used to be proud that I could get away with burning the candle at both ends. Work hard, play hard right?
As I get older, I realise how badly I looked after myself. I understand how much more important it is to take care of myself now.
I stopped drinking sessions with friends a few years ago. I either don’t go, or I disappear around 10.00pm, so I can avoid a messy night. It’s even a joke amongst my friends now – one minute I’m there, and the next I’m not.
It’s no exaggeration that a drinking session disrupts my life for a month. It’s more than just being tired and hungover. I become anxious, negative and depressed for weeks. I let good habits slip (waking early, being active, eating well etc.). My motivation and confidence at work suffers. It’s just not worth it.
Sleep is also a big thing for me recently. I’ve always been an early riser – getting up at 4.30am. Recently I’ve been tracking my sleep more closely. It’s helped me see the link between sleep, and how I’m feeling.
When I go a number of nights with poor sleep, I’m more anxious and struggle with my mood. I have less energy and have a less optimistic view about life.
Recently I’ve let go of having to rise at 4.30am every day. It’s not sustainable. Well, only if I commit to going to bed at 9.00pm every night. I’m experimenting with varying when I go to bed and get up. Sometimes I’ll still rise at 4.30am, and will go to bed at 9.00pm. But other nights I’ll go to bed later, and will allow myself more sleep – waking up closer to 6.00am or 7.00am.
I’ve talked about alcohol and sleep so far, and that’s intentional. They seem to be the biggest self care factors that influence how I feel. And they are intrinsically linked.
If I have a few drinks, my sleep suffers. I get tired, feel worse, and let good habits slip. So, I feel worse about myself, and am more likely to have a few drinks. It starts a downward spiral that can last for weeks.
It works the other way around too. If I get a few nights of very poor sleep, I get tired. This makes me more likely to make poor decisions, and have a drink. Same cycle – just started in a different order.
I’m at the point now where I might give up alcohol forever. I’ve said this before, and have always slipped back to trying to moderate myself with limits and rules. I have to acknowledge that I have a bad track record of sticking to limits and rules when it comes to alcohol.
OK, let’s get off alcohol and sleep. There are other things that are also becoming more important to me:
Solitude. Being by myself and thinking. I’ve always been pretty good at getting some quiet time to myself in the mornings. But, I’m starting to think about how I can get longer stretches of time to myself – probably a few days. I think it would allow me some time to decompress – get away from the routines of everyday life and think about things. Maybe even build up to a Bill Gates think week.
Walking is really good for me. It helps me get some time to myself, but it’s bigger than that. There’s something about walking that kick starts my brain to work on problems. I have some of my best ideas or realisations whilst taking a walk. And it’s nice to be outside too.
My relationship with technology is something I’ve always thought alot about. At one point, I even gave up my smartphone for two years. I’m thinking alot about how to limit screen time. I want to do more things like digital sabbaths, and using my Nokia on weekends.
Self care is becoming so important to me, that I’m starting to think about it as one of the key areas for my life (I have a number of these, and I reflect on them as part of my weekly planning process).
If I had a Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs style pyramid for my life, it may well sit at the bottom. It feels like a force multiplier for everything else in my life.
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