I totally know how stressful evenings can be.
Doesn’t it seem like things frequently appear so much worse at night for some reason? Have you ever been upset about something at night and the next day you scratch your head wondering why you were so upset about it in the first place? And as you are getting ready for bed, hopping into bed, lying there, your body is tired and your brain starts it’s nighttime thing …. telling you bad things…negative words about you, …. May be things you didn’t accomplish….or think you did wrong….or could have done better….calling you names…all the stuff you have to do tomorrow…in general, reflecting negatively on you….sound familiar? This can be incredibly stressful and make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, fall back asleep….
So I have a quick solution for you. I have found that taking a few minutes at night to answer these 3 key questions can really turn all of that around and help relieve your stress, ease your mind, and create a wonderful transition from daytime to sleep time.
Here are the 3 questions and remember that no answer is wrong—these are unique to you and only you. You can just review them in your mind but it actually helps to write them down. I have a small notepad from the dollar store (yes it just costs 1 dollar!) and I keep it in my night table drawer with a pen clipped on for easy access.
Question #1: What were my wins today?
Think of a win as an actual tangible successful event, situation or task that happened during the day. Remember this is not a contest. The “win police” are not coming. No win is too small. If it feels like a success for you then it is a win and it completely counts.
Here are some examples:
A colleague gave you follow up on an amazing early diagnosis you made
You got off the waiting list for your favorite fitness class and were able to join at the last minute
Your child rode the bike alone without assistance after you have been practicing for weeks
You are looking to lose a few pounds and weigh less today than you did yesterday
You figured out an incredibly hard case that no one else could
You beat your fitness goal for the day
You saved someone’s life
You were asked to speak at a coveted conference
You got enough sleep
You fit into your skinny jeans
You completed all of your charting for the day at work
After several months of training, your dog is now house broken (no accidents in the house!)
You won an award
You made it to your kid’s play or sporting event on time
You didn’t have time to stop for gas but had enough to get to/from wherever you needed to go
No time to cook and found leftovers frozen in the freezer for dinner
So…anything at all…even on what you perceive to be your worst day, know that your wins are there when you take a few moments to look back at your day.
Question #2: What brought me the feelings of joy and happiness today?
Now just like your wins, no win police are coming and “the joy & happiness police” are not coming. So there is no right or wrong here.
And nothing is too small. This is a bit different than your wins as let’s focus more on the somatic or internal experience of joy & happiness, drawing in your senses of what made you feel happy & joyful on the inside today. Not an event but the felt sense—interoception—1st person experience.
Some examples may be:
You stepped outside to go to work and saw an incredible vibrant sunrise changing before your eyes
While outside you felt the warm or cool breeze on your skin and through your hair and smelled something you enjoy…flowers… crisp air….salt water if near an ocean/bay
Someone made you laugh
Your child made something special for you at school
Your dog ran up and greeted you when you came home so happy to see you
Someone lent you money when you didn’t have your wallet handy
A patient sent you a thank you note
Someone held the door for you
Someone let you into a lane while driving
Your staff smiled when you walked into the hospital office or clinic
Someone picked up something you didn’t know you dropped and gave it to you
You ate or drank something delicious
You enjoyed an incredibly comfy soft warm bed…sheets…pillows…blankets…
The smell of clean clothing
Your dog with his comfy furry coat cuddled next to you
The warmth of your child fast asleep on your lap
Your partner’s embrace
That amazing feeling you get when someone told you that they loved you
Question #3: How can I nourish myself tomorrow?
As caregivers, we tend to give care to everyone else and everything else on the planet before caring for ourselves. And if you are like me, I work best with a schedule. If I don’t schedule it in, it doesn’t happen. And we can’t pour from an empty cup, so we need to keep our own cup filled before serving others.
Most people fill their calendars up with work related meetings, tasks, cases, or family responsibilities. If you were to hand me your phone and I pulled up your calendar, what would I see? These kinds of things, right? So for this incredibly important question, “How can I nourish myself tomorrow”, I want you to think a bit differently and actually schedule in your self-care. Now like with the other questions, “the nourish police” are not coming and nothing is too small. When you schedule it in and actually put it into your calendar (equivalent to a meeting). It will happen and you will be an even better version of yourself tomorrow than today. Here are some examples:
Move your body: yoga, exercise on your own or a fitness class….if it is a fitness class then make sure to sign up ahead of time. Get your fitness clothes out before going to sleep for easy morning access or pack them in a bag and put them in your car the night before so you don’t forget and you don’t feel rushed in the morning
Quiet time just for you. With 60K thoughts/day and the constant bombardment of information to our brains, it is important even in small doses to have quiet time. This could be to meditate, walk outside, walk inside if need be. One trick when you are going to be around others and don’t want people to chat with you is to put in your headphones (even if you aren’t listening to anything!)
Don’t skip meals and then end up starving and eating things you wish you hadn’t and too much of it
Stay hydrated. Figure out how much water you want to drink in a day and make it happen
Call a friend. Schedule it in! I know certain days and times that my busy doctor friends are available and I actually put in my calendar to call them on those days at those times to get some gal pal time in
Volunteer if you love to do this and time keeps passing by then put it in your calendar and it will happen
Walking/playing with your dog (without talking on your phone)
Spending time with your partner. I actually just started doing this one and it is working out wonderfully. Anything from a walk, to watching a movie, to going out to a museum, making plans with friends, or to hear live music. Otherwise a whole week goes by and well…lack of quality time spent again…
Setting a bedtime, sticking to it, and getting enough sleep. Because exhaustion causes anxiety and anxiety limits your ability to sleep which makes you more exhausted
So now it is your turn!
This is what I want you to do: put some paper or a notebook and pen by your bed with a pen and ask yourself these 3 questions…answer them….write down your answers…and notice how much easier you will fall asleep….how much more rested you will feel in the morning…how amazing you will feel during the day!