Welcome to 2020! Whether your holidays were nourishing or draining, today you return to the more mundane challenges and opportunities of being a busy professional and you will quickly remember what that feels like. The hectic pace of work creates a mind that spends the day “time-traveling” … replaying your last conversation and worrying about tomorrow’s appointments. And that constantly busy mind doesn’t stop its busyness when you leave your workplace. You may want to pay attention to dinner with a friend or with your family but your mind is still replaying that difficult meeting you had at 10 a.m. And you may feel exhausted but still find yourself lying in bed with a mind that is incessantly rehearsing tomorrow’s presentation.
Learning to meet this mental busyness with clarity, discipline and compassion, rather than letting it take over your day and night, is part of the training of mindful leadership. It is also an important part of the training that helps you develop good self-care practices like learning to replenish your mind and body through adequate sleep.
What do you know about your own behavior when you are sleep-deprived? When I ask this of participants in the Institute for Mindful Leadership’s workshops and retreats, people report that they are more irritable, impatient, less creative, more likely to overeat, and less productive. Let’s face it, it just doesn’t feel good when you are tired. And science consistently shows that lack of sleep is bad for your body and your mind. So learning to get a good night’s sleep is the most fundamental aspect of good self-care. Are you ready to improve your self-care for 2020? Try the simple practice below to begin this New Year by taking better care of you and your sleep:
3 Mindful Steps to Better Sleep
1. Remove all smart phones, tablets and computers from your bedroom. They don’t belong there. Seeing an email or social media post just before bed, or knowing that distractions are only inches from your head, can fuel the busyness of your mind.
2. When you settle into bed, bring your attention to the feeling of your breath. Feel your breath stretching the muscles in your chest or belly, feel the release. This is not an invitation to think about your breath or control it. Just feel the sensations.
3. When your mind starts to get busy, bring your attention back to the sensations. Let the thought that pulled you away go for now and redirect your attention back to the gentle movements and sensations of your breath. It is important that you be patient with yourself. Redirecting your attention is simply part of the practice and it does not matter how often you need to redirect your attention. Just be intentional about letting the thinking go (for now). It is as if you are saying “not now” to your thoughts and worries. Now is a time to sleep.
Be consistent with this practice, using it each night that your sleep is interrupted. It may take some time to train your mind in this way but the benefits for your health and happiness are well worth the time!!