You have a lot on your plate! To get it all done you’ve become a multi-tasker extraordinaire: prepping dinner while feeding lunch to your babe, scouring toilets with one eye on your preschooler in the tub, and only putting your feet up when it’s time to nurse. You’ve honed your organization skills so finely that even your lists have lists. But you still feel jittery after cutting back on the caff and you’re not smiling much these days. Those cracks… they’re starting to show. How long before you crash and burn?
Get some shut-eye.
We know stress is bad for us. Left unchecked it can lead to all kinds of heartache from aneurysms to cancer and everything in between. Yet we often overlook this critical symptom because it’s so common. Who do you know that’s not stressed? Uh, no one. So we follow the norm, often proud of our ability to keep calm and carry on in the face of adversity. But bottling negative emotions is not the same as keeping calm – they’ll resurface one way or another if we don’t let them out.
One of the most frustrating things for a stressed-out person to hear is “Just relax,” as if it’s that simple. Oh, relax? Is that the answer? Done! Right. So… what to do?
If we could afford personal chefs, trainers, cleaners, and assistants, we’d take a holistic approach and improve our diets, get more exercise, meditate longer, and clock a full eight-hours every night. But with our bank balance… not happening. Conveniently however, the most significant life-changer also happens to be the easiest to incorporate: sleep. Considering eighty-five percent of Canadian Family readers choose sleep over sex, it seems no one’s getting nearly enough. Sleep, that is. When we bring home our newborns and adapt to the exhaustion, we become masters of running on empty. So much so that when they finally start to sleep better, we often choose to stay awake instead of catching up on our own zzz’s. That quiet time is our only time to do what we want to do without any interruptions (fingers-crossed), so it’s really hard to turn out the light and say goodnight. And with all the tempting shows and sites to choose from, by the time we’ve got our fill of something non-baby-related and are ready to shut down, our brains are wired. We lie in bed thinking about those scheming House of Card politicians, and the sets with their dark wood doors and white doorframes, and how it would look if we painted our frames white but kept the wood dark, and maybe we could also paint the front of the stair risers to match, and if we’re doing that we should re-paint the foyer, and then we may as well paint the living room too, and after that we could buy a new couch to spiff it up, and… FOR HOURS.
A good night’s sleep can make almost any predicament feel more manageable. But there’s the rub: how to get that elusive ‘good’ sleep? The first step is to set a reasonable bedtime and follow through when it’s time to shut er down. If you don’t have any trouble falling asleep, it might seem like that afternoon coffee or second nightcap has no effect. But if you’re waking up at funny hours or find you’re not feeling rested after what should have been enough sleep, try cutting back to see if it helps. Your body has to adapt though, so give it at least two weeks before deciding if it’s a fail. Caffeine and alcohol aside, the easiest way to improve your own sleep is to follow your baba’s lead: a cool, dark room, consistent bed/wake-times (yup, weekends too), a fan or white noise machine (if it helps – one of us loves it while the other one wants to chuck it out the window). Adults need a pre-sleep-routine just as much as munchkins, sometimes even more. It can involve a bath/shower, book/magazine, calming stretches/meditation, or anything else that helps you wind down. But, importantly, the one thing it can’t involve is technology. Stop sleeping with your smartphone in the bedroom and you’ll be amazed at how it affects your shut-eye.
As tempting as it is to sleep-steal, you’re only cheating yourself. Stress can be a symptom of something far more serious, and a little preventative maintenance can go a long way. Sleeping when the baby sleeps may not always work, but when it does it’s divine. The laundry, dishes, email, Pinterest… it can all wait.