LearningSleep-Health-EnergyYour Story

“How the journey from night owl to early bird changed my life”

Why is it so hard to do things that we know are good for us??  Tessa O’Hara

 

I met my lovely friend, Tessa O’Hara a few years ago when we both began our health coaching journey with HCI (The Health Coach Institute). We connected immediately as kindred spirits seem to do and she introduced me to a song that became my anthem for that moment. We are indeed Budding Trees! The band is Nahko and Medicine for the People, a personal story for another time. We’ve reconnected and I’m so happy to see what she’s creating, and I wanted her to share her genius and spirit. Thank you, sister! I DO believe in the good things comin’!

 

 

“Sleep makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.” adapted from Earl Nightingale

 

We know that sleep is one of the foundations of good health and happiness. If we haven’t read the research on this subject, we will certainly know from our own personal experiences how sleep, especially the lack of it, affects us in our day to day life.

I have always considered myself a night owl and it meant that for most of my adult life, have stayed up waaaaaay past my bedtime; a learnt behaviour from my dad. When I was a teenager and young adult this felt kinda ‘cool’, but as I became older and somewhat wiser, or maybe just more grounded in reality, I realised how these late nights were affecting me and I have spent the last few years trying to transform from a night owl into an early bird.

I suffered for most of my late teenage years and early adulthood with major depression and chronic anxiety and my sleep habit certainly didn’t help resolve things. I always wondered which came first the late nights or the low mood, a bit of a chicken and egg situation.

At one point I actually lived like a vampire, sleeping all day and being awake all night – this lasted for a good year. I simply couldn’t handle seeing anyone and wanted to suffer all by myself (whilst eating a lot of junk food and watching shitty tv…).

As I got older my sleep pattern was less extreme than this, but I was still going to bed anywhere between 12 – 2 am, which was pretty normal by my standards. Late nights affected my energy levels, concentration, and how I performed at my job. My anxiety and emotions were magnified and when I was really exhausted suffered from panic attacks.

My immune system lowered which resulted In more frequent sickness. And I simply had no motivation for anything, even though I felt ‘stuck’ in my day to day life. I thought all this was pretty normal.

I came to appreciate how bloody ‘cool’ sleep is! I loved sleeping so much and didn’t understand why I didn’t do it more! And then it dawned on me… still suffering from exhaustion and chronic anxiety all these years later…

 

Why wouldn’t I just do what was good for me?!

 

I knew I was anxious and exhausted. I knew I was miserable. I knew I was craving sleep. It’s funny cause I’m a health coach and had tried all the diets and alternative therapies etc., and couldn’t figure out why I still felt crap…

Well, it turns out that I hadn’t tried everything and that I was, in fact, ignoring all the most obvious aspects that needed changing. So obviously that meant changing how I approached sleep, but it also meant being able to finally make other changes in my life thanks to sleep!

My transition to early bird has had its ups and downs. I’ve had to create an evening ‘wind-down routine’ to coax myself to bed, allowing my body to finally relax and allow sleep and healing and calm back into my body. It turns out that I was so attached to my role of an anxious night owl that I wouldn’t allow myself to be anything else, even though it was making me sick and miserable.

Allowing myself to rest has meant that I can finally get up in the morning and implement a life-changing (not even exaggerating) morning practice that sets me up for the rest of the day and allows me to serve from a place of love and recharged batteries instead of living off my reserve tank and creating more lack. Sleep has allowed me to set better boundaries for myself and invest time in self-care. Yes, actually looking after myself and putting myself first!

 

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”   Anais Nin

 

 So what do I know about sleep now I’m in my late 30’s? Sleeping more has given me more time. Choosing sleep is choosing love: to love myself (and others around me cause when I was a miserable b**ch you know they were suffering too) and allows me to show up for myself in so many ways.

The ripples of something that is deeply good for you have an impact beyond what you can put into words, the long-term effects of which we’ll never be able to say for sure – would I be depressed now it hadn’t made these changes? Will I age differently? Will it affect the people around me positively to continue to show up for myself in this way?  The ripples reach far and wide.

So it Starts With Sleep (hint, hint!) my friends, and how will you choose to show up for yourself and love yourself a little deeper, starting tonight?

 

Advice from my heart to yours:

 

  • Turn all screens off at 9pm (it’s ok, nothing bad will happen, I promise)
  • Create low lighting to tell your body it’s time to wind down (turn on lamps, turn off overhead lighting)
  • For the next hour do whatever feels good and relaxing to you. I like to divide this hour into quarters like this:
  1. 15 mins to shower, massage my body with nice oils, and put on comfy pj’s
  2. 15 mins to lie on the bed or floor and do some free flow stretching (whatever feels good) or a restorative yoga practice
  3. 15 mins to do pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditate/do a guided visualisation.
  4. 15 mins of reading (and I do this until I fall asleep, which usually takes less than 15 mins)

 

So there you have it, it’s not hard or complicated. Sometimes we just don’t know how to love ourselves properly. After you do this for a few days you’ll want to keep doing it cause you’ll be feeling so damn good! If you miss a day or two, come back to it and keep going. Just keep coming back home to yourself, creating the space and healing that you need.

In health and happiness,

Tessa xoxo

 

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