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Dealing With Distress #1 – sleep

This is the first in a series on how we can respond to the distress in our lives. (I’m not sure how long it will be.)


We can ‘forget’ that we are physical beings. Self development can focus on our thoughts, feelings and purpose and lead us to neglect the physical.

However I think that all the dimensions of our lives affect each other. And the physical is one dimension.

So this post is about the importance of the physical.


I am staring with sleep because for me it is the most important physical thing for my physical health. (If it isn’t yours stay tuned for more. And feel free in the comments to suggest what you would like to see me write about.) Missing a few hours one night means I have less energy and poorer focus the next day. A few nights of inadequate sleep and I become rather zombie like.

A good night’s sleep can be refreshing and help us have to the energy to engage the new day. If you are dealing with something that disturbs your sleep (memories, current worries) then this can affect our ability to deal with these things. Which can become a vicious circle.

So, what to do to get a good nights sleep? Here are some tips that will help.


Physical Help

  • When we sleep we cool down – you may need to put a sheet over you even on a warm day. So ‘programming yourself’ through habits to cool down can help. Having a hot shower just before bed so that you start cooling down can help.
  • Warm milk, doctors tell me, has an ingredient that helps you sleep.
  • Darkness helps. If you are in a bright place trying putting something over your eyes. You can buy eyeshades but a hat or piece of cloth works too.
  • Herbs and pharmaceuticals. Drugs are one of God’s good gifts – use them wisely. You may have to deal with side effects; it may take a while to find one that fits for you; and they can be literally a life saver.


Put a break between focused work and going to bed. If, for instance, you play angry birds in a very focused way and fall into bed you will find it difficult to go to sleep (I speak of that which I know).

This may mean doing something like:

  • going for a walk if your location permits
  • doing something routine like laying out your clothes for the next day, some tidying or household chores,
  • sitting and breathing,
  • writing about the day in your journal


Try to find a way to leave your thinking or activity at a natural end point. That is; try to finish a part of what you are working on.

This could mean

  • Looking back over what you have done and what progress you have made. (A friend of mine working on his Ph.D. said, “I wrote all day and it came down to a footnote!”. This wasn’t exactly delightful but it was a way of ending his day’s work.)
  • Making a note of what to do next
  • Making a list of what is still left to do


Not Pretending
When something has got you by the emotions it is usually hopeless to pretend that it doesn’t matter. Going to bed and keeping on churning doesn’t really help.

Things to try

  • Isolate what has affected you so much. Sometimes just knowing why you are so upset can be enough for you to relax. If it feels like ‘this is such a small thing’ you can be sure something important to you has been hooked.
  • Decide what you can do. It may be a conversation you need to have, a letter you need to write (even one you know you will never send), a relationship to be ended, a task you need to do.
  • Writing about the incident or feeling(s) disturbing you in your journal.
  • Expressing the feeling(s) in a way that doesn’t harm yourself, others or the furniture.


People Matter More Than Neatness
Having relationships means that other people can interrupt our sleep. This is especially true if you have young children or caring for elderly people.

There isn’t a lot you can do except try to find ways to catch up on sleep. Some things are more important than others. Getting enough sleep so you can care for others well is more important than lots of other things. And this means sleeping instead of doing other things.

    • One Transactional Analyst was studying and busy and didn’t have time to do the housework. So she left the vacuum cleaner near the door and switched it on when she saw anyone coming up the path.
    • You have my permission to put a sign on the door: “Don’t come in if mess bothers you. I care more about my [children/parents/art/sanity] than housework. If this bothers you we can meet elsewhere.”


Distress is tiring. And trying to deal with it takes energy as well. Getting enough sleep is one important part of having the energy and focus to deal with it.

I'm Evan Hadkins. To find out how to live a more satisfying life you can download my manifesto on living authentically. It is a book of exercises to guide you to finding, nourishing and living from the core of who you are.

If you would like me to write about some aspect of living an authentic life please don't hesitate to get in touch. There is a box in the sidebar where you can leave a question anonymously if you wish, or you can email me, use the contact page, or comment on this post.

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