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Elizabeth Barbour, M. Ed.
The Revitalized Business Woman
Missouri City (Houston), Texas

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Wednesday
May042016

Sleep Your Way to Success: 7 Strategies to a Good Night's Sleep

I wrote in my e-zine last week that sleep has helped me to survive three weeks of intense caregiving of my elderly mother. When friends ask me “So how are you, really?” I’m surprised that I’m able to answer “I’m fine, I’m really doing OK.” Yes, of course, I’ve had my moments and my meltdowns. But as a whole, I’ve been pretty even keel during the incredible roller coaster of emotions and experiences we’ve had.

I attribute my success in this super stressful situation to my commitment to sleep.

I’m so excited about Arianna Huffington’s new book The Sleep Revolution. I read her bestselling book Thrive last year and while it has all sorts of gems of wisdom in it (recommendations for daily meditation, slowing down, plugging into your intuition, acting on your generosity and more), what I resonated with the most was her focus on the importance of sleep.

She famously said in her 2010 TED talk “Sleep your way to the top” but she wasn’t talking about sex. She was referencing the power of sleep to help you function at your best, be efficient, make clear decisions and decrease stress.  Sleep helps us stay focused, be more disciplined, make better choices and access our intuition. 

How do you do with your sleep? 

 For me, it took age and wisdom to realize that sleep is my #1 self care strategy. While exercise,  good nutrition, time with family, connecting with friends and developing my spiritual life are also at the top of the list, sleep still ranks as #1 for me to operate at my best. I can skip a day of exercise or talking to my best friend on the phone and it’s OK if I have pizza for dinner once in a while or skip my prayers one evening (my God is an understanding one!).

But if I skimp on sleep, all bets are off for me to have a good day the next day. I get cranky and grumpy (what we call “having the growlies” in our house!) and I tend to snap at my family members, am less focused and productive at work and waste way too much time on social media.

How do you respond when you don’t sleep well?

 

Here are a few simple tips I’ve found that work well to get a good night’s sleep:

  1. Have a good bedtime ritual. Ideally, unplug from technology 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Take a bath, stretch, meditate, write in your journal, snuggle with a loved one or read a book. The more you unplug from the activity of the day, the easier it is to transition to night time.
  2. Use earplugs. Even if your home is quiet, I find that earplugs help to cut out any extraneous noise and help me drift off to sleep with ease.
  3. Apply lavender oil. I put a drop on my pillow every night when I go to bed. It is relaxing and soothing and helps me transition to sleep. And, if I’m having a particularly busy brain evening, I rub lavender oil on the bottom of my feet before bed to help settle my thoughts. Works like a charm.
  4. Don’t eat too late or drink caffeine at night. You want to slow the digestive system down in the evening, not ramp it up. If you have to eat late, try to eat light. And if you love your coffee, try switching to herbal tea in the evening and save your cup of joe for breakfast.
  5. Love your bed.  Sleep on sheets that feel good. Make sure you have comforters and blankets that you feel nurtured by. Rotate your mattress regularly and make sure to buy a new bed every 7-10 years. Keep your bedroom as a sacred sanctuary - clean and quiet.
  6. Don’t have a TV in your room. You’ve heard it before and I know for some, it’s a hard habit to break. But your bedroom should be for only two things. This article is about one. You figure out the other! 
  7. Don’t have other electronic devices in your room either. Recharge your phones, tablets and computers in your office, kitchen or living room away from your sleep zone.

Revitalizing Action:  Evaluate your sleep habits. Are you sleeping long enough? What is the quality of your sleep? If you aren’t sleeping well, try some of these tips and see if you can make some changes. If you still aren’t seeing good results, consult with a health professional. Good quality and quantity of sleep is critical for your health and well-being. You deserve to sleep your way to success!

 

Here’s to good sleep!
Elizabeth

 

 

 

Wednesday
Apr272016

7 Favorite Quotes About Self Care (and Thoughts on Practicing What I Preach)

After spending two weeks as the primary caregiver to my mother in the hospital, I’ve recently had to put my own advice into action. Being in the sandwich generation can be exhausting. I have a 5 year old daughter and an ailing 82 year old mother. I’m usually pretty good at practicing self-care but during times of extreme emotional and physical stress, I’ve had to determine my top self-care priorities as I’ve tried to balance everything.

For me, the top three self-care priorities are:  Sleep (7-8 hours/night), dinner with my husband and daughter every night (with a few exceptions) and exercise (30 minutes of walking the dog every other day).  Oh, and I still do my 10-15 minutes of yoga stretching each morning when I first wake up. 

Most of my other self-care activities have fallen by the wayside. Time with friends, journaling, meditation, eating really well (I’ve done well about 85% of the time but I’ve had a few days of way too much chocolate!) and other practices have been put on the back burner to be resumed when I have the time, space and energy.

As friends, clients and colleagues write me notes on Facebook saying things like “Remember to take care of yourself, too!” I’ve had time to ponder the following back to basics self-care reminders and some famous quotes that support those ideas. I hope some of these help you, too, no matter if your life is really stressful right now or if things are flowing pretty well or you’re somewhere in between!

 1. Love Yourself.

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” – Buddha

I can be at the hospital every day to support my mom but I don’t have to sacrifice the rest of my life to help her. At the beginning, I was there 8 hours/day and now it’s down to 6 hours/day… once we move her to skilled nursing, I hope to decrease it even more. I have to love me and care for me so that I can love her and care for her.

2. Be Yourself.  

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

I have called my friends blubbering and crying. I have withdrawn from most social events. But I managed to pull off a 50th birthday celebration for my husband with some good friends which was fun, but I didn’t pretend everything was OK. I wasn’t moping and depressing, but I was honest about what is going on with me. They listened when appropriate but we still had a blast. Good friends get it and you don’t have to pretend with them.

3. Replenish your reserves.

“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” – Benjamin Franklin

This is probably my favorite quote on this list. We cannot drink from a dry well. Or drive a car on an empty gas tank. And we have to put our oxygen mask on first before helping someone else on the airplane. Whatever metaphor you prefer, it’s essential to remember that you’re no good to anyone else if you aren’t taking care of you.

 4. Be kind to yourself.

"Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love." – Brené Brown

I especially have to remind myself on days where I might eat a peanut butter cookie at lunch, some chocolate in the afternoon and a cupcake after dinner. (It was a really stressful day and it’s just what was called for!) The next day was better. I knew that beating myself up wouldn’t help the situation so I simply resolved to do better the next day… and I did.

5.  Take time to rest.

“Sabbath is an incubator for wisdom. When we allow the rush and pressure of our days to fall away, even for a short period of time, we are more able to discern the essential truth of what lies before us.” – Wayne Muller

Right now, my Sabbath time is about 15 minutes before I go to bed at night. I crawl into bed and make sure to review my gratitudes from the day…helpful nurses, a thoughtful friend, a funny thing my Mom said.

6. Slow down.

“There is more to life than merely increasing its speed.”  - Ghandi

I’ve gotten crystal clear that this is sacred time with my mom. As a result, I’ve had to slow down some other projects in my life, mainly work related ones. When I look back on this time, I won’t care what my work projects were, but I’ll remember that I spent quality time with my mom.

7. It is essential to schedule "me time".

“Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh 

In the past two weeks, I’ve hardly had any time alone. My mom’s hospital room is a revolving door of doctors, nurses and therapists. At home, I want to spend time with my daughter and husband. So even though my husband has shouldered 90% of the parenting responsibilities the past few weeks, I asked him last week to take my daughter to church and I stayed home from both the church and the hospital just so I could have 2 hours at home by myself. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to recharge my batteries that morning and keep on going. 

Revitalized Action: Which one of these self-care basics ring true for you? Do you have a favorite self-care quote? Tell me about it over on Facebook or send me an email…I’d love to hear what you have to share.

Here’s to water in your well!

Elizabeth

Wednesday
Apr202016

Be the Light

“Your job is just to be the light.”

That's what my best friend e-mailed me the morning of my mom's surgery.

It was such a wonderful reminder that when we have a loved one going through a challenging time, it's the best thing we can do and show up and be present and shine our light on the difficult situation.

The day after I got that email from my friend, the fabulous author and speaker Liz Gilbert shared the first column that she wrote for Oprah's magazine and guess what the topic is? You guessed it - Being the light!

She writes: “There are times when everything seems cloaked in darkness. You long for the light but don't know where to find it. But what if you are the light? What if you're the very agent of illumination that a dark situation begs for?”

As I have spent the past week in the hospital with my mother, being her daughter, caregiver and advocate all in one, it is clear to me that “being the light” means a lot of things:

  • Being the light involves being hopeful and optimistic during uncertain times.
  • Being the light means simply listening.
  • Being the light means staying calm and peaceful in my own experience so that I may share that with my mom and she can draft (like what they do in cycling) from me.
  • Being the light also means shining light in the dark places. Being willing to ask the difficult questions and being willing to have honest conversations. 
  •  Being the light also involves inviting others to be the light too. You've probably heard the saying “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle.” It’s true.

I am finding this week that it is a reciprocal illumination. By asking for prayers and support, people that I know and love are showing up in droves beaming me and my mom their love, light, energy, prayers, reiki and overall good juju.

They are lighting MY candle every day and keeping my candle burning so that I can go, in turn, and be the light for my mom.

Think about your life for a minute. Who can you be the light for?

  • Your child who is having a difficult time in school
  • Your partner who is being challenged at work
  • Your parents who are struggling with the side effects of aging
  • Your friend who is having a difficult time in her marriage
  • Someone in your church who is feeling lonely and lost
  • A neighbor who has a sick loved one
  • The homeless person that you drive by each week on your way to church

I invite you to show up and shine this week just by being your lovely beautiful kind caring self. It's amazing what a smile from a stranger, a text message saying “I'm thinking about you” or a card in the mail can do to lift someone’s spirits.

Go be the light and shine on!

Elizabeth