Mighty Life List
Aug 30 2011

How Do You Fight Insomnia? My 10 Tips.

10 Tips for Fighting Insomnia | Mighty Girl

Tempur-Pedic asked me to track my sleep habits with a Fitbit and share the results. This is the first time I have been paid to sleep, but I have made it a professional goal to pursue further opportunities in this field. You know how to reach me.

Raise your hand if you ever have trouble sleeping. Actually, if it’s 3 a.m. you can let your hand fall listlessly by your side, I already saw you on Twitter.

A few of you have asked me how I like my Fitbit. Until Tempur-Pedic asked me to use one to track my sleep, I never bothered to learn how. Now, after sleep tracking for a week, I think it’s the most useful feature. It proved something I always suspected about myself. When my health and stress levels are in order, I have a straightforward relationship with sleep. Things have been going better lately, which means the worst night of sleep I got last week looked like this:

While waking up 11 times may not be ideal, I’ll take nearly nine solid hours of sleep any day. You can even throw in a nap, and I will not complain.

When I’m under heavy stress, however, my body prefers to be conscious enough to fret. As you might imagine, a few months ago I was awake. For weeks.

Because insomnia is such an indicator of anxiety for me, I do everything I can to get my sleeping habits back to normal. These are the top ten tricks that work for me:

1. Clear your head. Anxiety is a stimulant. I put stressful tasks at the top of my to do list in hopes of making headway before bed. For larger tasks I find it helps me to make a plan — a detailed list for the next day, an outline of a project that will take weeks to complete. If my worries are more emotional, I write stream-of-consciousness in a journal. This way I don’t waste sleep time worrying about things I can tackle in the morning. Speaking of which…

2. Keep a pen by the bed. There will always be something you forget to write down. Something so pressing that it jolts you from sleep at 3 a.m. Don’t regain consciousness while you worry about remembering the important thing. Write it down and roll over.

3. Get off the couch. Exercise. Harder than you usually do if you’re athletic. One of the less-touted benefits of strenuous exercise is that it exhausts you. Perfect.

4. Stop the nightly grind. This isn’t an issue for everyone of course, but I grind my teeth in my sleep. I didn’t realize how much it was waking me until I got a mouth guard, and so I mention it here. Consider it, my stress-ball friend.

5. Clear out electronics. They say you need to remove even the tiniest lights if you don’t want to mess with your circadian rhythms, and maybe that’s true. Illuminated clocks are so accusatory they might as well have an exclamation point after the time. But the little charging lights on my computer, phone, iPad, camera? Those are more of a problem if I’m already awake in the dark. Each one is a tiny siren song, coaxing me to conquer another level of Plants and Zombies. Not to mention how often my phone wakes me with a late-night text or call from one of the many inconsiderate louts who I have come to love. So when I’m having trouble sleeping, all the gadgets go in the living room.

6. Don’t play dead. When I’m up, I just get up. I won’t stay in bed awake for more than fifteen minutes because I don’t want my bed to become a place where I worry about not sleeping. I’ll take a bath or go read on the couch, any activity I can do supine. And if you fall asleep in the bathtub? Success.

7. Stop taking uppers. No more caffeine. If I can’t sleep, I stop ingesting stimulants because they are chemically designed to keep me awake. (I’m wacky that way.) I’ll take a two-day withdrawl headache over a month-long stint as a zombie.

8. Shower before bed. The warmth is supposed to sleepify you, and maybe it does, but I find it relaxing just to climb into bed clean. Sleeping with freshly shaved legs is also a nice bonus.

9. Get stuck. I get regular acupuncture, and I almost never have trouble sleeping on days when I have a session. The effect is similar to a good massage.

10. Powder your nose. When you finally do get to sleep, the last thing you want is to be woken by your bladder. Use the bathroom right before bed, and limit liquid intake an hour or so before you (hope to) go to sleep.

According to the Fitbit, my bout of insomnia is mercifully in past. To whit:

BAM! How you like that, Insomnia? Come and show your face, if you got beef! Or perhaps you should come back in the morning when I’m awake. We’ll discuss your behavior over a leisurely breakfast. You can do the dishes.

So that’s what works for me. How about you? How do you get to sleep?

Let me know if you need me to come over and spoon.




If you want more information on how to buy a good mattress, you can get it here. The folks at Tempur-Pedic want me to remind you about this, “This post is sponsored by Tempur-Pedic, because we think you deserve to get your best night’s sleep every night.” Thanks, Tempur-Pedic. You’ve got my back. (Pun brought to you by Maggie as a reward for reading the fine print. You’re welcome.)

Feb 28 2011

Life List How To: One Way to Start

It feels a little strange to write about this, because I’m hardly in a position to offer advice right now. Please think of this as something I’m sharing because it helped me sort the army of emotions advancing on my psyche. If you’re feeling equally defenseless in the face of something Big and Bad, or even if you’re just a little befuddled, I hope this will be useful.

Emotions First

When my best-laid plans for my family went awry, my impulse was to respond with a frenzy of planning, and list making, and goal setting.

Instead I napped and took too many baths. Sometimes I napped in the bathtub, which I recommend. Anyway, once I’d restocked enough energy to think about anything but impending doom, I thought now might be a reasonable time to reassess my priorities.

Fortunately, I came across a well-timed article by Martha Beck about using the emotions you’d like to experience to guide your goals (I think it’s the same one Lara mentioned in comments). You look at how you want to feel overall, and then choose activities that support those objectives. I thought it would be a smart organizing principle for deciding what to do next.

Three Steps

First, I needed to figure out how I wanted to feel besides “not like this.” So I did what the article suggested, and here’s how that process unfolded for me:

1. I made a list of all the things I’d like to feel that I’m not right now: content, rested, sane.

2. I decided the main thing I want is more peace, but that seemed too one dimensional, so I made a little outline of all the other emotions that define peace to me. Mine looked like this (forgive the inherent cheese, it’s the nature of the beast):

Peaceful:

Abundant
-Free
-Joyful
-Enthusiastic
-Celebratory

Connected
-Supported
-Loved
-Community

Present
-Aware
-Content
-Curious
-Amazement

Flexible
-Laid Back
-Well Rested

3. Next, for each emotion, I wrote down things that have evoked that feeling in the past. Holy hell, my friends. This was genuinely startling.

I realized how many things I genuinely love that I rarely do. For example, I thought about times I’d experienced joy, and I kept coming back to swimming. I particularly love swimming in natural bodies of water, and I almost never do it. This is ridiculous because we have a cabin a block from a river. Apparently I’ve been denying myself joy because it’s too much of a pain. Joy gets too much sand in the car.

I also realized how many mundane bits of happiness I needlessly deny myself. I used to love getting dressed in the morning, especially if I was feeling blue. Looking pulled together is like armor, it makes me feel so much more confident. Over the years, as my schedule has shifted to accommodate the people around me, I started to rush through grooming, to be stressed about how long it took. I stopped ironing, resisted the urge to change an outfit that wasn’t working. Getting ready in the morning became a chore, because I felt like everyone was waiting on me. Now when I feel time stress rising, I stop myself and think, “You enjoy this.” And I let my shoulders unhunch.

What’s Your Question?

The best thing about this process is that, for a while at least, it has given me a single question to ask myself about any decision in front of me. Will this make me feel more peaceful? If the answer is no, it’s off the list.

I need to make more time for water.

What’s the question you ask yourself before you make decisions? Or do you have another guiding principle for goal setting? I’m all ears.

Jan 27 2011

ALT Summit Presentation

So while I was at ALT Summit, I did a panel on the business of blogging with Erin Loechner from Design for Mankind and Liz Gumbinner from Cool Mom Picks and Mom101. I always enjoy presenting, but something about the chemistry with those two girls made this conversation extra engaging for me.

I finally remembered to ask someone to record my presentation, but neglected to bring her a tripod. (Thanks for your forbearance, Kelly.) Here’s a slightly shaky video of my portion of the presentation:

I know a lot of you are bloggers trying to bring in a little income, so here are the main points of our entire presentation — each of us took on four tips.

Beyond the Banner:
A 12-Step Program for Successful Content Campaigns

Erin Loechner from Design for Mankind:

1. Re-invent the wheel.
Creative campaigns are fun and memorable. Consider Jason, who’s renting out his torso at I Wear Your Shirt. What do you have to offer that’s a little offbeat?

2. Test the waters first.
Before you jump into a huge commitment with a single advertiser, put a toe in the water. This way you’ll know more about how your readers will respond, learn how to price yourself through trial and error, and figure out which campaigns make you want to take a nap, and which are fun.

3. Know your professional strengths.
If you’re crappy at project management or staying on top of communications with clients, hire someone to do that for you while you produce content.

4. Less is more.
Erin likes to keep a ratio of 95 percent content to 5 percent sponsored posts. You’ll find your own ratio, but be mindful that you’re giving your readers something of value while you’re paying the rent.

Liz Gumbinner from Cool Mom Picks and Mom101:

5. It’s not all about you.
Think about the sponsor, what are their wants and needs? Let that shape the program you propose.

6. Measure your digital footprint.
Remember that your blog probably isn’t your only online presence. You may have readers on Twitter, Facebook, or even a newsletter. Think of the whole package.

7. Know thyself.
If your gut tells you that an advertiser doesn’t seem like the right fit, say no. Your readers know you, and they’ll obviously be able to tell if you’re promoting something and your heart isn’t in it.

8. Disclose.
No one likes to feel misled. Let your audience know who’s paying you and for what.

And me, Maggie Mason from Mighty Girl:

9. Consider events.
Throw a party for a local boutique, host an event in conjunction with a larger conference, or start a little retreat and build from there. If you enjoy throwing events, they can be a good way to build a tighter community while you grow your business.

10. Remember advertisers are people.
People who want to give you money are not your enemies, so keep the conversation going. If you start to feel adversarial about a proposed campaign, suggest other ways to work with a brand that might be more interesting to you and your readers. Even the largest brand has a team of people behind it, people with faces and families, who care about their product succeeding.

11. Pitch to your passions.
Seek out advertisers to support the content you’re already producing by being smart about how you package it. Can you tell people what your site is about in a single sentence? Is there a memorable narrative in your life story – maybe you’re building a house, starting your life over, becoming a new parent? Focus on that when you approach potential sponsors.

12. Know your worth.
Don’t just look at your daily unique visitors when you’re pricing a campaign. Consider your ability to amplify on Twitter, Facebook, via newsletter. Think about engagement — if you have a small audience of readers who are passionate about a particular subject and will leave lots of comments, that’s valuable to an advertiser. And don’t forget to take your time into account. Your work is probably worth more than you think.

That’s it! Are you trying to figure out how to make your living as a blogger? What did we forget?

Mar 8 2010

Lifescoop: 4 Tips for Creating an Inspiring Office

I rent a little writing office, and as you probably know I recently acquired an office mate. She was all set to move in when I realized I was embarrassed to have anyone see my workspace, let alone share it. At the time, it was a barren closet packed with boxes and junk I’d dragged in from the car.

Together we’ve been revamping, and slowly the storage closet is turning into a jewel box. Here’s what I’ve learned about making an office into an inspiring space.

1. Take good care of yourself.

It’s tough for an office to be inspiring if it’s not physically comfortable. Read more of 4 Tips for Creating an Inspiring Office.