What I’ve Learnt from 200+ Hours of the Tim Ferriss and School of Greatness Podcasts

Podcasts can be a new mum’s best friend.

They are intellectual stimulation and a sense of connection and engagement in what can be a lonely and isolating time.  Today I share the podcasts that changed my life and daily practices for the better.

I discovered podcasts on my second maternity leave, and fell in love with the Tim Ferriss and School of Greatness podcasts.

The range of interviewees and topics discussed was food for my brain, which had recently departed the world of adulting and intellectual conversation, and had entered the rather lonely world of maternity leave.  Podcasts were my intellectual stimulation and each one left me scrambling to record ideas, inspiration, quotes and notes.

One of my fondest memories from mat leave was walking (and then training for a 10k) with these podcasts going in my earbuds. I can’t list off specific guests (guess I’ll blame the brain fog) but I can certainly tell you that each podcast left me completely jazzed up.  No matter the topic, I came away feeling engaged.

Despite not remembering the names of more than a handful of guests, I have absorbed a lot of information, and my daily practices have shifted.  Some were intentional and planned out, others I believe have occurred in a strange process of osmosis.  Here are the 15 ways in which podcasts have changed me.  These are all practices that I aspire to and have worked on in the past year or so.

The 15 game-changers that I learnt and applied from the School of Greatness and Tim Ferriss Podcasts:

The biggest reward of meditation is not immediate.

Meditation is a practice that is performed in the present moment, and connects you with exactly that.  However, its most rewarding application is not the practice itself.  It is the ability to apply the results of a regular practice to times of stress and chaos.

Meditation takes many forms.  If it hasn’t stuck with you, try out different styles.  Lie in the sun and visualize the rays penetrating through the skin’s layers.  Listen to a relaxing song without vocals.  Pull up a youtube video and listen to it with earphones on.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MR57rug8NsM   Download the headspace or flowy app.

START AND END EACH DAY WITH AN INTENTIONAL RITUAL THAT CAPSTONES THE DAY.

Here is my daily greens juice, blasted in the vitamix blender then drained through a mesh sieve.  https://www.vitamix.com/Recipes/Ginger-Greens-Juice/C-Series/Variable-Speed/Classic-64-Ounce here is my go-to. Minus celery. I don’t like celery.

Other capstones I’ll employ in the morning:  Running.  A great cup of coffee.  Loud music in the car.   In the evening:  Foam rolling hip flexors (strangely relaxing) and licorice root or adaptogen teas.

 

FILTER YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA TO THAT WHICH ALIGNS WITH WHO YOU ARE, AND WHO YOU ASPIRE TO BE.

Filter out the noise that distracts you from your goals, and leaves you scrolling aimlessly, looking for something that catches your attention.

Spend a day reducing the accounts you follow to 30% of what you once did.  Pick only those that a.) are your family or friends b.) represent a life or mindset you are working toward.

STOP READING YOUR EMAIL FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.

Today, I slipped up.  I opened my email to a hate message from a troll type on kickstarter.  It was rude, insulting and discouraging.  That is how I started my day today.  No Bueno.

In the first hour of your day, you are rebooting your brain and setting your energy for the day.  Fill it with good things and good energy.

LEARNING IS A LIFELONG PURSUIT.

 

Be curious.  Google.  (But then look into proper research.)  All of the interviewees followed paths of curiosity, whether it made sense at the time or not.

YOU MUST ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING TO 1.) REFLECT UPON, 2.) ENJOY IN THE MOMENT, AND 3.) LOOK FORWARD TO IN THE FUTURE. SANDWICH YOUR DAY BETWEEN GREAT MEMORIES AND INSPIRING GOALS.

My mum was one of the happiest, most engaged human beings I had the pleasure of knowing.  Her biggest rule was always have something you are looking forward to.  Listening to these two podcasts, every.single.guest lights up while they are talking about a project.  You can hear it in their voice, even if you can’t see them.

TREAT SLEEP WITH THE SAME PRIORITY THAT YOU GIVE AN IMPORTANT BUSINESS MEETING IN YOUR CALENDAR, IF NOT MORE.

WHILE WE’RE ON THAT TOPIC, GO TO BED EARLY AND GET UP EARLY.

BE PICKY ABOUT WHO YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH. REALIZE IT IS A CHOICE.

Surround yourself with game changers, inspirations, teachers, mentors and happy people.  If you are part of their lives, their stories will become your stories, and vice versa.

FOR ACCESS TO CREATIVITY, ENTER THE STATE OF FLOW ONCE PER DAY.

The flow state lights up the brain and promotes creativity.

KEEP A JOURNAL FOR THOUGHTS WORTH SAVING, BUT ALSO TO PUT ASIDE UNHELPFUL THOUGHTS WHILE COMPLETING A TASK.

SOME OF YOUR BEST IDEAS WILL COME WHEN YOU ARE DRIVING OR IN THE SHOWER.

SHIFT YOUR MINDSET AROUND HEALTH; BECOME THE CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER OF YOUR HEALTH AND BODY.

Your Doctor is a consultant in your health.  They can offer great advice and services – but it is up to you to do the day to day work.  Treat yourself (within reason) as a science experiment.  Try out different things. Find the unique combination of health practices that work for you.

CREATE A DAILY GRATITUDE PRACTICE.  INSTAGRAM PICTURE AND HASHTAG, JOURNAL ENTRY, FACEBOOK STATUS UPDATE – THE FORMAT DOESN’T MATTER.  THE REFLECTION DOES.

READ THE BOOKS THESE PEOPLE RECOMMEND (YES, THEIR OWN TOO) AND KEEP LISTENING TO PODCASTS!

Great books I’ve read as a result of these podcasts:

The Power of Habit

The Upside of Stress

I Know how She Does It

Outliers

The Myth of Stress

Finding Ultra

The Great Maternity Leave Projects: Give up Social Media for 1 Month

 

Why read this article?  Because it will help you to stop comparing and worrying on your maternity leave (about what others are doing and what their opinions are) and help to clear your mind.  You will feel liberated reading about this project I completed.

Reading time:  4 minutes

Before starting on a food diet at 6 months post-partum, I decided that I would try out a “technology diet” and go offline for 1 month.  Why?  It was challenging for me, lol.

I am drawn to little challenges like that.  But it had far more benefits than I realized.  And it was a fascinating social experiment.  Below, my experience.

There were many things that led to the digital detox decision.

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

I once heard a quote that said “comparison is the thief of joy.”  The incoming feed on social media is literally a highlight reel of everyone’s lives.  Even the most self-confident, secure new mama is left wondering if she’s doing a good job, or left in a strange period of mourning the loss of her old life.

There’s a fine line between feeling inspired by someone’s great social media feed and feeling kinda crappy about it (when comparing our lives with theirs.)  

In those early days post-partum, we undergo a mourning process, thinking our old life is no longer accessible to us.  We stand at the living room window looking out at the world passing by in this strange, foggy stage.  We are in a rare moment between feeds and diaper changes, and wonder if it is going to be like this forever.

It shall not be! Trust me!

Think of that immediate post partum period as a 3-4 month detour in your life, where you are fully allowed to watch netflix in your pjs and cuddle a sleeping baby on your chest, and break all the rules, and realize everyone’s lives are continuing while yours is in this strange loop cycle inside the house.

By the way, read this light hearted article by the Pregnant Chicken so that you can get through the 4th trimester and feel 1000x better

The internet is beautiful; we have access to so much information.  But it is such a double edged sword.  It intensifies everything, access to information, incoming voices, incoming pressures from the outside world.

If there’s one thing I learnt on maternity leave, it is that there is intense social pressure online to be a part of any one particular style motherhood.  The group wants you to join them.

It’s almost like if you were walking down the street through a market and sellers were hawking their wares at you, waving things around.  It’s kind of the same on the internet with all of these different tribes of motherhood, hawking their styles and telling you to be this way or that way.  lol.

Why do we Let others’ Opinions on the Internet get to us?!

I got the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz for Christmas and reading it, he explains this phenomenon beautifully.

We are born a blank slate and have the capacity to learn quickly.  We are raised by our family, by a culture, by an education system.  We are inducted into a way of thinking, doing things, and judging people.  As a child we agreed with and believed all of the information passed on to us.

In adulthood that child is still within us; the child who that was punished for breaking the rules and rewarded for following them. There’s still that desire to make people happy, to follow their rules, to avoid negative judgement. To join the group. It’s the framework our brain developed within.

Do what we say. Approval.  Do not do what we say. Disapproval.

But we struggle with that, because adulthood is faaaar more complicated than childhood.

We realize that we can critically appraise and decide what is good and what is bad, because aside from a few major things, like, oh say, murder, theft, etc. the rest is up for negotiation.

Despite all of this, the outside world is streaming in.  A barage of noise that wants us to do things this way, wants us to do things that way.  Sleep training.  Great example.   This is good. That is bad.  Do things like us.  There are lots of methods and each method has its followers and passionate promoters.

The Internet’s In-Stream of Opinions

When we have our babies, we have the power and ability to receive information, then to decide what is right for us, but it’s hard when there’s 100 people standing in our ear yelling their opinions.  That’s what the internet can be like.

Think of it like this:  If you had ten people yelling ideas at you in a room, how would you be able to take a quiet moment, think clearly and decide?  

And because we have this  new, fragile human life, people are even more intense about what you should be doing.

With social media’s advertiser algorithms we are also hammered with exposure to parenting advice and material designed to expose us to the prevalent expectations and culture.  I don’t think it’s a sinister plot, it’s just that in any culture, there is a main dialogue, main way of doing things.

The Moment I Decided I Was Done.

At 33 years of age I decided I had enough training and life experience that I could listen to a variety of options, listen to my gut and then choose what was right for myself and my family.  I just needed time to think clearly.  Having parenting information coming at me from left right and centre on social media feeds, I decided it was enough.

It was time for an information detox and to follow just my gut for a month.

The Surprising Reactions from Others

I wasn’t prepared for the reactions I was getting.  “Is everything okay?”  “How are we going to stay in touch with you,”  “I’ll miss out on the children growing up,” “You must think you are special doing this” (ouch!) “How am I supposed to get a hold of you,” “did you delete me from Facebook?!” “What are you going to do if you need information?” “OMG did something really bad happen to you?!” “You’ll never be able to do it for 30 days.”  Whoa. WTF.

Some of them were surprise, some of them were strangely passive aggressive and some of them were curious.  It was amazing that such a simple action could cause all of these reactions.  Which made me want to rebel more 🙂

Do You Need a Detox?

A good way to decide if you need a digital detox is to ask yourself how comfortable you are with the idea of giving up technology for a month.  If you can’t imagine it, you are precisely the one who would benefit 🙂 

Also ask yourself this.  Do you have a general overall mission or goal for 2016? If your brain seems foggy when you ask yourself this, perhaps you are overwhelmed in the stream of incoming ideas and information.

The Benefits of a Detox

So here’s what I gained from a month of digital detoxing

-I truly felt like I was released from the cacophony of noise on parenting, babies, how to be a parent, how to be a mum, etc.

-I learnt to follow my gut and develop my style

-It was much easier to think about and then execute on decisions. I didn’t waffle on things, because I wasn’t being subjected to 5+ different options.

-Truly, ignorance is bliss sometimes.

-I felt like I was liberated from the process of comparison and wondering if I was doing things right, how I could improve my life, how I was failing, etc.

(I know if I do it, others do it, so it was also a bit liberating knowing I wasn’t being judged(positively or negatively)  either.)

-I freed up my attention; I was much more focused and less distracted

-It was refreshing to see family or a friend and have them ask what is new, and be able to have an exciting conversation.  Having access to someone’s life on Facebook means that so often, points of conversation in real life (IRL) are removed because we already know “what is new.”

-Reduced time on social media once I “reconnected.”

A digital detox is also great for “re-balancing” especially if you love social media.  Without a detox, you incrementally spend a bit more time on it each day until all of a sudden it dominates your time.

Until one day you realize you are watching a dance video (that will provide no benefit to your day) while your kid is looking at the back of your phone waiting for you to take them out.  That was my “ah hah” moment.  

One Month to Recalibrate

With a one month detox, it is like hitting a reset button and re-calibrating.  All of a sudden, 10 minutes on Facebook after a month of nothing, is enough.  It is satisfying.  Pre-detox, 40 minutes on Facebook would feel like it was enough.

 

It is easier to undertake any action if you have some information that deepens your understanding of why it is beneficial. My blog post here is just a start.

Gain Knowledge

Check out some of these articles:

The NY Times ran a fascinating series called “Your Brain on Computers.”

Forbes – How to do a Digital Detox

Fast Company – What Really Happens to Your Brain and Body During a Digital Detox 

Fast Company’s article deals with the trail blazer behind Kovert Designs and her company’s funded digital detox for 35 individuals in Morocco – Kovert had Neuroscientists and other research professionals observe the individuals.  Plus, this woman is absolutely fascinating.

The Great Maternity Leave Essays: Treat Your Mental Health Like a Project!

 

Why read this article?  I talk about being high risk for post-partum depression (PPD), why the symptoms are not easy to pick up on until you have hindsight, the subtle barriers to getting help, what it’s like taking SSRIs and a multi-pronged approach that worked for me.

I had the most unbelievable, awesome experiences on both of my maternity leaves, but the first three months of my firstborn’s life, was rough. I think going through this fire is what made me so passionate about shaping a great maternity leave, because I came through from the other side.

A High Risk PPD Patient

Going into my first maternity leave, I knew that I was pretty high risk for post partum depression. If you checked off the box of shitty things that could possibly happen, I was probably on that box.

4 hospitalizations with hyperemesis (barfing brains out) till month 8, many ultrasounds for placenta positioning, many blood tests for low counts, I’d had anxiety on and off through my life, my Mum had just died and I was experiencing some PTSD symptoms, my husband was in firefighting academy and had to be 100% focused on that, and it was a surprise pregnancy I wasn’t ready for (I was still debating whether to have kids.)

Taking medication is still a hush hush subject. For the longest time I didn’t tell anyone, but now I am an open book!  So I am happy to discuss it here as my post on “taking care of mental health.”  I do believe you should treat your mental health as a multi-pronged project.  Look at it as a fun thing to tackle. A new challenge.

PPD is as unique as you are.

I had this idea in my head that I’d be crying all the time if I was PPD.  That was a really ignorant view looking back! I wish there was more dialogue about how unique it can be, depending on the person.

I still genuinely debate whether I had PPD or just the grief / PTSD piece – which is strange to my logical brain, because I quite clearly experienced some PPD symptoms in the first 3 months of my firstborn.

I had grinding insomnia.

I just about had a panic attack at night every time my baby made a sound.

I was managing some super intense anxiety:  Walking on icy pathways I couldn’t stop the image in my mind of what ifs.  What if  I accidentally fell and let go of my stroller and it went down the ridge? Once Trevor was walking innocently along the  grass at the edge of the ridge with the stroller and I just could not handle it.

I was crying my eyes out every day.

Why I Didn’t get Help Until Month 3

1.)  In in the moment you don’t realize how you are different. Have you ever heard the story about the frog in water, if you gradually raise the temperature to boiling, the frog won’t even know until it has been boiled.  I think of being “in the crux” of new motherhood as the same thing.   You are so busy and sleep deprived those early days, you just put it down to that.  That is why I am such an advocate of asking your partner to keep you in the loop about whether you are being yourself.  

Even now, from the other side, I can only compare maternity leaves with hindsight.  I did the same awesome things with both leaves, was truly happy,  had a ball, but my first mat leave, the first 3 months involved quite a lot of mental struggles until I took care of mental health and got myself to my family doctor, and found a great psychologist to work with.

2.) PPD is SUCH a silent disease.  Depression is called an invisible disease and that is so true.  This is an extreme example, but what made me so aware of the invisibility is my husband:  He deals with a lot of suicides in his work, both as a firefighter and when he worked in public emergency communications.  The extreme cases of suicide – most of them, nobody had any idea how much that person was struggling inside. There were no leadups, no warnings, no indications of just how much they were struggling.

An important thing to note is that you can have ANY ONE or FEW of the symptoms listed for PPD. Also in varying intensities.  Some of the things that made me sit up and take notice were:

Baby Blues + grief combined were just the most crippling sadness for me, my grief hit right in week 2 after having my baby.  Every day, like clockwork, by 4pm the exhaustion and sadness and overwhelm would hit me, and I would stand in the kitchen and cry.my.eyes.out.  I’m not much of a crier and there I was, hysterical, looking out the window in the kitchen, with this profound sense of feeling trapped.

Projects for my mental health:

I am really happy to say after that intial 3 month ride with my first born, I was able to figure out my mental health and literally treated it like a project.  Here are the things I did:

Low dose of SSRIs after multiple discussions with my Doctor.  

They not only treat symptoms, but they are also preventative if you are at risk.  My Dr had suggested them while my Mum was terminal but I was still in “business mode” – my emotions were locked down to deal with the realities at hand – so I resisted.  When the emotions finally processed post partum, I decided it was time.  The benefits of SSRIs for me, were profound.  My sleep returned to normal, and it made a huge difference in anxiety.  Being on them and feeling what it was like to feel relatively normal, made me realize what an anxious person I must have been all my life!  It also made a profound difference for me in my back pain, as I have a degenerative spine and herniated disks.  I was not expecting this, but living with a 3/10 pain level every day, as opposed to 7-8/10 is unbelievable.  I wasn’t expecting this but it’s a side benefit.

Prioritize sleep.

Holy smokes I cannot stress this enough.  If you are working on mental health it’s the FIRST thing you should do.  FIGHT for your right to have a full nights sleep after having your baby so you can recover from birth.  Your partner can sacrifice a nights’ sleep when you will be doing it for  months to come. The workout of giving birth – mentally and physically is comparable to nothing else. You are high on adrenaline, and the amazing human looking back at you, but you can’t let that trick you into thinking you don’t need recovery.  And when you do go to sleep, find a chillout song & headphones.  Mama high alert brain will shock you awake for every cute little snuffle and snort those newborns make.

It comes down to the individual partnership but you must find a way in which you can explain and convey the importance of sleep support to mental health.  I knew my mental health was so important that I used a pump so my husband could night feed – a few hours unbroken sleep was the difference between looking at everything positively the next day, versus noticing everything negative the next day.  It was also the difference betweeen sobbing at 3pm, or being ok at 3pm.

I am very lucky in that my husband does night shifts and he knows very well what it is like to go through a night shift.  He needs sleep.  And so he understands that I do too.  He also understands that driving a car is dangerous on that level of sleep deprivation – he goes to accidents where people are tired, and sees the consequences.  So that’s how we had mutual understanding.  Think about what would frame it well for your partner so they can understand.

Use Music

A song that has helped me when I’ve decided I am in desparate need of a mental-health-recovery sleep is Om Namo Bhagavate by Deva Premal. I listen to it all the time on a repeat loop and it’s like a warm hug.  The song itself is 7 minutes which is nice when you’re entering sleepytime.  It’s actually a sanskrit song and the intention behind Om Namo Bhagavate is that you envelope yourself in the energy of the song, rather than the words (which aren’t in English anyways, so that’s easy!)

Meditation and Relaxation with assistance

I took a guided visual meditation workshop run at a local clinic.  My busy brain liked the guided visualization rather than being left on its own to “quieten.”  One that always stuck with me from that workshop, was imagining myself at the bottom of a pond, with goldfish swimming around.  When an unhelpful thought appeared, the instructor guided us to blow out with our mouth a little, as if we were blowing out a bubble, then letting it rise up to the surface and pop  – and to imagine it swirling up to the surface of the pond.

Another beautiful tool is a specific type of yoga which is EASY for any level.  When I feel myself getting stressed / emotional, go to a session of restorative (yin) yoga. I look at this type of yoga, which is done on the floor and is very easy / chill, as my reset button. Bonus points if they do the Yoga Nidra which is called “yoga sleep” – a deep guided meditation or visualization of full body relaxation.

Took the MBTI and it was profound, it made me realize much of my anxiety comes from the sheer number of creative ideas and thinking I do.  Writing has been a game changer for me, as I get the thoughts out.

Find a great psychologist or counsellor

This is so much easier said than done.  It can take pouring your heart out over and over again to different people.  It can take $250 an hour if you don’t have coverage.

Just know you are worth it.  It costs $250 to go on a big grocery shop.

Your mental health and wellbeing are just as important as 6 bags of groceries.  Ok? 🙂 

I hope these ideas are helpful for you. As unique as PPD is, so are the tools that work for you.

Project: Understand Sleep Deprivation

I take the view that life is a big, fun experiment.  I love learning, researching, collecting advice and then testing it out on myself.  Today, we chat about sleep. Oh my, I love sleep.  Did I mention I have a 2 year old and a 5 month old?   I know sleep deprivation.  This is a topic I was a bit obsessed with in the trenches of newborn life.

I’ve gone through every sleeper experience; able to sleep through a nuclear war (my 20s) right up to almost losing my mind from insomnia during a stressful time in my life (my late 20s.)  Now, in my early 30s, I am going through a short period in my life with small nocturnal humans.

Those early weeks with a newborn were a blur.  I was so shattered, I experienced my first real hallucination.  At 4am I stood in the kitchen watching the walls melt onto the floor.

With my firstborn, I cried at 4pm every day. I couldn’t execute on a quick decision like needing to take an alternate route home if there was a traffic jam.  No jokes.  It took until my 2nd maternity leave to put this on the Great Maternity Leave project list. Understand sleep deprivation.

When you experience varying levels of sleep duration and quality, you come to be an expert on your own body.  Everybody is affected differently by a lack of sleep.  In my case, it makes me very clumsy, emotional (not my usual state) and I feel crippling sadness. I can’t frame my mind positively and tend to notice the negatives (again, not my operating standard at all!)

I have a low ability to cope during the day when I am very, very low on sleep.  It’s scary. I don’t like feeling so down. The effect is immediate and profound.

For this maternity leave, I have committed to studying, experimenting and understanding this thing called sleep. I may not get the quantity, but I am committed to getting more quality and am experiencing less energy deprivation than the first go-around.

First off, let’s go to the insomnia stage of my life. I was dealing with HUGE levels of stress.  BIG life events.  This was before babies, too.   I went to counselling and learnt about sleep hygiene practices.  If you are wondering what they are, here is a list from the National Sleep Foundation.

I harnessed technology and monitored my sleep using an app.  (This article by Lifehacker has a great list of sleep tracking apps.)

I took adaptogens (mostly in tea form,) limited screen time before bed and supplemented.  I installed blackout curtains and much to the chagrin of my husband, created a nice cold room to sleep in with several windows open every night.

I eventually got over my insomnia.  Life improved considerably until I entered another sleepless stage of my life, 2013. My first born child. I’m going to be very honest when I say that I feared for my own emotional and mental wellbeing on little sleep. I just do.not.do.well.

I knew I would need to go beyond the sleep hygiene.  I could incorporate all of the great practices I’d learnt to get a good quality sleep, but the reality was that there’d be days where I would simply have to survive on a few hours sleep.

I thought to myself, who would be an expert at dealing with sleep deprivation?  Answer? Soldiers.  Snipers. Special forces.  The brave men and women who have to complete intricate life-or-death operations and lightning-fast decisions on little to no sleep.

I began to research military publications on sleep management and techniques. There was a wealth of information from the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research, pub med, the Armed Forces Journal, and of course, the many forums for men and women in uniform.

I’ll share some of the best tips I have found in my research.  In this post, I will talk about things that worked for me, but I encourage you to do research of your own.

Experiment with different types of naps and timing

The experts say that 20-30 minutes is the sweet spot, but to be honest, if I’m sleep-deprived and needing a recovery nap, I’ll go in the 60-90 minute range.  Everybody is different, though the most common recommendations are shorter time periods.  It is also possible to have multiple short naps in cases of serious sleep deprivation.  Here is an interesting article about the multiple nap techniques of ocean sailboat racers.

If I know I’ve got a tough night ahead, and do a preparatory nap, I’ll go in the 20 minute range and do it on a couch, not in a bed.

Notice I referred to two different types of naps.  We don’t hear about the preparatory nap, because most of us are taking recovery naps.  The recovery nap is a reactionary approach to sleep deprivation.  But what about a proactive approach? Replenishing the bank account before all the bills come out?

Throw off the external programming

If you spend time among members of the military or emergency services, you will notice that sleep and naps are treated with respect rather than derision.  Both services know that with critical decision making and other peoples’ lives on the line, they have to take care of themselves.

I found this perspective very interesting, because up to that point, I had found that napping is so often treated with derision in wider society and particularly among mother groups.  All of us can think of a time when napping has been framed in terms of “laziness” and “lacking motivation” or “ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Consider this:  Tell a new Mum she needs to nap.  There is a 99.9% chance you’ll get an eye roll, a comment along the lines of “I wish I had time for that” or a wishful sigh.  There’s that perspective.  Now, tell a cop who’s just gotten off a night shift that he or she needs to nap.  Totally different reaction.  They’ll probably agree.  And go nap.  They KNOW the crucial importance of taking care of themselves, their physical and mental capacity.  The day I stopped eye rolling and started treating my sleep with respect and priority, rather than buying into the other messaging, is the day I started really taking charge and ownership of my sleep and getting some recovery. It was no longer an afterthought. It was an absolute priority.

As the partner of a firefighter, if my husband has been up all night on shift, I make sure to create the space, moral support and time for him to be able to sleep the next day.

As mamas who are up multiple times a night, every night, are we not doing the same difficult work? Feeling the same fatigue? Pulling the same hours?   Let’s treat ourselves with that respect and ask for the support and space to recover, from our partners as well.

Don’t focus on how many hours per night you get

The reality with kids is that every night is different.  It is so up and down!  If you start focusing on the 7-8 hour per night goal, it becomes a fast-track to the negative practice of “score keeping” with your partner.

A more effective approach is to focus on your overall sleep bank a few days at a time. Look at the accumulation of sleep over a few days, and incorporate the above practices of preparatory naps and replenishing your sleep bank account.

It is easy to get obsessive about not getting 7-8 hours per night, but I can tell you, that the nights I’ve had a magical night and 10 hours of sleep, I’ve still felt just as exhausted the next day.  You only start to feel normal after a few days.  That’s why I take the 3-4 day approach.

1 day’s worth of monitoring is not an accurate gauage of how you are feeling.

Throw in intermittent or shorter-term activities

With sleep deprivation, the effects are much more intense and noticeable when you are engaged in longer, more continuous tasks involving coordination and mental processing. This is why it “hits” you when you are driving or doing a longer chore.  Sprinkle in some intermittent or quick activities that are physically-based to get away from hitting the wall. If you begin to notice that physical tasks (quick chores, etc.) are becoming impaired – for me this is being incredibly clumsy – take note.

I often wondered why I was such a disaster in the morning (dropping coffee beans all over the floor, knocking stuff over.)  It’s actually because the effects of sleep lost are most severe cognitively, and physically, before 9am.  So make that coffee.

Be wise with the caffeine

A lot of special ops seem to recommend that if you must rely on caffeine for an important operation (in our cases, social event that lasts beyond 9pm lol) it is a great technique to cut back on caffeine leading up to the event.  This is so that cup of coffee prior to going out will have a more intense effect.  Be careful though, don’t consume coffee 6 hours or sooner before your sleep. Another great tip is to put coconut oil or another fat (butter is great too) into your coffee to lengthen the boost of the coffee (fat prolongs the metabolism.)

SLLS

This tip was shared by an army veteran and went around social media for some time.  “Stop, look, listen, smell” was a technique that he used to maintain focus during operations, and is a great way to deal with the onslaught of fatigue.  This incorporates the mindfulness techniques of refocusing on the breath, the immediate environment and present moment.  Pausing and reconnecting with the body ,the eyes, the ears and the nose is a brilliant way to detatch – even momentarily –  from the mental story of “I am exhausted” and hit the reset button.

Sit in the dark

Both of my babies had similar feeding patterns but I was way, way more messed up with my first born.  Looking back, I did several things to compromise the quality of sleep between feeds.  One of the most detrimental things to my sleep quality was my iphone screen.  As I laid there and fed my daughter her bottle, I’d scroll through instagram or whatever was at hand, trying to keep awake.

The light emitted from our electronic devices directly effects our melatonin production, interfering with the circadian rhythm and our sleep cycles. A link between screen time and time spent in REM sleep (the restorative sleep) was found.  And it wasn’t a positive link. The Atlantic Magazine provides a great snapshot of the latest research findings in this area.

Needless to say, no more iphone during the night feeds. I teeter on the edge of consciousness during the night feeds, in the dark and quiet room, and creep back to bed afterward.

Know that music is life-changing

One of my biggest struggles with having a baby was the torture of not being able to fall asleep, even if I had someone helping out and covering the kiddos so I could have a few uninterrupted hours.

Every sound, whimper, snort, snuffle (babies are loud) I would wake up with a jolt of shock.  This isn’t just a new mum thing.  This is a light sleeper thing.  Oh god, it was torture.

Discovering the power of music has been a god-send.  Over the last 2 years and last two new humans joining our household, I have used one particular chill-out music track and incorporated it into my naps or sleep windows. Same song.  Every time.  It has just enough background / ambient noise to distract my brain from the noises of the household.

I strongly suspect this particular song has embedded itself in my brain as a sleep cue.

The research on music and the brain’s response to it is absolutely fascinating.  This article is worth reading, and allows you to sample a song that incorporates all of the elements researchers have found to assist with relaxation and sleep.

They describe it as “one of the most relaxing songs ever recorded” and provide a breakdown of the song and the reasons why the brain responds so well to the track.

Consider adding this song to your phone (in airport mode!) and putting it on repeat as you drift off, if you struggle with light sleeping and being jolted awake by household sounds.

These are just a few of the incredible tips and tricks I’ve learnt that have truly helped me survive the second go-round at managing with a newborn baby. Let me tell you, this second go-round has been much easier, and much less zombie-like. I’d love to hear your own self-experimentation and discoveries when it comes to the pursuit of that gorgeous thing called a great night’s sleep. Or in my case a decent cumulative total over the space of a week 😉