Plan B for Sleep

Gotta stay somewhat bright…

I got 8 hours of sleep last night… Not bad. I had a great day yesterday, and by the time I was back home again, I was too tired to do anything but go straight to bed. So, I did. No reading, no surfing the web, no television. Just bed. And 8 hours later I woke up without an alarm.

I generally don’t need an alarm to wake up, these days. I’m often awake by 5 or 6 a.m. The thing that gets me, is that I often don’t go to bed till 11 or sometimes later. Not last night. I was in bed by 9, and 5 arrived as it usually does – earlier than I wanted and expected, but still the reality of the situation.

Today I have another day off. This morning the plan is to just kick back and catch up on my reading, so some planning around job changes, and catch up on my emails. Nothing dramatic. I may also fiddle around with some of my projects — a little bit of coding, a little bit of research… keeping in mind that I’ve got two more days “off” ahead of me, so I can pace myself.

Hell, I might even get a nap in, too. As a matter of fact, a nap is just about the only thing I have planned for certain. These days off are a great opportunity to rest, and so I shall.

This resting business is a tricky one for me. Over the past months, I’ve been working on my ability to function reasonably well, even if I am tired. This is new for me – it used to really throw me for a loop when I was tired. My brain needs rest, and when I get tired, I can get very cranky, short-tempered, even explosive. My balance is off, my ability to pay attention for extended periods is compromised, and things generally don’t work nearly as well as when I am rested.

But despite knowing this and despite intending to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, my average is more like 6 hours, with a very occasional 8-hour stint… sometimes a little more. I rarely sleep past 8 hours, and those times when I get 9+ hours, it’s like Christmas. It happens maybe once a year, and it’s cause for celebration.

What to do? I can’t very well just fall apart, if I haven’t had 7-8 hours of sleep. I still have to function. So, over the past months, I have been working on intermittent recovery periods – doing my 90-second clearings, taking little breaks to breathe and stretch and consciously relax… and also to nap. There is no place in the building where I work, that I can lie down and rest, so I go out to my car, put on my headphones, and listen to some guided imagery that puts me into a relaxed state (or at least gets my mind off my everyday tasks, which are usually overdue and half-done). Taking little breaks in the course of the day — even if I don’t leave my desk — has really helped me get a handle on my “energy flow” and it’s helped keep the demons at bay, which is good.

It’s good for me, and it’s good for everyone around me, who doesn’t have to deal with the anxious crazy person I used to be all the time. Even if I don’t get as much sleep as I need, despite trying like crazy on a regular basis, at least now I have a way to work with the fatigue and disorientation. And even thought it’s a bit crazy-making to think that it’s not going to change anytime soon, I still have a set of “tools” and coping mechanisms I can use to reduced the ill effects of fatigue.

The main thing is to not dwell on the fact that “I didn’t get enough sleep.” That will make me crazy to begin with. It makes me anxious and fearful and puts me on edge — which is the start of the avalanche of drama that I can’t stand.

The next thing is to have back-up adaptations to my day, to help me function — when I know that I can relax and take a break and get some of my strength back over the course of the day, even if it is just by getting silent and breathing, that helps.

I also have been drinking a big glass of water with a little bit of baking soda in it, to keep my acidity level down. I do that first thing in the morning, many days, and sometimes I do it lter during the day. Acidity has been linked with all sorts of ills, like cancer and other illnesses, and it’s also hard on your system. Drinking water with a little bit of baking soda — say, half a teaspoon or so — settles my stomach and seems to calm down my whole system. I just feel better.

I also do a lot of self-support, talking myself through rough patches by reminding myself that I can handle this, that this is training for other things that are coming, and that today is going to seem like a breeze, in another couple of weeks. Rather than beating myself up for my “mistakes”, I treat my experiences like life lessons, and I focus on trying to learn something from them. When I stumble or blunder, I congratulate myself for just getting out there and giving things a shot. No more beating myself up over being an idiot. I may be that, but if you think about it, plenty of idiots are running around out there, doing big things with their lives, so why shouldn’t I? Maybe it’s not the most flattering self-image, but it’s something… y’know?

Anyway, the day is starting, and I’m feeling pretty good. I can definitely tell I need more sleep, and I may go back to bed in a little bit. Because I can. But for now, I’m going to do some reading, some writing, some thinking. And see where that takes me.




Mental rehearsal for the day

It’s all in there

Today I have a bunch of things I need to get done, among them having a quick nap in the afternoon. I didn’t get enough sleep again last night, and I’m really dragging. I have a lot I have to get done, and I’ll need to refuel at some point. So onward. Until I need to refuel.

I am using what I learned about mental training the other day, and mentally rehearsing a meeting I have in 30 minutes… I can see myself doing well, being patient, helping and contributing and doing a good job. I’ve had good experiences in the past, and I’m hoping this will be one, too. No, not hoping — planning. And preparing. There’s no “hoping” here — just getting ready to do what I need to do.

I’m also visualizing myself answering all my emails and finishing up on some things that have been hanging around waiting to get done. I have a bunch of things like that — and I may take some time this weekend to get them all squared away, so I can have a freed-up schedule next week — well, freed up of the things that have been hanging around — they’ll very likely be replaced by another ton of stuff, starting Monday morning.

Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), some of the folks in my group will be traveling next week, so I’ll have the chance to run things a little more like I’d like to see them run. It’ll give me a chance to un-cramp my style. At least, that’s what I’m visualizing. I get to run things for three days. Again, this needs preparation. Goals, visualization, self-talk, and — perhaps most importantly — arousal control.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those Big Four components of Navy SEAL mental training, and it makes more and more sense each day. Obviously, I’m nowhere near their level of performance, and the “threats” I react to on a daily basis are mostly manufactured by my flawed perception and reactions, not the real (shoot-to-kill) world at large. But the effect of these “threats” is similar — it still feels like life and death, sometimes. And what makes it even more stressful is logically knowing that these are not a big deal, but my body is telling me they are. It can make a person crazy, it can.

So, work it out, work it out…

  • Goal-setting
  • Mental rehearsal
  • Self-talk
  • Arousal control

I feel like God/the universe/the cosmos/fate put these in my path, so I should really make the most of them. Let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth, shall we?

Oh, look – the day is waiting… time to make the visualizations into reality. Enough rehearsing. Time to live.

Navy SEALs Mental Training Video


The “Big 4” Components of Navy SEALs Mental Training

  1. Goal Setting – pick a goal, a “small chunk” of an overall goal, and focus on meeting it
  2. Mental Rehearsal (visualization) – see yourself doing what you going about to do, and see yourself succeeding
  3. Self-Talk – keep positive to override the negative effects of the Amygdala
  4. Arousal Control – use long, slow breaths to quiet down the effects of fight-flight

Now, to see how I might use these same principles in combination to improve my own responses to perceived “threats” in my life…

No. More. Distraction. Period.

I've been all over the map

Okay, I know it’s ironic that I’m announcing I’m not going to be distracted from my work, just as I’m starting another post which will keep me from doing that work, but I just have to put this out there, so I can get on with my day.

I have been trying to figure out this technical problem for almost a week, to no avail. The bothering thing is that it used to take me all of an hour to figure this out, and now it’s taking me days and days. It should be so easy… but it’s not. I’m sure it’s a combination of not having done this kind of work in several years. But it’s also to do with how my brain now works.

After my last concussion, I went from being a programmer who could pick up new languages and new techniques very easily and quickly, to somebody who apparently now can’t. Once upon a time, I could read documentation and “get it” very quickly. And then I could use what I learned. But after my fall, I became this zombie who would just sit around, staring at the computer screen, not learning — or doing — anything.

I’ve gotten better about not just sitting there staring at nothing for hours. But when I came out of my post-concussion fog, I found that I could not read things and understand what they were about. I still have trouble reading, in fact. And I sometimes have trouble understanding, unless I really work at it.

I’m having that kind of trouble now, reading things and getting them. I’m also having trouble following instructions, which is really annoying, because it used to come so easily to me.

It’s agitating me. And that makes me more distractable. It also makes me less likely to really rest well or get good sleep, which in turn cuts into my available reserves. Not good.

So, what to do? I guess the thing that bothers me the most is the fact that things have changed. It gets in my head, and I end up spending wasting a lot of time thinking, “I should be able to get this. Why can’t I get this?” So, I end up distracting myself with a lot of internal chatter — chatter that doesn’t help me get where I’m going. I’m literally tearing myself down, when I do this, which I’m realizing just now as I’m typing this. The cross-talk in my head is drowning out the productive thinking, which doesn’t help me get where I’m going.

I think part of the problem is that I’m trying to approach this puzzle the way I think I used to do it. But my brain just doesn’t work the way it used to. I’m not saying it’s broken beyond repair; it’s just really clear to me – more each day – that I need to adjust and do things a little differently than before, if I’m going to restore my functioning in this area. Now, part of me had given up on being able to do any programming at all. I tried, and I did manage to code up some things that were pretty cool — a timekeeping application and a TBI issues tracking application, which I used a fair amount for a while. And I thought about building versions that would work on iPads and iPhones and mobile devices. But then I got turned around and I couldn’t move forward with it, so I just dropped it and didn’t bother with it anymore.

I just decided that I couldn’t do it. I decided that part of my life was over. And I turned my professional attention in other directions.

But the other day when I was doing a little coding, I felt that old spark once more — that sense of satisfaction, completion, accomplishment… just from doing a few little things on my computer. And it brought back that old feeling that was once so strong.

So, I’m back at it now, again. Because it feeds me. It gives me great satisfaction. And it’s something that no one can  take away from me, really. Not unless I let them.

See, this is the thing — this programming stuff is actually really fun for me. It’s not the sort of thing that I necessarily want to do only for others, depending on it for my livelihood. But it is the sort of thing I need back in my life, so I can have this again. And I can enjoy it again. If I can just “take it off the table” so to speak, and not make it all about earning a living — make it about having fun and creating things that I enjoy and that I want to use — make it about me and my life and my brain and my sense of satisfaction, rather than meeting the needs of some employer… then I can actually get it back.

And I can focus in on what’s important to me — not what’s going to make my current boss happy.

{Disclosure: I just got distracted and went off to surf around online — it must be time to move on and get some actual productive work done.}

Anyway… Ultimately, the things I do because I love them, will strengthen my overall sense of self, as well as strengthen my overall skillset, which is what I need. In this job market, it’s critical.

So, enough of the distraction. It’s time to make some progress. Onward.

Leaving well enough alone

Source: joshbousel

Things are changing at work. I have a new boss, and they are shuffling people around. The other people I work with are nervous, and so am I. We have a meeting scheduled for this Friday morning about my “new responsibilities”.

Ugh. I just want to go about my business and have things be stable for a while. I just started this job two months ago. But perhaps that’s not to be.

Fingers crossed that the news will be good. In any case, it will be a new challenge.

I’m trying like crazy to be positive and optimistic. There’s a nasty little “junkyard dog” voice in the back of my head that’s grousing about how this can’t possibly be good, ‘cuz I’m a screw-up and a brain-damaged loser. That voice is a supreme pain in my ass. I’m doing my utmost to ignore it… Or change the channel when it starts blaring in the back of my head. Music and headphones helps.

And I’m going to extra lengths to not act out and be a jerk with people because I’m nervous and agitated and irritable. I’m nervous. I’m tired. I’m not feeling up to this, or anything else. All the old stories about me being a screw-up are broadcasting on the big screen in my head. And it’s not very pleasant.

Plus, there’s a part of me that just wants to slouch along and not be bothered with “new responsibilities,” and that part has a bad habit of sabotaging me.  It’s done it before, and I need to be wary of it trying again.

Tomorrow, I shall focus in and take care of business.  Just do my job. Keep a low profile, except for when people come to me for help. Then I shall do my best, and remain calm.

I need to leave this well enough alone — and let it be good — ’cause there’s a chance it will be.

If I just keep steady, that junkyard dog may calm down and quit howling.

It’s a plan…

Changing my stories

Just got back from an appointment with my neuropsych. Apparently, I’m still doing an excellent job of holding myself back in life, by interpreting things that go wrong, as things being wrong with me.

Apparently, that’s not necessarily the case, and I’ll be both more effective and happier in my life and work, if I quit making every failing about “my” isssues.

I need to start questioning my interpretations of the meanings of events and past experiences. Preferably in a different light than before.

Okay… how to do this…?


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