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When many people are faced by a stressful situation at work, they respond with complete commitment, by working intensely hard at resolving it. To do this, they may work all hours, cancel vacations and cut back on sleep, all to make more time to tackle the problem.

If this is short-lived, then negative effects will be minimal and success will often be spectacular. However, if this level of hard work is sustained for a long time without relief, people increasingly risk ill-health and burnout.

We rest and sleep because we need to.


Rest and Relaxation

Rest is what we do to let stress subside. Rest at the end of a day, and at the end of a week, helps us to calm down.

Doing fun things that we enjoy in our leisure time compensates us for the stress we experience at work, bringing some balance back into life. This is particularly important if we routinely experience unpleasant levels of stress.

A good way of getting rest and reducing long-term stress is to take up an enjoyable, non-rushed sport or hobby. If you spend all your working day competing, then can be very pleasant to be completely non-competitive for some of your free time. Slow physical activities such as sailing or walking are good for this, as are others where there is little or no pressure for performance. Reading novels, watching television or socializing can also be very restful.

Vacations are particularly important, and you really do need to take these. Where possible, take two weeks off rather than just one week: A common observation that people make is that they really do not start to relax properly until the end of their first week of vacation.

Make sure that you take your vacations and that you use them to relax. Also, make sure that you get enough good quality rest during the week, so that you can keep on enjoying life to its fullest.

 
Sleep


On average, people need around eight hours sleep a night (although this can vary between three hours and eleven hours, depending on the person and his or her age).

If we are regularly short of sleep, then our concentration and our effectiveness suffer and our energy levels decline. We have all seen and experienced this.

This diminishes our effectiveness in our job, and can therefore increase stress: As our concentration wanders, we start to make mistakes. As our energy declines, we become less proactive in what we do, reducing our control over events. This means that a situation that is already difficult and stressful can become worse, needing even more sacrifice to bring it back under control.

Make sure you get enough sleep. If you have become used to being tired all the time, you will be amazed by how sharp and energetic you will feel once you start sleeping normally.

Tip:

When we are stressed and anxious, we can often find it difficult to get to sleep as thoughts keep on whizzing through our heads, stopping us from relaxing enough to fall asleep.


If you find this is the case:


    * Make sure that you stop doing mentally demanding work several hours before coming to bed – give your brain time to calm down before you try to sleep.

    * Try reading a calming, undemanding book for a few minutes, again to relax your body, tire your eyes and help you forget about the things that are worrying you.

    * Write persistent thoughts and worries down in a notebook and then put them out of your mind. Review the notebook in the morning and take action if appropriate.

    * Keep the same bedtime. Let your body and mind get used to a predictable routine.

    * Cut back on caffeine and alcohol. Some people find that they sleep badly if they drink coffee or cola after 4pm. Others find that if they drink alcohol to excess, they wake up in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep.

If you are still having trouble getting to sleep, meditation scripts like Meditainment's Secret Garden, Deep Relaxation and Falling Asleep can help enormously.