January 2023

suffering, man walking through dark forest

Chosen vs. Unchosen Suffering

My recent cancer journey coincided with reading a book called Chosen Suffering. It was a book that one of my church pastors quoted from and I was intrigued. It was been a timely read in the midst of what I was going through. The book is written as a leadership book by Tom Ryan who is a college wrestling coach. He talks about chosen suffering as in the suffering an athlete chooses in order to become elite. Unchosen suffering enters his life with the sudden, unexpected death of one of his young children.

Reading the book helped me reframe what I was going through. The cancer diagnosis itself is unchosen suffering. I did not choose it or ask for it. But I have choices following that diagnosis. And that has given me a new mindset. My surgeon, oncologist, and radiologist recommend treatments based on their knowledge and I have the option of choosing those actions or pursuing other treatments. When I have side effects from treatments, I can dwell on the suffering that I’m currently feeling, or I can remember that I chose this option. I can spend my mental energy on getting through the challenges in the best way possible. I can be angry at the government for not informing me that the water was toxic on my base and likely the reason I have health challenges. Or I can be the best I can be with the circumstances that were outside my control. We can’t control other people or many of the things that happen to us, but we can control our responses to those things.

I have a choice in how I walk through unchosen suffering. Choosing to add more suffering on top of that is never going to be the best option. I chose to follow Phillipians 4:8-9

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Phillipians 4:8-9

Why we don't sleep. Image is frustrated woman with insomnia

Why We Don’t Sleep: Simple Ways to Improve Sleep

Sleep is one of the foundational habits for flourishing. It is also one of the things we tend to sacrifice. We often don’t realize the cost of a lack of sleep. More than 17,000 scientific reports show that getting a full night of rest regularly can improve your memory, lower your risk of disease, improve your creativity, decrease risk of depression and anxiety, and increase your sense of happiness. (Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker) If you consistently get less than six to seven hours of slumber, you double your risk of cancer. It is estimated that two thirds of Americans don’t get the recommended 8 hours of sleep. Are you one of them?

Tired = Drunk?

One skipped night of sleep has the same effect of being drunk. Not sleeping dramatically diminishes your performance in all areas and also diminishes your psychological well being. I used to work night shift and I know some days I was so tired driving home from work that I probably could have been pulled over for being drunk. My commute is about 35 minutes. I used to have to stop halfway home and take like a 15 minute nap in a parking lot before I could drive the rest of the way home safely. One morning I didn’t make it all the way to my resting point and had an accident. I know I was not the safest driver on the road those days.

Let’s look at why we don’t sleep:

1. We don’t value it. You might think, “oh, I’ll just stay up late and watch one more episode on Netflix,” and you sacrifice that extra hour (or more) of sleep.

2. We are inconsistent. Having a consistent bedtime and a consistent bedtime routine sets the stage for your brain to initiate the sleep process.

3. Too much light. In general, we go to bed we have light from multiple screens like our phones, iPads, or television. Getting all that blue light exposure reduces our melatonin which in turn delays the onset of sleep and also delays the onset of deep sleep. So even once you get to sleep, it takes you longer to get deep sleep. Blue light also stimulates cortisol, your stress hormone due to stimulation from TV shows internet scrolling, etc.

4. Substances. Caffeine, alcohol and tobacco can all impair sleep.

5. We eat too close to bedtime. Your body performs all sorts of vital functions as you sleep. If you are still digesting at bedtime, it can delay the body’s ability to do those functions.

6. We exercise too close to bedtime. Stimulation from exercise can keep you awake longer than you’d like.

7. No sleep sanctuary. Your bedroom should be cool and as dark as possible. Even small lights from electronic devices can impair your sleep. If you are a night shift worker sleeping in the daytime, have blackout curtains on your windows and soundproof your room as much as possible. A sound machine is a great investment to mask the sound of family members or neighbors while you rest.

Numb to the problem

The funny thing is, when we’re sleep deprived, especially if it’s chronic, the less your body is able to sense it. You feel like you’re okay. And until you start getting really good sleep, you don’t realize how not okay, you are. There’s a Greek philosopher, Seneca, that said “The worse a person is the less he feels it,” and that seems to be true when it comes to sleep deprivation.

So, what can we do for better sleep?

Here are some tips to improve your sleep based on the challenges above. See which habits you might want to include in your routine.

  • Stop caffeine 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. Some people might need to stop even earlier.
  • Exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime. Excercise gives you a 12 hour mood boost so the earlier you can do it, the more benefit you will get from that.
  • Stop eating 4 hours before bedtime. At a minimum, stop 2 hours before.
  • Shut down technology at least 1 hour before bedtime. The stimulation from tech will keep you awake longer.
  • Create a sleep sanctuary in your bedroom.

What will you work on?

Comment below and let me know what you plan to work on first.

If you’re working on new habits this post might interest you next: Morning Routines

If you are in healthcare and want to join the Nurses Getting Healthy Community, we’d love to see you in the group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/healthynurse

flag on the mountain top to represent the goal gap analysis

Rate Yourself: Energy, Work, and Love

I want to share something that was helpful for me in working on some goals over this past year - kind of like a little goal gap analysis. It's a way of looking at who you need to be in order to be the person that can reach your goal.  A lot of people already have their goals set up and if you don't, this can help you kind of focus your goals in a direction that would be helpful. Let me explain.  (You can read the post or listen in the video at the bottom of the page).

We all have a gap. We have a gap between who we are currently being or how we currently show up in the world and who we're capable of being. There's always more growth that we can experience. If we're not growing then we're being stagnant. This gap is what we're trying to close up when we set a goal. 

So why do we want to bridge this gap? Because we want to be the best person that we can be. The best version of ourselves needs to show up consistently in work, health, and home life. I know sometimes you've probably had a day where you just say that was a great day - a masterpiece day. You finish the day saying, "I wish every day was like that." You're feeling good, you have energy. Your relationships at home and at work are good. We want to become the person that can show up that way more often. So this quiz is just a way to help us look at where you currently are. 

The Quiz
I want you to evaluate yourself in 3 categories - energy, work, and love. Rate yourself on a 1-10 scale with 10 being perfect. Then we'll add up the 3 scores. 

Energy
Evaluate yourself with respect to energy. Some questions you could ask yourself in the energy category are:
- Do you get good sleep? Are you getting seven to eight hours? 
- Are you eating as well as the best version of you can? Are you getting nutrition that you know is fueling you and not dragging you down or causing disease, etc? 
- Are you exercising?  Are you moving your body? Or are you being too sedentary? 
- Do you have mental clarity? 
- Are you able to focus? 

A score of 10 is the perfection. If you are a 10 in this category, you have nothing more to prove. And a score of 1 would mean you're a total mess in this category.

Before you move on to the next category I want you to do a little bit of journaling on what's going well when it comes to your energy. Give yourself credit for the parts of this category, that you've got under control. 

Then list one thing you could start or stop doing that would bring your rating up a point? 

We're going to grab one thing out of each of these categories and even if you don't set goals or resolutions, you will have three things that you could work on to bridge that gap. The one thing I recommend that you make them a super simple things.

Work
- How do you flow throughout the day in your work? 
- How is your ability to focus without distraction?
- How is your level of productivity?
- How is your ability to prioritize your time management? 
- How do  you feel like you're showing up when you clock in in the morning? And when you clock out? 

Score yourself between 1 and 10 in the work category?

What's going well? 

And then what's one thing you could start or stop doing that would bring your rating up a point?

Love
- How are you showing up in your relationships? 
- How are you showing up as a spouse, as a parent, as a child? 
- How are you with your co workers or with your patients? 
- What kind of relationships do you have? 

Give yourself a score of 1 through 10. 

Again, look at what's going well. 

And what's one thing you could start or stop doing that would bring your rating up one point?

Total
Now you're going to total up those three scores across energy, work and love. 
What is your total score? Let's say you scored yourself as a 15 on a 30. Do you think that the person that is a 15/30 is capable of reaching your goals?You probably have some room for improvement. But if you work on those three categories, you're going to be more likely to hit that big goal.  So build some habits to improve your scores and then come back and rate yourself again on your way to your big goals!