Friday, November 04, 2005

Sleep Workshop - Week 4

If you've been reading this space faithfully, you'll have realized that I didn't write anything after last week's session. I could say I was busy and that I didn't have the time. It's true. But really, I just didn't have the energy for it. While I still am pretty low on energy these days, I think it would be good to get this down on paper, so to speak. Right - so last night we continued on the topic of cognitive behaviours and techniques.

First we discussed the nine ways to reshape our thinking. I'm finding all of this really helpful and maybe you will too.
1 - Clean up your thoughts: Involves simply identifying those maladaptive cognitive distortions.
2 - Straight forward approach: Substitute more positive and realistic thoughts for your negative thoughts. Ask yourself "Is this negative thought true? Is there another way to look at the situation?" Instead of "I know I'm not going to fall asleep", think "People are very bad at guessing when they'll fall asleep - it's very possible I'm asleep within a few minutes."
3 - Cost benefit analysis: List advantages and disadvantages of a negative feeling (becoming angry in traffic), a negative thought (I'm no good at this). Ask yourself "How will this attitude help me and how will it hurt me?" Once we are able to identify that our automatic thoughts almost always are unhelpful, it becomes easier to reject them.
4 - Double standard technique: Instead of putting yourself down, talk to yourself in the same compassionate way you might talk to a friend who was upset. You may be amazed at how mean you are to yourself. Yelling at yourself (mentally or otherwise) is entirely unproductive.
5 - Examine the evidence: Instead of assuming that your negative thought is true, examine the actual evidence for it. What are the facts? Is it true? Probably not. Substitute the thought for something more realistic.
6 - Experimental method: Do an experiment to test the accuracy of your negative thought. (e.g. counting backwards from 100 by sevens "100, 93, 86 ..." - OK - so maybe not a math test for me ...) Do the task after good nights and bad nights and you may see that your sleep does not render you useless after all.
7 - Thinking in shades of grey: Instead of thinking about your problems in black and white categories, evaluate things in shades of grey. When things don't work out out as well as you had hoped, think about the experience as a partial success. Try to pinpoint your errors instead of thinking of yourself as a total failure. This is important while you're trying to incorporate muscle relaxation and other techniques into your routine. Giving up on things that are difficult is very easy and made easier by black or white thinking.
8 - Semantic method: Related somewhat to the problem of using "should statements", substitute for language that is less colourful and emotionally loaded.
9 - Reattribution: Instead of blaming yourself entirely for a problem, think about the many factors that may have contributed to it. Focus on solving the problem instead of using all your energy blaming yourself and feeling guilty. The fact of the matter is, there are factors that are somewhat out of your control; acknowledging that they are out of your control may reduce your anxiety.

Strangely enough, all these things brought up some nearly forgotten tips I had picked up at a yoga workshop about a year ago, but I'll get to that in a minute. Bear with me.

Next we discussed some procedures for identifying and countering negative self-talk and how we can break these habits. Here are the steps:
1. Notice - catch yourself in the act of engaging in negative self-talk. Be aware of situations that are likely to precipitate or aggravate negative self-talk. i.e. any occasion when you're feeling nervous or anxious, anticipation of having to face a difficult task, occasions when you've made some kind of mistake and feel critical of yourself, occasions when you're feeling depressed or discouraged, situations when you're angry at yourself or others, situations where you feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed.
2. Stop - Ask yourself any/all of the following questions: What am I telling myself that is making me feel this way? Do I really want to do this to myself? Do I really want to stay upset?
3. Relax - Disrupt your train of negative thought with relaxation. The point is to let go, slow yourself down, and relax.
4. Write down the negative self-talk or inner dialogue that led you to feel anxious, upset, or depressed. It's often difficult to decipher what you're telling yourself by merely reflecting on it. It can be confusing to try to think about what you've just been thinking. The act of writing things down will help to clarify what specific statements you actually made to yourself.
5. Identify the type of negative self-talk you engaged in. After doing this for a while, you'll become aware of the particular types of negative inner dialogue and particular types of cognitive distortions you're especially prone to use.
6. Answer or dispute your negative self-talk with positive, rational, self-supportive statements.

Now back to the yoga tip list. More of it was resurfacing in my mind and I couldn't wait to get home and have a look at it. When I did get to it, I was astounded at how closely some of them are related to the techniques I'd just been learning. All these things were swirling around in my head last night as I recognized many of my own attitudes and beliefs. Here are the Top Ten Way to Reduce Stress (especially during the holidays)
1. Adopt an attitude of gratitude
2. Work from intention
3. Go with the flow
4. Practice metta (loving kindness) to oneself
5. Practice metta to others
6. Take a break
7. Practice gentle yoga
8. Turn off the TV, throw away the magazines
9. Find time for spiritual practice
10. Breathe!

Is this great or what? I'm going to make a copy for the others in the workshop as well. Maybe it can be of use to them.

More good news - I was "allowed" to add 15 minutes to my sleep time. And if my sleep efficiency continues to remain above 90% after 2 or 3 days at the new time, then I can add another 15 minutes, and so on ... At this rate I'll be up to 8 hours of sleep in no time! I know there will probably be some problems getting there, but I'm ready for them. Feeling rather proud of myself.

On that note, thanks to the two friends (you know who you are) who both gave me the same advice - be kind to yourself. Tonight I will go home and thrill in the no longer guilty pleasure of Prince or other things ... ;-)

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