Last night I heard another story of a person working for close to 30 years for a large, international company only to be let go when the going got tough. That’s right, this person dedicated almost 30 years of their life, gave up vacation time to take conference calls, and worked excessively long hours only to be discarded in an unpleasant and hurtful way.
Sadly, this isn’t a unique story. We all know of a story like this. And when we hear such a story, it can be quite unnerving. Aren’t we told from a young age that if we work hard, we will reap the rewards? That the early bird gets the worm? These stories make us question this very simple equation that we have been operating on since grade school.
When we hear such stories we are reminded of the simple and somewhat important fact that we’re replaceable at work. We’re reminded there will always be someone smarter, harder-working, and better at the work we’ve been doing for 30 years. Or we’re reminded that our employer is a big jerk. Regardless of what we’re reminded, it’s an important (and of course sad) lesson to learn because while we may be replaceable at work, we’re not at home. We are not replaceable to our partner, pets, mom, dad, children, and friends. We are an important part of the operation of their lives and without us, things wouldn’t return to baseline; life would be forever different without us.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a post to downplay the importance of ambition and career goals. I have many a career goal and plan to work very hard over the next few decades of my life. Yet, I’m always going to keep this in the back of my mind. I’m going to remember this when things become too much. I’m going to remember that some people actually do die from work and many become permanently injured (whether mentally or physically). I’m going to remember such consequences would have a profound impact on the people closest to me. I encourage you to remember as well.
Thus, while it can be unnerving to realize you will always be replaceable at work, it’s also quite liberating. It frees you from certain lines of thought and allows you to be more aware of what’s really important and what you want out of life. I encourage you to take time and think about this.
I’ve never been one to lose sleep…until recently. And I’ve got to say, I’m really not a fan.
Typically my stress presents in other obnoxious ways: getting grumpy with my fiancée, obsessing over noises (more than usual), ruminating on thoughts that are completely unproductive, you get the picture (yes, I know I have some interesting tendencies). If I’m being honest, I did go through a weird sleep phase when I was in my early teens where I became apprehensive of not falling asleep and thus, not getting enough hours in, but this phase only lasted a few months.
Apparently a large proportion of Canadians report sleep disturbances. Dr. Charles Morin at Laval University and his team asked 2,000 Canadians about their sleep quality over the last month and 40% of respondents experienced one or more symptoms of insomnia at least three times in a week during the last month. It would seem this is an issue shared by many.
For me, the experience of insomnia is constantly in flux. Some nights I can’t fall asleep. In those instances I turn the light back on and read for a little longer or watch another TV program (I know this is not an effective strategy for sleep). Sometimes I roll around hoping for sympathy from my also sleep-deprived sweetie. Some nights I wake up at 2:30 / 3:00 AM and lay there for two hours. Some nights I get up and work (again, not a healthy strategy to get back to sleep). Some nights I wake up 2 hours before my alarm. Some nights I just get up as it’s almost my morning. While my experience isn’t quite so awful as this, it does present some waking challenges. I am tired when I wake up. I am tired in the morning (I’ve always been a morning person so this tired thing is not appreciated). I have less patience. I get brain fuzz in the afternoon. Okay, enough “I” statements already.
To be proactive and practice what I preach on a daily basis to clients, friends, family, I’ve (geesh another “I” statement) increased my exercise and yoga. I have committed to turning the TV off at 9:30 and going to bed to read (I realize most sleep gurus would say “NO READING IN BED”, but it is something I’ve done forever and find very relaxing). Food and alcohol intake has been slightly modified to reduce sugar, especially close to bed (this may be my greatest challenge). Implementing such change, even though not drastic, is difficult because when you’re stressed you want to do the exact opposite. Case in point: at hot yoga on Monday night all I wanted to do was sit on my mat and eat a bucket of George’s cookies (can we all say yummy?). I shared that with my father and he told me to “get that thought out of your mind”. If I only I could, dad, if only I could.
Experiencing sleep disturbances on an irregular basis is part of being human (it’s definitely a part of being a new parent); however, statistics show it affects almost half of Canadians. Thus, it seems it’s becoming a regular and accepted part of being human. How should we feel about this?
We lead very busy lives. We run from one event to the next (I literally mean run in some instances). We push ourselves. We justify extra hours at work / attending social events / doing chores by saying we can make up the sleep later. Yet, sleep debt is a serious issue and can have deleterious health consequences later in life. Sleep debt isn’t just erased by a big sleep in on the weekend. For example, let’s say I go to bed at 11, wake up at 7, but was up for two hours in the night. I’m getting 6 hours of sleep per night. Experts think I should be getting 7 to 8 hours per night. So if this pattern continues for the week, I will lose 5-10 hours of sleep throughout the week. Thus, I would have to sleep an additional 2.5 – 5 hours on both Friday night and Saturday night to make up that debt. Do I do this? Very rarely and I assume the majority reading this post are the same.
Making changes to improve your sleep takes a concerted effort and it isn’t easy, especially in this age of distraction. If you’re experiencing symptoms similar to those I’ve shared, I encourage you to chat with your doctor and take action. Work to not accrue sleep debt, but don’t stress yourself out if you do. Focusing on the negative consequences of sleep loss tend to occur right as the head hits the pillow, only aiding the dreaded insomnia monster.
Happy sleeping (I’m crossing my fingers I have another restful night tonight)!
Photo credit to elycefeliz