An estimated 50 million to 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders that decrease daily functioning and adversely affect health and longevity. To make things worse, one study even found that reduced sleep time carries a greater mortality risk than smoking, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
(And while we're talking about it, your office is plotting to kill you, too.)
So if you sleep like a baby--which means you wake up bawling every two hours--forget the Ambien and warm milk. One of the best things you can do is take steps to eliminate some of the stress, worry, and anxiety that keeps you awake.
1. Set up automated warning systems.
The larger your scope of responsibility--professional or personal--the more you have to worry about. Your list of concerns is endless, so you're always on edge, especially at night. That makes you constantly check your email. Or check certain dashboards. Or text and call to make sure things are OK.
The fear of the unknown--of what might be happening that you don't know about--drives you crazy.
Instead of worrying about what you don't know, make sure you will know. Decide what you need to know when, and set up systems to support you. Let your employees know what constitutes an emergency--and, just as importantly, what doesn't.
And then create automated systems that notify you of problems.
For example, a friend runs a 1,200-employee manufacturing plant. He has a separate phone and email account just for emergencies, and his employees call that phone or send emails to "email@example.com." He turns off his regular phone at night and sleeps soundly because he knows if something does happen he'll know right away--he won't have to check.
Determine what you need to know and create systems to ensure you will know.
You'll definitely sleep better.
2. Step back from something you care about but have no ability to impact.
For some people, it's politics. For others, it's family. For others, it's global warming. You care... and you desperately want others to care.
Fine. Do what you can do. Vote. Lend a listening ear. Recycle and reduce your carbon footprint. Be an example. Be your own change...but don't try to make everyone else change.
They won't--unless they decide to on their own.
3. Get off the gossip train.
Help. Offer guidance. Encourage. Motivate.
But don't gossip. And don't get mixed up in office politics. It always ends badly.
So never put yourself in a position where you're worried that Phil will tell Allen you said something snarky about Stu and.... (Yeah, it's a Hangover reference.) That's the kind of stress you definitely don't need.
4. Decide you will see criticism as something to be grateful for.
Think of it this way: When you get feedback, at least someone cares enough to want you to improve your product, your service, your work, your life....
You only need to worry when no one cares enough to criticize you.
Criticism creates an opportunity for you to be an even better you. Embrace that opportunity.
5. Write everything down.
David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, told me this:
"Most people try to use their psyche as their systemic process, which means issues gain importance based on your emotions. I've never met anyone who said they didn't feel a little better if they sat down and made a list. Nothing changes when you write things down except how you engage with your issues: You can be objective and also be creative and intuitive.
"Your head is for having ideas, not holding ideas, and it's certainly not for filing things away. Without exception, you will feel better if you get stuff out of your head."
Try it. Write down your challenges. List your problems or concerns.
You'll immediately feel better since you'll realize things aren't as bad as you think. And you'll start to figure out ways to make things better--because now you won't passively worry. You'll actively solve your problems.
Then take it a step further and write down anything you need to remember; that way, you won't worry about what you might be forgetting.
6. Forget the conspiracy theories.
No one is out to get you. Or even if people are, they're really not the problem--most of us do a better job sabotaging ourselves than others ever could. (Or is that just me?)
Besides, you can't control what other people might do.
7. Reduce the number of judgment calls you have to make.
The more prepared you are to handle a situation, the easier it is to be objective--and to avoid stressing out later over whether or not you made the wrong call.
Create price lists that take into account unusual requests. Set up guidelines for responding to customer complaints. Create employee policies for objective areas like attendance, quality, and performance.
Decide what you will allow your kids to do before they start asking.
Think about situations you struggle with and decide what you will do before those situations get stressful or confrontational. (For example, what would you do if one of your employees tweeted things like this?)
Then you can make better decisions and greatly reduce your level of stress... and possibly also your number of regrets.
8. Create a cutoff time...
Yeah, I know, you consider yourself a 24/7 go-getter. But that's impossible. Decide what time you'll stop working each day, no matter what.
And if stopping makes you feel guilty?
9. ...And create a plan for tomorrow.
Write down what you need to do first thing tomorrow. You'll rest easier knowing you have a plan to take care of whatever you didn't get done today.
10. Spend a few minutes every day getting better at something.
It doesn't matter what you pick. Just make sure it's not business. A musical instrument. A foreign language. A sport. A hobby. Whatever it is, spend a little time on it. Get a little better. (Here are some great ways to improve any skill.)
Step outside your daily grind and do something for yourself. In the process, you'll gain a little perspective.
Perspective soothes the soul.
11. Count your blessings.
Take a moment every night before you turn out the light to stop worrying about what you don't have. Stop worrying about what others have that you don't.
Think about what you do have.
It's easy to forget just how much we do have to be thankful for. Feels pretty good to remember, doesn't it?
That's great, because feeling better about yourself is the best sleep aid of all.