If I'm so tired why can't I relax and sleep better?


Ever feel you are 'tired but wired', unable to relax but still feeling too 'up' to relax?

As a therapist, these are the sorts of issues that keep me up at night!  In fact, I am just like you: after years, maybe decades now of rushing and being a doer, I'm burned out.

Work today is much different even from what it was 20 years ago.  And, 50 or 100 years ago?  Very little resemblance.  What is so different?  Today's work is heavily mental and intellectual.  Yesterday's work fit our physical selves better.  This was the state of the game for hundreds, probably thousands of years.  

Then all of a sudden, we've shifted the game in a big, big way.  The transition started when we went from hunters and gatherers and became farmers.  Then it moved forward as we became factory workers.  And now, office workers.

Today, our work is an odd combination of high mental engagement with lots of sitting (like leisure).  Hence, one of the big reasons we are overweight as a culture.

These high levels of mental engagement, however, come at a cost.  I remember in my 40's building my online business and the amount of mental focus and energy that took.  All sitting in a chair!

Perhaps that's the point: for years I was going over the speed limit cognitively while at the same time physically 'going nowhere'!  I am sure both my mind and body were confused with this state of affairs.  I'd evolved over thousands of years to do physical work without a whole lot of higher level (at least) thinking.

So if you ask: how did we get into this pickle?  Well, part of my solution was to pick up a game with pickle in it - pickleball - but before getting into solutions, I wanted to share a really great theory a colleague has about the subject.

I was researching the internet for articles and research that addresses this issue of being 'tired but wired'.  I am sure it's a simple explanation from those who are strong on brain science, which is not my forte.  While doing so, I remembered taking a 'stress management' course in undergraduate school that gave me a great introduction to the topic.

The founder of the term 'stress management' was probably Hans Selye (love the name don't you?).  

So we need to reverse the effects of this 'mind on'/'body off' process we've been engaging in too often.  Our bodies are wise and healing organisms, we just need to work better WITH them.

Being ON mentally to me has unfortunately, to some extent, become addicting.  Learning is stimulating to me.  It's often why I stay up too late.  There is that library at my fingertips - including visuals - and it's just too interesting to put down.  And I've never really gone online for frivilous pursuits like: games, virtual reality, gambling or porn.  Seriously!  I know I'm such a goody two shoes. This is, in a way, how I justify my addiction:  I'm doing it to 'get smarter and more successful'.  Or to get naturally high/sense of pleasure.

The danger for me is in the over doing it, the avoiding other healthy activities (like sleep) to do it, etc.

Is there an insecure part of me that thinks if I learn all I can I will avoid tragedy or failure?  I think so.  Is there a part of me that just doesn't want to stop feeling the good you feel at another entertaining (often educational) Netflix movie or documentary?

Part of what can help us sleep better at night is physical activity.  This too is one of the reasons we often don't 'feel tired' enough to rest our bodies at night.  With the addition of the

I was telling someone the other day that I am an 'information hoarder'.  Don't laugh.  It's a thing, since we now have libraries at our fingertips.  Imagine being able to research five sources for an article you are writing sitting right at your desk.  In my lifetime, I still remember sitting in the stacks at Towson University scouring through microfiches and dusty volumes of various psychological journals to write a report.  What's the difference?  I can find so much more faster and easily store it in a cloud somewhere or on my hard drive.

When you are a people helper it is common to want to amass information and resources, 'in case it can help a client or someone else some day'.