Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mind over matter.....

I have been having some very bizarre and vivid dreams lately. I think dreams really are fascinating. To that, I think sleep is really quite fascinating, as well. It is amazing to me that the human body is able to pretty much shut down each evening, find time to rest, relax and recharge for the next day. It is amazing to me that sleep happens, really crazy when you stop and think about it, and even more amazing what our brains and unconscious are able to do during these 7-8 hours each evening.

Even more amazing, perhaps, is how a lack of sleep affects me, personally. When I haven't gotten at least a good 4-5 hours on any given night I feel a real inability to function. I find it hard to think, my anxiety is more prone to get triggered and I find it hard to make sound decisions, I find it hard to have a intelligent conversation and I often find it difficult to make "decent" food choices. It is like the more tired I am, the less I am able to function at a high level, all around.

I am not sure when this all happened. When I was a small child, I was so fearful of going to sleep, I often didn't sleep very much at all. I attended more than my fair share of sleepovers and being scared to death of the entire "sleeping over" part, I rarely slept at all. Throughout high school and college reading, studying, homework and papers kept me up very late. Yet, somehow I was able to function, play sports, be involved in extracurricular activities and graduate with nearly a 4.0 in high school and a 3.4 ish in college. Why was my brain in such a better place during these years. Why was I able to pull an all nighter and ace a test, go out that night all while carrying on normal conversations. If I were to pull an all-nighter now, I would be lucky if I could create an Excel spreadsheet or a merged document, let alone ace a test.

I really believe the mind is such a powerful thing. We need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves, including our body and our minds. I have blogged numerous times about the importance of taking care of ourselves, including stress management, healthy habits and becoming aware of how to make our mind, body and spirit the happiest. My co-workers and I were discussing the negative affects of stress in the office today. I totally agree with everything she was mentioning and it just reminds me, once again, how important it really is to take care of ourselves.

Part of taking care of your mind, in addition to watching out for stress and getting enough sleep is challenging and working our minds. For me, this includes reading, listening to pod casts and attending lectures. I truly believe it is vitally important to ensure we keep our minds active and engaged. Turning off reality t.v. and turning on your mind, cannot think of a more important thing to do for yourself.

I know as we all navigate through life it is really hard to find ways and excuses to focus on ourselves. We all have busy lives and we often feel selfish to take the time for ourselves, whether it be a sick day, personal day, vacation day, or just be willing to take an hour each night to read (or do whatever you love most). Perhaps it is going to a yoga class on Saturday mornings, or going to a Weight Watchers meeting once a week. Perhaps it is having time at night to paint, color or talk on the phone with a friend. Maybe nothing helps you more than taking a walk in the morning or after work. Maybe it is just doing meditation for 15-20 minutes each morning. I think we all need to spend a little more time thinking about the steps we need to take to ensure we function at our best in this crazy and chaotic world.

What may appear to be selfish, I think is actually a public service to all. I know everyone is different, but I honestly believe when each person is able to find their personal point of balance, or zen, they are able to contribute more to this world, including their family, their employer, society and the entire world. I know when I am tired and out of balance, I don't put out as good of a work product, I get frustrated and impatient more quickly, I am not as motivated to help others and go out into the world and try and I have absolutely no capacity for memory, conflict, deliberation or intelligent conversation.

As we hear each time we fly, we should always try and find a way to secure our own masks first, before assisting others. I know so many people complain that as a society, heck, even my generation is too focused on self and are too selfish. Maybe they are right, but I honestly believe that people who always put themselves last will eventually either burn out, carry resentment, make themselves sick or break.

In addition to how important it is to take care of ourselves, I think it is also important to honestly admit how powerful our minds truly are. I know people always say mind or matter, but it truly is amazing how powerful the mind is. I is almost scary sometimes. I find it a lot with my anxiety and my physical well being in general.

Once I get focused on something, whether it be a scary movie, crowded subway, or even an injustice in this world, it totally affects my entire day. As soon a I think I may be sick and begin searching on WebMD (worst invention ever), or watch "House" I suddenly have that disease and feel each symptom in every inch of my body. My mind can set me up for a good day, or a bad day. It can cause me to eat a salad for lunch, or a panini with potato chips. It can psych me out when I exercise. On the other hand, it can also keep me on a good Weight Watchers stint, it can help motivate me to clean, organize and plan. As soon as I can get my mind in sync with everyone else (Body and Soul) else, I am normally in a pretty good place, it really is just a challenge to align mind, body and spirit.

Our minds allow us to function, help us stay on task, can will us to do one thing or another and also allow us to fantasize and experiment as we sleep. As I started this blog, I mentioned that I really find dreams truly fascinating. I know that over time many scientists and psychologists have looked at dreams, the meaning of dreams and the function of sleeping/dreaming. I know I have looked up many dreams on line over the years trying to find their meaning.

As a window into our unconscious, when I wake-up I often try and figure out what the dream meant. Sometimes I find it extremely easy to link it back to something specific that occurred during the day, sometimes I can tie it to something I was thinking right before bed and sometimes my dream is clearly allowing me to try and work through some issues and challenges. It really is fascinating. I have often heard that when you dream about someone they dream about you as well, I don't know that I believe that at all, but I often wonder how I may or may not appear in other people's dreams. It is very rare that I will let someone know I dreamt about them. Sometimes I think if we were perhaps all a bit more honest about our dreams, who appeared in them, what happened and what we think they meant, we may all get more insight into dreams, in general. And sometimes, I wake up saying nothing but, I need to remember my dream and then, I totally forget it.

Sometimes I will dream something and the next day it will occur, or I will hear from that person, etc. Knowing this happens often, it makes me wonder even more, what are dreams? Are they taping into some other sense we do not realize we have? I have often heard many friends and family tell me they dreamt about someone being pregnant and they soon after found out they were, they dreamt someone called and they soon after did, etc. It just makes me wonder what the real potential of the human mind is? Is there still much left untapped?

So, I guess I am saying, be kind to your mind. Exercise it, challenge it, rest it and appreciate it.  Don't be afraid to look out for yourself, you may be the only one that does.

and that's all she wrote...

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