Provision #131: Get your Rest

LifeTrek Provision

It will probably come as no surprise, but most of us reading this coachingtip live in a near constant state of sleep deprivation. Consider these soberingfacts:

  • According to a Gallup Poll conducted for the NationalSleep Foundation, one out of every two people suffers from sleeplessness atsome point in their lives, many of them chronically.
  • It’s estimated that 30-40 million Americans suffer fromserious sleep disorders that undermine their sleep quality and their health.
  • In the past century, we have reduced our average timeasleep by 20 percent and, in the past 25 years, added a month to our averageannual work/commute time. Most adults sleep less than 7 hours per night duringthe workweek.
  • According to a 1999 National Sleep Foundation poll, 40%of adults say that they are so sleepy during the day that it interferes withtheir daily activities.
  • The NSF poll also found that daytime sleepiness is atan unexpectedly high rate among children at school. According to parent reports,60% of children under the age of 18 complained of feeling tired during the day,and 15% admitted to falling asleep at school.
  • Drowsy driving causes at least 100,000 crashes in theUnited States each year, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administrationreports.
  • 62% of adults in the U.S. experienced a sleep problem afew nights a week or more during the past year. While the proportion of adultswho experienced this frequency of sleep problems did not differ by sex or age,73% of shift workers report such problems, compared to 59% of regular dayworkers.
  • <spanstyle=’font:7.0pt “times=”” new=”” roman”‘=””>Smokers and people who use alcohol as a sleep aid aremore likely to have problems sleeping.

Even though the statistics make a clear and convincing case to the contrary,most of us think we’re getting adequate sleep when we’re really not. Do youhave a hard time getting out of bed in the morning? Do you try to catch up onyour sleep over the weekends? Do long meetings, overheated rooms, or heavymeals put you to sleep? Do you often sleep less than 7• hours per night? If theanswer is yes to any of these questions, then you’re not getting adequatesleep.

So what’s adequate sleep? It varies from individual to individual, but it’scertainly no less than 7• hours per night. That’s just how we’re made. Why 7•rather than the proverbial 8? Because sleep tends to run in approximately90-minute cycles. Wake up in the middle of a cycle, when you’re in deep sleepor dreaming, and you can fill the whole day with grogginess, moodiness, andirritability as well as poor concentration and judgment. Wake up at the end ofa cycle, when you’re in light sleep and your body is going through aself-diagnostic check, and you’ll end up more alert, attentive, personable, andrefreshed not to mention healthy and creative.

The best sleep pattern is to wake up at more or less the same time everymorning, regardless of when you go to sleep (even on the weekends). To get moresleep on the weekends, go to bed earlier rather than get up later. Calculatewhen to go to sleep by using the 90-minute cycle rule: the time you sleep inminutes should be divisible by 90 (3, 4•, 6, 7•, and 9 hours for themathematically challenged).

You may want to use your next vacation to get rid of the sleep debt you’vebeen accumulating: sleep until you’re all slept out, day after day, with noalarm clock. When you get back home, rearrange your schedule to get at least 7•hours on most nights. That way you’ll be sure to get your rest.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #130: Control your Breath

LifeTrek Provision

Four weeks ago I encouraged deep, diaphragmaticbreathing: in through the nose, out through the mouth. Diaphragmatic means thatyou’re breathing deeply enough to move your diaphragm, the muscle thatseparates your lungs from your guts. If you lie down on the floor and put abook on your stomach, it should rise and fall as you breathe. If it doesn’t,you’re not breathing deeply enough to produce the relaxation response.

Three weeks ago I talked about smiling and laughing.I made specific mention of what happens when you smile and breathe in throughyour nose. The movement of the muscles and of the air cools the blood going tothe hypothalmus region of the brain, releasing feel-good endorphins. Theseendorphins have many energy building, pain relieving, stress reducing, andhealth enhancing benefits.

Before I leave the subject of breathing altogether,at least for a time, I want to offer one more tip: control your breath.Although it’s easy to breathe mindlessly, we’re born with that ability, it’spossible to become aware of and to control the process. The benefits of doingso to your mind-body-spirit being cannot be overstated. They are trulyunfathomable.

Last year I lost 65 pounds and became a marathonrunner. My first 30 pounds were lost exercising at a health facility. I wantedto run but I knew the impact of my weight would be too much for my knees andhips. So I opted for low-impact machines. When I got down to around 200 poundsI started running, without much coaching, wisdom, or knowledge. I just did it,as they say, but in the process I developed some bad habits that I’ve beentrying to change.

The worst habit was to not be aware and in controlof my breathing. Within seconds of starting my run, I would be huffing andpuffing along. Over time I became aware of what I was doing: I was breathing intime with my pace. With every step I would exhale or inhale. Having reachedthis level of awareness, I got to the point where I could control my pace bychanging my respiration rate.

This worked well enough when I was dropping from 12to 11 to 10 to 9-minute miles. But as I went to 8 and then almost 7-minutemiles my breathing pattern, learned from my initial mindless huffing andpuffing, became a real problem. I could no longer breathe as fast as I couldrun without hyperventilating and expending an enormous amount of energy in theprocess. As a result I’ve been relearning how to breathe and run, stretching itout from every step to every other to every third to every fourth step until Ireach my limit.

All this has produced an amazing paradox: breathingslower helps me to run faster and longer. Shallow, rapid, jerky breathingexhausts me and gives me the feeling of extreme exertion. Deep, regular, smoothbreathing energizes me and gives me the feeling of effortlessness. This is whatI want for you.

Enter a piece of ancient yogic wisdom: “Breathing isthe string that controls the kite.” This has become a mantra for me in theearly stages of my runs. I want to control the kite, my mind-body-spirit being,and that happens when I control my breath. If I forget to do this when I firstget started, I’m thrown out of whack for the rest of the run. When I rememberto do this, my performance and perspective are both enhanced.

This truth has wide application, far beyond thefield of running and athletics. Aladar Kogler writes, “The way that you breathedirectly affects your mental and physical state. If you breathe deeply andcount silently as you slowly exhale, you can feel yourself relaxing. Try now tobreathe irregularly and quickly, and you will feel some anxiety. A surprise orsome type of shocking news creates jerks in your breathing, increasing thefeelings of anxiety or tension.” (Yoga for Athletes, LlewellynPublications • St. Paul, MN, 1999).

In other words, control your breath and you willfeel peaceful. Allow your breath to control you and you will feel stressful.This can be done at any time. Do it now. Finish reading this paragraph thenclose your eyes and become aware of your breathing. Slow it down. Control it.Do this for several minutes and wonderful things will begin to happen. Do thisevery day for several minutes, or multiple times day, and you will become morehealthy and whole.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #129: Stay in Integrity

LifeTrek Provision

Jesus said, “If you stick with this, living out whatI tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience the truthfor yourselves, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32).

Jesus forgot to mention that before the truth setsyou free it may first make you miserable. He nevertheless understood thedynamic of staying with integrity. “If you stick with this, living out what Itell you….” That is the challenge for us all: honoring, speaking, and stickingwith the truth that we know rather than violating, hedging, and compromisingthat truth in order to please others, make money, escape pain, avoidcontroversy, stay comfortable, dodge responsibility, delay decisions, feelsafe, be nice, or execute countless other excuses.

What’s your excuse? Are you staying in a job or arelationship that you know you should leave, that isn’t good for you or thatdoesn’t embody your true values, because you’re too afraid to make a break? Areyou caught in a net of deception and deceit, such that you’re no longer surewhat is really the truth? Are you so tired and depressed that staying withintegrity feels like too much effort with too little return?

Whatever they may be, executing excuses rather thanintegrity exacts an enormous price. To be out of integrity, to be out of syncand out of step with what is right and healthy for you, is mentally,physically, and spiritually exhausting. Deep down you know the truth, even ifyou’ve been repressing or avoiding it for years. Why not speak the truth andlive accordingly?

Speaking the truth is literally the first step tostaying in integrity. That’s why many people find coaches to be of greatassistance. Coaches ask clients, over and over again, to speak the truth abouttheir lives. Are you happy with what you’re doing and how you’re living? Whatfills you with passion and joy? What people, things, and situations are youtolerating? What fills you with regret or disturbs you about the past? What areyou putting off or procrastinating about?

Answering truthfully these and others questions,speaking the answers out loud to another person, can be enough to push peopleover the edge of taking action. Many coaches have stories to tell of peopletaking dramatic action in the first week of coaching. All they needed was tospeak the truth in order to make it so. Other people find that it takes moretime to build up the confidence, knowledge, and reserves they need to make achange. With the right coaching, however, it should never take more than amatter of months.

You’ll be surprised how effortless and wonderfullife becomes when you’re operating fully out of integrity. Coach U points outthat “fewer problems are experienced, consistent feelings of peace andwell-being are present, plus one reacts to others very little.” Living out ofintegrity is a matter of wholeness, of talking the talk and walking the walk,of being who you really are rather than the twisted self who you may havebecome.

Does that sound like the kind of life you want tolive? Then perhaps you need to implement the second step to staying inintegrity. After you speak the truth, make a commitment to embody the truth.Straighten out what you can straighten out. Reconcile what you can reconcile.Resolve what you can resolve. Restore what you can restore. If you can’t do itall, then start with the big ones. Eventually you’ll become the person you wantto be: complete, balanced, and responsible.

Living with integrity is always a choice. No one canmake you do it. And it’s not exactly something you should do, as though God orthe realities of life were chasing people around with a big stick. The sunshines on us all, whether we’re in or out of integrity. Integrity is more likesomething we’re free to do. We’re free to choose to be our best, to be whole,to practice what we preach, to embody our true values, to honor our truewisdom, and to follow our true path. When that happens, when we take off downintegrity lane, life becomes a perfect blessing.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC