how sleep and meditation changed my life
It happened. Not all at once, but slowly, piece by piece, over the course of two years. A stress binge here, a restless night there. And one day I woke up and realized how unhealthy I had become. Which is sort of ironic because the thing that was causing me so much stress and unrest were the unceasing demands of my new business, a fitness studio I had created to help others transform their lives for the better. I worked tirelessly day and night, often forgetting to eat; when I actually made time to eat, I would find whatever was fastest and closest to me (which was never healthy).
In addition to my poor eating habits, my sleep pattern was a complete mess. I’d wake up multiple times a night, and would rarely get more than 5 hours of consistent sleep. After two years of poor eating and sleeping habits fueled by my inability to cope with stress, I painfully realized how unmanageable and chaotic I had allowed my life to become; I felt trapped in a vicious cycle. My anxiety was out of control; I’d freak out over the smallest issue. I had gained weight, which lowered my self-esteem. I was chronically tired and didn’t have the energy or motivation to live a well-rounded life. Perhaps most distressing, I felt that I lacked a sense of control over my life. I felt as though I was failing not only myself but others, too. I thought to myself: Is this how my life is going to be from here on out?
There are two ways to live your life: at cause or at effect. I was so comfortable living at effect that I had built a residence there. From that vantage point, it seemed as though everything was happening to me. I struggled feeling like I had a firm grip on my business. Each morning I’d wake up and whatever fires or emails or seemingly trivial situations popped up--those controlled my entire day. I never felt like I was getting anything done or making any noticeable progress. I was so scattered and stressed that I didn’t have the mental clarity needed to prioritize my business objectives; instead, I was allowing issues that shouldn’t have been a big deal to derail me and drain my energy.
As an events consultant, I am constantly surrounded by very successful entrepreneurs, and at one conference in particular I had an epiphany. That I don’t have to compromise my physical and emotional well being in order to be successful. Prior to this realization, I had had the mistaken assumption that success was equated with a stressful, hectic lifestyle. At these events I interact with highly successful people--some are responsible for multimillion-dollar businesses--and some have shared their strategies for coping with the demands of work and family life. For me, knowing that others could run businesses and still cope with stress caused me to reevaluate my own life, with the hope that I could strengthen and stabilize the integral foundation of my own business: my own self.
Step one: I hired a life coach. Struggling with life? Hire an expert. Believe me, it wasn’t easy, but I felt that I had no other choice. I needed a redo, a refresh, a professional to help me sort out the bullshit from the reality. To help me see what defense mechanisms were playing such a huge role in my life. Talking to my life coach was groundbreaking in many ways, but very challenging at times, as well. But the challenge was necessary; she helped me see where I was blocking opportunities for self-improvement and entrepreneurial success. Having someone bring to your awareness how and why you’re living life at effect was very enlightening. I was comfortable in the chaos and my life coach was telling me there was a way out.
So we started implementing various self-care practices: 10 minutes of daily meditation (I used an app on my phone called Headspace), making a list of daily priorities (which helped me feel organized and accomplished), making a nighttime sleep routine (which helped me take focus away from work), and eating healthy (which helped me feel good about myself). These practices--especially sleep and meditation--set the foundation for a healthier life.
Which brings us to the month of June. I decided to take on a challenge. Not just any challenge, but a wellness challenge. It wasn’t purely physical, but also mental and emotional. I challenged myself to do the following in 30 days: 20 spin classes, meditate for 10 minutes every day, go to bed at 10 pm and get 8 hours of rest. I know, I set the bar rather high. But I was not messing around. I needed a change and I was ready for it. I was going to put into action all of the practices I had worked on with my life coach, but in a big way.
I was shocked at how hard it was to prioritize sleep and meditation. The workouts were the easy part. Early bedtimes were so foreign to me I had to set an alarm on my phone to remind myself. I also tried to meditate at the exact same time every day so I could create a habit. But it was so worth it as the results were even better than I had anticipated. When you prioritize your health, including sleep and meditation, the rest of your life seems to fall into place. I’ve never had a problem making time to workout, but I have had issues with the other areas of healthy living. I lost weight, my clothes fit better and I look better.
But the best part is I feel better. I’m calmer. I’m not as easily rattled. I mean yes, I still sometimes want to throw something at the wall from time to time. But I can better observe my thoughts and feelings and pull myself out of the freak-out before it happens. Which is a huge change from my old way of coping with stress. My days don’t run me as much as they used to; rather, I find myself running my days. Life doesn’t seem as overwhelming as it did 30 days ago.
In a world that pushes for six-pack abs and juice cleanses as a sign of being healthy, I respectfully disagree. Health is a multifaceted word that I think should be approached holistically. From my own experience, the healthiest I have ever felt had nothing to do with any supplements or fad diet, but came with a life that was well-balanced between sleep, exercise, eating, meditation and family.
Tigh was born and raised in Nebraska and is proud to still call it home. He travels regularly as a conference and marketing consultant in addition to owning Nebraska’s only boutique fitness studio dedicated to indoor cycling, PowerCycle. His newest venture is a marketing agency called PowerUp, that is dedicated to helping boutique fitness studios make an impact in their community through social media strategy and online marketing. You can follow all of Tigh’s fitness travels on instagram, @tighrant.