I had my framework to guide me. I had written down my commitments. As someone who felt compelled to meet both my outer and inner expectations, there was no backing out now. It was time to get started. So for January 2017 I selected my two intentions, and the concrete actions to achieve them:
#1: Get to know me.
- Take a personality assessment;
- Identify 5 things that I truly enjoy doing; and
- Identify 5 things I do only because others expect me too.
#2: Improve my sleep quality.
- Obtain and wear an OSA sleep appliance;
- Go to bed at the same time each day; and
- Develop a bedtime ritual.
#1: Get to know me.
Getting to know myself seemed a bit silly to say out loud, and especially to write down where other people could read it. But, I knew it was the cornerstone to this whole process. Skip that step and everything else would be built on shaky ground. It was the ideal place to start and directly supported my number one guiding principle of the project: Know myself.
I chose my three actions to give me one form of unbiased insight, by taking an in depth personality assessment, as well as some subjective insight by identifying some true likes and dislikes. Two areas for which I should have had some ready answers, but didn’t. I felt these three initial actions would give me some helpful insights to work with as I moved forward in recapturing my self-identity.
The Personality Test
It just so happened that I had won a gift certificate for a Birkman personality assessment and individual coaching session over a year and a half prior. The gift certificate had promptly gone into a desk drawer and never saw the light of day after that. That is until during a major nesting period of my pregnancy I had cleaned and de-cluttered my entire house top to bottom, going room by room over the course of a month. During the clean-up I had found the gift certificate and this month now seemed liked the perfect time to use it. It might provide me with some interesting insights that would prove useful throughout the year, and if nothing else it did fall in line with Guiding Principle #7: Try something new.
5 Things I Enjoy
Identifying five things I truly enjoyed doing was going to be the hard one. I know, I know……this seems like it should be easy right? Even when I first wrote the number five, I inwardly cringed because I couldn’t even think of one thing to put on the list. To make it more difficult, these couldn’t just be things that I liked the IDEA of doing, they had to be things I actually enjoyed doing when I was doing them. I almost changed the number to three to make it a bit easier but reminded myself that if I couldn’t think of five things I truly ENJOYED doing, then it was worth investing some solid time figuring it out.
5 Things I Do Out Of Obligation
Identifying five things I did only because other people expected me too. Well that seemed easier. But, I also wanted them to be five things that deep down I didn’t want to do and didn’t enjoy doing. My master plan was to eliminate or greatly reduce the time I spent doing anything that ended up on that list. Which also meant I wanted to be careful with what I put on that list. There were definitely things I did out of obligation, but couldn’t necessarily eliminate. For instance, I don’t particularly love doing my son’s laundry, but he’s seven so it’s not like I can just go on a laundry strike. (Although I have been working on teaching him how the washer/dryer work! I guess that’s a step in a long road towards reducing!).
#2: Improve my sleep.
I was very aware that this was not something I was going to magically achieve in just one months time frame. It was partially luck and partially great timing that January was the month I was finally going to receive a viable treatment option for my sleep disorder.
First it had taken over two years of seeing doctors, specialists, alternate care providers, a naturopathic doctor, and trying acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic therapy to finally be referred to an overnight sleep study for the official diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Then, after my diagnosis, I spent another four months trialing the frontline treatment for OSA, a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (CPAP). The CPAP essentially prevents your airway from closing during sleep by delivering pressurized air via a mask worn over your mouth/nose. I looked and sounded a lot like Darth Vader when I wore it, but it had a high success rate in treating sleep OSA and I had been giddy at the idea of waking up feeling rested. The one teensy issue, I could not sleep wearing it. I was one of a small percentage of people who was CPAP intolerant. I felt claustrophobic when I wore the mask, and whenever I came close to eventually drifting off too sleep I would wake up gasping for breath. I tried vigilantly each night to wear the mask and told myself that eventually I would get used to it. I was so inspired by other people’s success stories of the drastic difference the machine had made in their lives, that I was determined, if not desperate, to find my own success.
Unfortunately, the CPAP delivered the worst four months of sleep I could remember. Once I learned I was pregnant I knew I couldn’t keep surviving on two-three hours of fragmented sleep a night, so I went back to my sleep specialist to talk about other options. I was prescribed an oral sleep appliance. While not statistically as effective as a CPAP, the appliance would, in theory, manually align my jaw into a position where my airway would not close during sleep and therefore I would continue breathing throughout the night. Yay! Breathing is always nice. After another six months of jumping through hoops with my insurance provider I was finally fitted for the appliance and scheduled to receive it in January 2017.
So while I wouldn’t be curing my sleep challenges in just one month’s time, it had been a long road to get to where I was, January 2017 looked like it was set to be a very positive month for improving my sleep. I just had to wear the thing!
Go to Bed at the Same Time
To add to the likelihood of improving my sleep I decided I would also go to bed at the same time everyday. Even on weekends. I had read a library of books about sleep and knew that consistency in the time people slept had demonstrated drastic improvements in their body’s ability to regulate their sleep rythyms. I had tried this technique in the past without success, but trying it in tandem with the sleep appliance seemed like a good idea.
I had also read a lot about the benefits of a consistent sleep routine, for which there were many recommendations as to what can improve your over all sleep quality. So I challenged myself to continue reading up on sleep hygiene and bedtime habits in order to put together an effective ritual that I could not only implement, but sustain over the long term.
What I needed to accomplish in January was clearly set before me, and the best part was, I really felt I could achieve this. It was go time.