Month: August 2014

Gift from the Sea: by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Picture1Recently, a surprise came to me in the mail, unmarked, but a completely perfect gift.  I later found out that my sister had sent me the book “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a book that she had mysteriously found while vacationing at my grandmother’s home.  It had been my mothers and had filtered through 3 generations.  This book is timeless in how it captures the common struggle of finding time to live, to pursue, to raise children, to work, to struggle, to find purpose and meaning, and to not go completely insane in the process.  It is also, I was surprised to find out, written by the wife of Charles Lindbergh, not only the wife of an adventurous aviator, but also the courageous woman who went through the terrible uncertainty and loss of having her first child kidnapped and found out later, killed.  I was also surprised to find out that included in their history were five other children, an escape to Europe for safety and privacy life that was interrupted by war, and a return to the states where she and her husband lived by the ocean with their children and wrote.  Her pursuit for peace amongst so much chaos and tragedy is inspiring, especially when life can feel so uncertain.  I think that in grief, whether that is of a loved one, a broken relationship, or of a lost dream, most all of us know that there is a good deal of looking back, but that also included in grief is a look forward, of what we might be seeking once we come out of the clouds of grief.  For the Lindberghs, without knowing them personally, it seems like from their story they went to the ends of the earth in search of peace, and by finding that peace they also found wisdom.  Here is a small excerpt from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s learned wisdom:

“Vague as this definition may be, I believe most people are aware of periods in their lives when they seem to be “in grace” and other periods when they feel “out of grace,” even though they may use different words to describe these states.  In the first happy condition, one seems to carry all one’s tasks before one lightly, as if borne along on a great tide, and in the opposite state one can hardly tie a shoe-string.  It is true that a large part of life consists in learning a technique of tying the shoe-string, whether one is in grace or not.  But there are techniques of living too, there are even techniques in the search for grace.  And techniques can be cultivated I have learned by some experience, by many examples, and by the writings of countless others before me, also occupied in the search, that certain environments, certain modes of life, certain rules of conduct are more conducive to inner and outer harmony than others.  There are, in fact, certain roads that one may follow.  Simplification of life is one of them.

I mean to lead a simple life, to choose a simple shell I can carry easily–like a hermit crab.  But I do not.  I find that my frame of life does not foster simplicity.  My husband and five children must make their way in the world.  The life I have chosen as wife and mother entails a whole caravan of complications.  I involves a house in the suburbs and either household drudgery or household help which wavers between scarcity and non-existence for most of us.  It involves food and shelter, meals, planning, marketing, bills, and making the ends meet in a thousand ways. It involves not only the butcher, the baker, the candlestickmaker, but countless other experts to keep my modern house with its modern “simplifications” (electricity, plumbing, refrigerator, gas-stove, oil-burner, dish-washer, radios, car and numerous other labor-saving devices) functioning properly.  It involves health, doctors, dentists, appointments, medicine, cod-liver oil, vitamins, trips to the drugstore. It involves education, spiritual, intellectual, physical; schools, school conferences, car-pools, extra trips for basketball or orchestra practice; tutoring; camps, camp equipment and transportation.  It involves clothes, shopping, laundry, cleaning, mending, letting skirts down and sewing buttons on, or finding someone else to do it.  It involves friends, my husband’s my children’s, my own, and endless arrangements to get together, letters, invitations, telephone calls and transportation hither and yon.

For life today in America is based on the premise of ever-widening circles of contact and communication. It involves not only family demands, but community demands, national demands, international demands on the good citizen, through social and cultural pressures, through newspapers, magazines, radio programs, political drives, charitable appeals and so on.  My mind reels with it. What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives.  It puts the trapeze artist to shame. Look at us. We run a tight rope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby-carriage, parasol kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now!

This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of.  It leads not to unification but to fragmentation. It does not bring grace; it destroys the soul.  And this is not only true of my life, I am forced to conclude, it is the life of millions of women in America. I stress America because today, the American woman more than any other has the privilege of choosing such a life.  Woman in large parts of the civilized world has been forced back by war, by poverty, by collapse, but by sheer struggle to survive, into a smaller circle of immediate time and space, immediate family life, immediate problems of existence.  The American woman is still relatively free to choose the wider life. How long she will hold this enviable and precarious position no one knows.  But her particular situation has a significance far above its apparent economic, national or even sex limitations.

For the problem of the multiplicity of life not only confronts the American woman, but also the American man. And it not merely the concern of the American as such, but of our whole modern civilization, since life in America today is held up as the ideal of a large part of the rest of the world (22).

…(29) Simplification of outward life is not enough. It is merely the outside. But I am starting with the outside. I am looking at the outside of a shell, the outside of my life–the shell. The complete answer is not to be found on the outside in an outward mode of living. This is only a technique, a road to grace. The final answer, I know, is always inside.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh: A Gift From the Sea, Written in 1955,  p. 18-22 & p.29

3 Ways to Get More Sleep and Why That Is Actually Important

We are hearing from everyone all the time how important sleep is. I don’t know how your calendar looks, but mine is packed, often with things scheduled as early as 7 in the sleepermorning and ending at 9:30 at night. Does your candle burn at both ends?

When I think back to the times in my life where I got 5-ish hours of sleep or less I also recall the coffee I needed to wake up, the groggy feeling that followed me all morning, the lack of energy I felt, moodiness, higher stress levels, and a constant sense of being overwhelmed. Any of those things are reason enough to find the source and terminate it. Study after study tells us how important sleep is to our vitality, to our life in general. With all this research, why are we not getting the hint and sleeping more? Our culture plays a huge role in the fast-paced, never miss a thing, workaholic type of lifestyle that undercuts so many of our efforts to live well and sleep well.

Sleep studies show nights of sleep disruption for 14 consecutive nights show the same negative impacts as sleep deprivation for 2 nights, specifically that cognitive functioning decreases steadily while the experience of sleepiness plateaus. The individual may not feel very tired but their brain is not operating at full capacity. 1

Rapid Eye Movement sleep, or REM sleep, is a deeper quality of sleep and researchers with the American Psychosomatic Society have linked increased REM sleep with

decreased subjective emotional responsiveness to negative stimuli and a decrease in amygdala reactivity

These same researchers found,

Poor sleep efficiency has been related to lower levels of perceived social support . . . perceived social support moderates the link between threat-related amygdala reactivity and trait anxiety. In addition, poor sleep may likely cluster with other negative health behaviors. 2

 

The bottom line is when you get don’t get enough sleep (approximately 8 hours or more for adults) you experience:

  • Decreased Brain Functioning
  • More Mood Swings
  • Less Social Support
  • More Unhealthy Behaviors

With that being said, the no-brainer is to start sleeping more so you can reduce your level of stress, feel better physically and emotionally, and get more done while you are awake. Easily said, not easily done. So here are 3 easy ways to get more sleep.

Set a Bed Time for Yourself

If you have kids this gets a little trickier, but if their bedtime is 9, your is 10:30. Make it a 3805sleep-beautypriority to get to bed by 10:30 every night, or the time that makes the most sense for your schedule. If you can sleep until 8 then 11:30 may be a better bedtime for you. Before we had the luxury of lightbulbs and technology we had the sun to mark our days, when it went down we started working our way to bed. Getting to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning does so much to regulate your body and get yourself on a schedule. The more consistent you are the easier this is.

Stop Drinking Caffeine After 3 pm

no-coffeeI have definitely been guilty of the 3:30 coffee to get me through the end of my work-day. The problem with caffeine late in the day is it leaves our nerves agitated and postpones the body’s ability to sleep. When you hit that afternoon slump instead of hitting a cup of Joe, take a walk around your office, do 15 jumping jacks, if you are really ambitious do a 2 min headstand. You will feel more energized and better able to tackle the end of your day without killing your sleep cycle.

Avoid Electronics with Back-lit Screens in the Evening

Do your eyes ever feel dry after you have spent most of the day on your computer? Yep, you have experienced eye agitation first hand. The blue light that is incorporated into your computer screen is incredibly stimulating for your brain and it agitates the eye. Sitting in front of your computer, tablet, or phone before bed is like giving a child a piece of cake with ice cream and 30 minutes later at the peak of that sugar rush telling them to go to bed. The solution is to stop using electronics after 8 pm or to install f.lux on your devices to naturally take out the blue light in the computer screen. This happens gradually and will help your eyes and brain adjust naturally with the time of day. There is also the option to get a pair of glasses like the ones I wear to protect your eyes from the harsh light.

I have made all these changes in my life over the past year and my quality and consistency of sleep has increased greatly, I physically feel better, and I get sick less often.

Have you experienced the negative effects of poor sleep? How have you dealt with it? 3

Notes:

  1.  Kerkhof, G., & Van Dongen, H. (2010). Total sleep deprivation, chronic sleep restriction and sleep disruption. In Progress in Brain Research (No ed., Vol. 185, pp. 91-103). New York, NY: Elsevier.
  2. Prather, A., Bogdan, R., & Hariri, A. (2013). Impact of sleep quality on amygdala reactivity, negative affect, and pervieved stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 75, 1-9.
  3. Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953