From Chaos to Calm: Micro Changes for Better Sleep and Overall Health

Posted on : 16 Jul, 09:00 PM


I started an obsession with getting consistent, high quality sleep early this year and it changed my life. The impact of sleep on my mental health has been incredible. But, first, let me share a bit about my headspace in 2022 and the start of 2023.

From "Happy" to Beyond Stressed: Why I Chose to Focus on Sleep

My family’s 2022 was painful. My sister completed 18-months of chemo to snuff out an aggressive form of breast cancer. She lost her mother-in-law to cancer while battling her own. My mother lost her sister and best friend. My family was sad.


A the same time, Integrant had a big year. We grew 34% in 2022 and nearly tripled since 2019. I was working non-stop and we had growing pains. Hiring leadership from the outside brewed mixed results. While we hired folks who were a great fit for our culture and values, we also hired others who caused a lot of damage – fear, uncertainty, politics. I spent November 2022 conducting skip-level meetings in Cairo and came away feeling determined and energized to make changes, but very heavy-hearted. I was terribly upset to learn we were not creating a happy work environment – one in which people felt stable, recognized, and heard.


I read an article in the Washington Post about replacing new year’s resolutions with a nudge word. A word that reminds you of good intentions for the year. During the holidays, I shared the concept with family and friends who chose nudge words too; Move, Blessed, Yes, No, Focus, Heal, Accept. My word was Happy.


I spent hours thinking about what happy meant at Integrant. In between packed meeting schedules, I booked even more time with my already-stretched leadership team to dive into deep discussions about what happy looks like and began building plans to execute. I was on a mission to make ALL 300 Integrant employees HAPPY and added undue pressure on myself and the leadership team.


The universe had other plans for 2023. In January, the dishwasher blew up and flooded the kitchen. Refusing to tear it all up as the flood specialist suggested, I became a mold expert. I memorized a chart detailing the conditions and number of days it takes for mold to grow. I ran dehumidifiers around the clock and zapped my walls with a moisture meter I purchased. The thought of remodeling my kitchen amidst everything else on my plate was more than I could bear.


I could not sleep.


We were concerned about our 2023 forecast given all the tech layoffs and economic uncertainty. Would we have to layoff too? How could I let people go when my renewed purpose was to build a happy workplace? I felt responsible for 300 employees, 300 families, hundreds of customers who trust us to help them grow their business and keep their own people employed.


I could not sleep.


For the first time in my life, I broke out in stress hives. Nothing else had changed – diet, soaps, detergents, and cosmetics. I took antihistamines with short-lived results. As soon as the hives subsided, they would return and I still could not sleep. 


My Quest for Quality Sleep: The Connection Between Sleep, Weight, and Happy



So, I decided, I was going to refocus my energy from being the happy shaman to getting more sleep. The following factors led to this life changing decision:

1. My friend Derrick teaching me the intrinsic connection between sleep, weight, and mental health.

2. My friend Jacques sharing the results of his quest to find the best sleep tracking device.

3. My brother Philip turning me on to a popular podcast Huberman Lab.

4. My Chief group reminding me to set healthy boundaries and the difference between sympathy and empathy.

5. My mentor Yousef sharing the power of micro changes.


I told myself, “Okay, Julie, we are going to reset and lunar new year is the start of your 2023.” I ran to Costco to buy a Fitbit. Have you listened to Andrew Huberman’s podcast? He's a neuroscientist and his advice on improving sleep is wildly popular. You will find many blogs and vlogs on how folks implemented his advice and the results they experienced.


Here is a list of steps he advises (not comprehensive, but a decent summary) and how I achieved better sleep with micro habits.

If you really want to nerd out, you can listen to his dozens of podcasts.


The Power of Micro Changes



Micro habits are proven to be the most effective way to change. Because the change or habit is a small tweak, it’s easy to incorporate over time. In the end, you will reap the benefits of a positive impact to your well-being. I started learning how to achieve better sleep with micro habits. Here are my micro habits and changes by month:


February

  • I have two labradoodle pups and I walk them every morning as soon as I wake up, so the first recommendation to view sunlight first thing was already something I was doing.

  • While I love coffee and tea, I do not have to have a cup to get me going in the morning. Skipping caffeine altogether was an easy fix. This month, I have decided to allow myself a cup 12 hours before bedtime if I have a project or task requiring intense focus. While Huberman does not recommend eliminating caffeine (he discusses the benefits), for me, a complete reset and caffeine cleanse was beneficial for establishing a baseline.

  • My room is dark and quiet, but I have not yet invested in an 8 Sleep mattress as he suggests – to regulate temperature. I am still debating because it is expensive, but I have noticed I sleep much better on cool nights. In February and March when it was much colder, I would turn the heat off hours before bedtime to make sure the room cooled and I slept better. One of my pups Sebastian likes to sleep with me. I am sure he disturbs my sleep, but I am not ready to kick him out 😀.


March

  • As for alcohol consumption, I cut way back. I was always a social drinker and not one to have wine with dinner at home, for example. But I love craft cocktails and would have several during an evening with friends or customers. Today, I will nurse one cocktail to participate in the fun.


April & Going Forward – The Struggle is Real

  • Going to bed every night at the same time is still something I struggle with. It means stopping my habit of vegging out in front of the TV at the end of a long day. I also quit all series (especially K-dramas!) because I tend to binge watch which stops me from going to bed on time.

  • I love naps. This has been the hardest habit to break. I am still working on this one, but I am sure it will make a significant difference. The days when I skip a nap, I have noticed I sleep longer and deeper.


Goodbye Stress Hives



The first dramatic change – my stress hives disappeared within two weeks of incorporating micro habits and focusing on sleep. I could already feel the impact of better sleep on my mental health. Happy Lunar New Year 2023 to me! 


I also learned a lot from the data provided by the FitBit:

1. I have been sleeping less than six hours a night on average. I thought I was sleeping a lot more because I was in           bed a lot longer. Getting 7-7.5 hours on average is when I feel alert, productive, and energized (not stressed). To         achieve this, I have to plan on 8+ hours physically lying in bed.

2. A cooler room and no alcohol meant more quality sleep with less time awake, more time in deep restorative sleep, and the correct balance of time spent below my resting heart rate.

3. Napping made it harder to get to bed on time and led to more restless sleep (even if it was just a quick power            nap). 


Overall, I have more energy. This means I am naturally more motivated to work out regularly. I was already hitting between 12-15K steps a day walking my dogs, but now I also run and strength train 2-3 days a week. I’m hoping to up that to 4-5 days a week. I am eating better. I’m not dieting, but in April I made an effort to start eating more fruits and vegetables. I started ordering a CSA box from Yasukochi and buying pre-made salads at Trader Joe’s. Eating better also seems to help my sleep, but I don’t have enough data on this yet. In May, I added two more micro habits – tracking water intake and stopping all meals and snacks 2-3 hours before bedtime.


Redefining Happy*

As for my nudge word, Happy, I’ll share another blog on the difference between empathy, sympathy, and compassion. By setting healthy boundaries, I’ve learned I can be a better friend, sister, daughter, colleague, and servant leader by empowering others to fix problems instead of taking everyone’s problems on my own shoulders. By focusing on my own self-care and SLEEP, I have so much more energy to help others. I’m back to Happy as my nudge word, but as I recently shared with a friend, it’s Happy* with an asterisk.

Related Posts

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;

From Chaos to Calm: Micro Changes for Better Sleep and Overall Health

Posted on : 16 Jul, 09:00 PM


I started an obsession with getting consistent, high quality sleep early this year and it changed my life. The impact of sleep on my mental health has been incredible. But, first, let me share a bit about my headspace in 2022 and the start of 2023.

From "Happy" to Beyond Stressed: Why I Chose to Focus on Sleep

My family’s 2022 was painful. My sister completed 18-months of chemo to snuff out an aggressive form of breast cancer. She lost her mother-in-law to cancer while battling her own. My mother lost her sister and best friend. My family was sad.


A the same time, Integrant had a big year. We grew 34% in 2022 and nearly tripled since 2019. I was working non-stop and we had growing pains. Hiring leadership from the outside brewed mixed results. While we hired folks who were a great fit for our culture and values, we also hired others who caused a lot of damage – fear, uncertainty, politics. I spent November 2022 conducting skip-level meetings in Cairo and came away feeling determined and energized to make changes, but very heavy-hearted. I was terribly upset to learn we were not creating a happy work environment – one in which people felt stable, recognized, and heard.


I read an article in the Washington Post about replacing new year’s resolutions with a nudge word. A word that reminds you of good intentions for the year. During the holidays, I shared the concept with family and friends who chose nudge words too; Move, Blessed, Yes, No, Focus, Heal, Accept. My word was Happy.


I spent hours thinking about what happy meant at Integrant. In between packed meeting schedules, I booked even more time with my already-stretched leadership team to dive into deep discussions about what happy looks like and began building plans to execute. I was on a mission to make ALL 300 Integrant employees HAPPY and added undue pressure on myself and the leadership team.


The universe had other plans for 2023. In January, the dishwasher blew up and flooded the kitchen. Refusing to tear it all up as the flood specialist suggested, I became a mold expert. I memorized a chart detailing the conditions and number of days it takes for mold to grow. I ran dehumidifiers around the clock and zapped my walls with a moisture meter I purchased. The thought of remodeling my kitchen amidst everything else on my plate was more than I could bear.


I could not sleep.


We were concerned about our 2023 forecast given all the tech layoffs and economic uncertainty. Would we have to layoff too? How could I let people go when my renewed purpose was to build a happy workplace? I felt responsible for 300 employees, 300 families, hundreds of customers who trust us to help them grow their business and keep their own people employed.


I could not sleep.


For the first time in my life, I broke out in stress hives. Nothing else had changed – diet, soaps, detergents, and cosmetics. I took antihistamines with short-lived results. As soon as the hives subsided, they would return and I still could not sleep. 


My Quest for Quality Sleep: The Connection Between Sleep, Weight, and Happy



So, I decided, I was going to refocus my energy from being the happy shaman to getting more sleep. The following factors led to this life changing decision:

1. My friend Derrick teaching me the intrinsic connection between sleep, weight, and mental health.

2. My friend Jacques sharing the results of his quest to find the best sleep tracking device.

3. My brother Philip turning me on to a popular podcast Huberman Lab.

4. My Chief group reminding me to set healthy boundaries and the difference between sympathy and empathy.

5. My mentor Yousef sharing the power of micro changes.


I told myself, “Okay, Julie, we are going to reset and lunar new year is the start of your 2023.” I ran to Costco to buy a Fitbit. Have you listened to Andrew Huberman’s podcast? He's a neuroscientist and his advice on improving sleep is wildly popular. You will find many blogs and vlogs on how folks implemented his advice and the results they experienced.


Here is a list of steps he advises (not comprehensive, but a decent summary) and how I achieved better sleep with micro habits.

If you really want to nerd out, you can listen to his dozens of podcasts.


The Power of Micro Changes



Micro habits are proven to be the most effective way to change. Because the change or habit is a small tweak, it’s easy to incorporate over time. In the end, you will reap the benefits of a positive impact to your well-being. I started learning how to achieve better sleep with micro habits. Here are my micro habits and changes by month:


February

  • I have two labradoodle pups and I walk them every morning as soon as I wake up, so the first recommendation to view sunlight first thing was already something I was doing.

  • While I love coffee and tea, I do not have to have a cup to get me going in the morning. Skipping caffeine altogether was an easy fix. This month, I have decided to allow myself a cup 12 hours before bedtime if I have a project or task requiring intense focus. While Huberman does not recommend eliminating caffeine (he discusses the benefits), for me, a complete reset and caffeine cleanse was beneficial for establishing a baseline.

  • My room is dark and quiet, but I have not yet invested in an 8 Sleep mattress as he suggests – to regulate temperature. I am still debating because it is expensive, but I have noticed I sleep much better on cool nights. In February and March when it was much colder, I would turn the heat off hours before bedtime to make sure the room cooled and I slept better. One of my pups Sebastian likes to sleep with me. I am sure he disturbs my sleep, but I am not ready to kick him out 😀.


March

  • As for alcohol consumption, I cut way back. I was always a social drinker and not one to have wine with dinner at home, for example. But I love craft cocktails and would have several during an evening with friends or customers. Today, I will nurse one cocktail to participate in the fun.


April & Going Forward – The Struggle is Real

  • Going to bed every night at the same time is still something I struggle with. It means stopping my habit of vegging out in front of the TV at the end of a long day. I also quit all series (especially K-dramas!) because I tend to binge watch which stops me from going to bed on time.

  • I love naps. This has been the hardest habit to break. I am still working on this one, but I am sure it will make a significant difference. The days when I skip a nap, I have noticed I sleep longer and deeper.


Goodbye Stress Hives



The first dramatic change – my stress hives disappeared within two weeks of incorporating micro habits and focusing on sleep. I could already feel the impact of better sleep on my mental health. Happy Lunar New Year 2023 to me! 


I also learned a lot from the data provided by the FitBit:

1. I have been sleeping less than six hours a night on average. I thought I was sleeping a lot more because I was in           bed a lot longer. Getting 7-7.5 hours on average is when I feel alert, productive, and energized (not stressed). To         achieve this, I have to plan on 8+ hours physically lying in bed.

2. A cooler room and no alcohol meant more quality sleep with less time awake, more time in deep restorative sleep, and the correct balance of time spent below my resting heart rate.

3. Napping made it harder to get to bed on time and led to more restless sleep (even if it was just a quick power            nap). 


Overall, I have more energy. This means I am naturally more motivated to work out regularly. I was already hitting between 12-15K steps a day walking my dogs, but now I also run and strength train 2-3 days a week. I’m hoping to up that to 4-5 days a week. I am eating better. I’m not dieting, but in April I made an effort to start eating more fruits and vegetables. I started ordering a CSA box from Yasukochi and buying pre-made salads at Trader Joe’s. Eating better also seems to help my sleep, but I don’t have enough data on this yet. In May, I added two more micro habits – tracking water intake and stopping all meals and snacks 2-3 hours before bedtime.


Redefining Happy*

As for my nudge word, Happy, I’ll share another blog on the difference between empathy, sympathy, and compassion. By setting healthy boundaries, I’ve learned I can be a better friend, sister, daughter, colleague, and servant leader by empowering others to fix problems instead of taking everyone’s problems on my own shoulders. By focusing on my own self-care and SLEEP, I have so much more energy to help others. I’m back to Happy as my nudge word, but as I recently shared with a friend, it’s Happy* with an asterisk.

Related Posts

No related posts found
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