We had a newborn and a three-year-old. My husband (MJ) was in a haze of pain from regular migraines, I in one of fatigue. We were both cranky.
I sat in front of my computer 10–16 hours every day, trying to work but spending hours as a social-media zombie. Probably once a day, I heard MJ yelling at the kids, and the kids crying. I would help calm the situation, then go back to slogging through my work, mentally walking through cold molasses.
Finally, sometime after midnight, I would climb into bed with a happy sigh and a huge grin at the thought of an hour or two of sleep before the baby woke to nurse or our daughter woke screaming.
She would shriek like someone was murdering her.
Exhausted, panicked, I frantically tried to quiet her so she wouldn’t wake everyone else. When she was finally calm and I tried to go back to sleep, she scream like a banshee again. Back to her room I went, quietly imploring her to go back to sleep.
Twenty minutes later, more screaming. I would again rush to her room, my voice rising as I begged, pleaded, “I have to sleep. I need sleep. Please, please… please, for the love of … why won’t you sleep?!”
Then I would hear myself yelling, “You are going to wake everyone else up. It is nighttime. It is time for sleep. People are trying to sleep!”
I felt ashamed at my loss of control. Something needed to change, but what? And how?
Our Life Savers
Then I discovered Hal Elrod’s book The Miracle Morning. I liked the idea of getting a better handle on my life by using the Life SAVERS (silence, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading, scribing)—but how in the world could I get up an hour before my kids to do this?! It was all I could do to stumble out of bed when they woke me in the mornings.
I was desperate, though, so I gave it a shot. It worked … sort of.
I started daily self-care again, brushing my teeth, flossing, exercising … even showering! (When did I stop doing these things? I wondered.)
But I felt good enough—almost human again—that I kept going.
Even from his haze of pain and sleepiness, MJ noticed the change in me, so he started doing the Life SAVERS too.
Our days were so much better when we did the SAVERS before the kids woke up, but we still had to claw ourselves out of bed each morning, sometimes before the kids. But I often fell asleep in my silence. And affirmations. And visualization. And reading.
We were seeing enough improvements to stay determined, though, so we muddled through.
Then MJ discovered Shawn Stevenson’s book Sleep Smarter. We were already doing most things Stevenson suggested, but implementing those last few things made a tremendous difference. Suddenly, with sleep in order, everything started falling into place.
A Whole New Family
MJ’s migraines dropped from affecting him every day to only once or twice a month. He went from being anxious about almost everything to calm, even cheerful. Our interpersonal interactions are more considerate, more thoughtful. We treat everyone—including ourselves—with more respect.
We worry less and are present, engaged with our lives, our children, and each other. We accomplish much more every day. We keep our tempers. We rarely yell. Our house is much more peaceful.
Through trial and error, we have 5 essentials that we must to do daily to live this new, better life:
1. Shut off electronics at least 1 1/2 hour before the household’s earliest bedtime--and keep them out of sleeping spaces.
2. Use topical magnesium spray. (Ingested magnesium isn’t nearly as efficacious.) The easiest way to do this is with an epsom-salt soak. MJ, our daughter, and I soak our feet each evening as part of our electronics-free time. (MJ needs more magnesium to keep his headaches down, so he also uses a magnesium spray, which can be purchased or made at home.)
3. Increased physical activity. (Do any activity that you enjoy, but when movement is aligned with breathing, as in yoga or Tai Chi, it can double as silence/meditation.)
4. Silence/meditation. (This brings your attention to the present moment, to observe from a place of detachment. After steady practice, you find a state of calm that you can more easily call to mind when disturbances and agitation arise during the day.)
5. Education/personal development. (Focus on anything you like … anything. The point is to make constant incremental improvement in some aspect of your life. Eventually, you start thinking in whole new ways and getting more creative in everyday problem solving.)
When we do numbers 1 and 2, we fall asleep faster and have better-quality sleep. Then it’s easier to get up when the alarm goes off, which makes numbers 3–5 even easier to do.
Thanks to implementing these strategies, something has shifted in us.
We are hopeful and have found new purpose. We examine everything in our lives, improving what works and eliminating what doesn’t. We are more fully present for everyone. We are kinder, gentler, more understanding. We are better models for our children, who also behave better, sleep better, and are more cheerful.
It all started with the Miracle Morning and sleeping smarter.
- Stephanie R.S. Stringham
Soul Centered Mama