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Making a Stop-Doing List and Checking It Twice

By Guest Writer Rosie Vega If I had to pick one song that best fits my life it would have to be “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” by Warren Zevon, from his self-titled 1975 debut album.  It seems that I’ve been chronically underslept for decades. And, like Warren, I figured it was something I could put off till later. It started with my rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, then I had babies and toddlers who kept me up at night, then later my life was too busy, my evenings too active, to “give in” to the notion of an eight-hour slumber. I average six and a half. And it’s not because I don’t need it or have insomnia. I don’t. I need eight hours, but I only get six or six and a half because I fill up my evenings—usually with work (on top of my day job), but sometimes by going out. I have considered it a badge of honor that I’m in my 50s and can still rock out to live music on weeknights or write freelance pieces till midnight and still get up at 6:30 to get my kids fed and off to school, hit the commuter train and land at my office desk fresh as a daisy (ahem) at 9. So imagine my surprise when I learned this week from Dr. Sara that stress from leading that kind of lifestyle can accelerate the aging process. Chronically stressed women mess up their thyroid ratio (increasing the reverse T3 level), which can slow down one’s metabolism and make it harder to lose weight. And multitasking is a bad thing? But it’s my greatest skill! (And a necessity for most mothers.) I thought by leading this life I was proving I was tough, stoic and capable, but apparently I wasn’t doing myself any favors. I’ve learned all the stress and fatigue could have affected my sex drive. I thought I was just sleepy. Turns out my biochemistry was shutting down some of my sexual response. “Make a stop-doing list instead of a to-do list,” Dr. Sara suggested. Wow. What a concept. I am one of those list-makers, who feel a great sense of accomplishment when I have checked everything off, and a great sense of failure when I only get to one or two things on the list. I look forward to triumphantly crossing off items my stop-doing list. According to Dr. Sara’s return guest, the wonderful Ellen Heed, multitasking leads to adrenal depletion and fatigue. She told us this week to “manage your own nervous system and not be seduced by all the input.” She encouraged us to “rewire toward pleasure and away from stress.” It’s a mind-blowing, life-changing concept, and I’m taking it seriously. I’m plotting an end to my freelance regimen—clearing the decks of already contracted required work and resisting taking on new assignments—because I know I can’t keep up this pace and stay healthy and have the kind of pleasure I desire. And since making some slight adjustments in diet, I’m already feeling more energetic. I cut out caffeine and reduced my already small amount of wine per week by half, and I added flax seeds and cinnamon to my breakfast. I haven’t had a hot flash in days (flax seeds are known to reduce them), and my muffin top appears to be shrinking! And even though I haven’t added more hours of sleep at night, I am feeling less fatigued. When Dr. Sara asked in the first session, “Do you feel restored when you wake up?” I realized I never felt that way. I barely knew the meaning of the words. Then a couple of weeks into the course, I woke up one day and suddenly thought, “Hey! I feel restored!  This must have been what she was talking about!” I’ve still have not found the time and space to try Orgasmic Meditation. I watched the video, and then yesterday evening had my husband watch it. I built the nest for it to take place. And we were psyched to start, and then my daughter came home and we had to abort (pardon the expression) the mission (pun intended). But the seed (sorry) was planted, and by the time we went to bed, we were way in the mood. We even turned off Jon Stewart early! We had an incredible, long, uninhibited lovemaking session where I could tell my husband was trying out a few spots he’d been attuned to in the video. And I was less focused on outcome and therefore more open to surrender. I had also downloaded Dr. Sara’s second chakra meditation close to bedtime, so that may have been a factor, too. Overall, I felt the experience had a different flavor than the last time we had sex. Both of us were more open, playful and free. And we still have that OM session to look forward to. Maybe tonight! I think I’m going to redefine my lifestyle song as “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”


Cindy replied on Dec 29, 2015

I know the reason I stay up late is because when I go to bed early I end up waking up during the night and then can’t get back to sleep for hours. Any suggestions? If I take a nap during the day does that count towards my 8 hours?

Karyn Wagner replied on Dec 29, 2015

Thanks for this great post! As a newly recovering adrenally stressed, go for it all- gal, I also heard the call to STOP.
The result? although I often feel guilty going to bed at 8:30. ( gee WHAT am I missing!, Darn I could just finish that Powerpoint quickly!) The ravishing result is TRUE energy and balance for all the things I want to do.
Bravo for 8+ hours of sleep!

Sara Gottfried MD replied on Dec 29, 2015

Hi Karyn, I love that you are differentiating between your “calling” and your “call to STOP.” 830pm is a beautiful thing. Brava! xoxo Dr Sara

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