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How To Fake It Until You Make It While Running On No Sleep

How To Fake It Until You Make It While Running On No Sleep

Sleep deprivation is all-too-common these days, whether because of a demanding job or a new member of the family who doesn’t keep the same schedule as you (or both). My daughter didn’t sleep through the night for two and a half years, so I learned a lot about how to get things done with little sleep. If you’re feeling overworked, tired and unhappy, some of these strategies should help you fake it until you make it to a place in which you’re getting more regular sleep.

Take Care Of Yourself

It can feel impossible to do the things you need to do to take care of yourself — like eating well, working out or even just getting down time — when you’re working constantly with little sleep, but it’s essential.

The more you can do to keep yourself healthy despite your crazy schedule the better off you’ll be. When you’re eating well you’re giving yourself the fuel you need to keep your brain and body functioning.

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Exercise, even if it’s just a brief walk outside or a plank or sit-up challenge, will give you a goal outside of work to reach for, not to mention the endorphin boost you get from moving your body.

Keeping up with your physical appearance is important, too. Any new mom will tell you a good hot shower can be sanity saving. It’s the same for people who are lacking sleep for other reasons.

Carve Out Time Just For You

It’s super important to have down time, no matter how small an amount. Taking a mental and a physical break from working and from the workplace is a key to happiness when you’re feeling a lot of stress from your job.

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It might not be possible to get away for a full day, but even if you could carve out half an hour or an hour when your work is done to spend time on a hobby you enjoy, read a book or just do nothing, that will give your brain time to re-energize and remind you of things that are important to you outside of work.

Get Perspective

It’s important to remember your current work situation is demanding and unpleasant but also temporary. Just like all kids eventually sleep through the night, no job can stay demanding forever.

Projects come to an end; busy season does not last all year. If you can fake it until you make it to the end of whatever is causing your overwork now, you’ll be so much more grateful for the time you have when it’s over.

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One strategy I like to use when I’m feeling overworked is to write out things I want to do when I have more time. It could be a trip with my family, a book I want to read or a project I want to finish. Thinking about those things and looking forward to the time when I’ll have time gives me an extra push of motivation when I feel like giving up.

Remember Why You’re Doing It

Finally, remember you chose to do this project or take this job for a reason. What’s the end goal? Whether it’s a raise, a promotion, the promise of more time off in the future or even the prestige that comes with having accomplished something major, remember why it is you’re making the sacrifices that you are.

Having a really demanding job, working all the time and not getting enough rest is really hard. Taking time to remember why you’re doing it and what’s in it for you is a great way to keep moving forward feeling sharp and productive even when all you want to do is take a nap.

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Featured photo credit: amirjina via photopin via flickr.com

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Sarah White

Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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