Insomnia and work pressure and getting through the week
February 6, 2018 10:15 PM   Subscribe

I am totally overwhelmed by everything right now. I need help creating some basic plans to keep my shit together until I get over this.

Some things triggered my insomnia and I have been sleeping no more than three to four hours a night for the last eight days. At work, I'm approaching some major deadlines (I'm a data analyst) and am having trouble thinking at the level I need to to get my work done.

I feel like walls are closing in around me and I'm totally drowning with all of these overwhelming feelings of stress and inadequacy and catastrophizing. But things *do* feel really bad right now. To top this off, I've been heavily criticized by my supervisor for my poor work over the last couple of weeks, and I literally don't have the mental capacity to wrap my head around how to make it better.

I'm working a contract job so I can't take sick leave or time off.

In the meantime, I need help putting some basic plans in place to regain some feelings of control over what's happening.

What I've done so far is to schedule an appointment with a therapist for mid next week.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
You can do this! Remember: the fastest way out is through.

First, triage. Can any deadlines be extended? I’m sure you’re thinking “no,” but is that true? Can you ask?

Related: can you ask for help? I struggle with this, particularly if I feel like I should have already started, but haven’t. However, hiding your nonexistent progress will only make you feel worse. It’s better to put your cards on the table and ask for help.

Once those have been exhausted, forgive yourself for your past failures and for not performing your best. This happens to all people at one time or another. You are a person and it is happening to you right now. It’s ok and forgivable. Forgive yourself and then pick up what you can, and do your best.
posted by samthemander at 10:43 PM on February 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Hoo boy, I am right there with you. Glad you are seeking the support of a therapist. That will hopefully give you more resources to help you get through this period of hell.

In the meantime, how are you doing with food, hydration, showering, etc? The main thing I am wrestling with right now (maybe you are too) is that unless I make time to do those things, literally everything else eventually won't be possible. (I personally feel really fucking guilty when I do self care in times of deadlines, which is toxic and not doable. Fight that feeling if you are plagued by that nonsense too.)

I mean, you said it yourself -- data analysis needs to be done with as clear as mind as possible. So even if you are already doing the self care stuff mentioned above, double it. Your body and your health matter most, so regain as much control over that as you can so you can make way for the other stuff on your plate.

Also, fuck your supervisor. Do you feel comfortable telling them, "Yes, I am slipping and it's because I don't have the resources to make these things happen. I need X and Y. Can we get me at least one of those things asap to help me get you what you need, which are the deliverables I'm responsible for? I want to work with you to make this happen."

You first. Then work. I am rooting for you. Stay healthy. And forgive yourself for the things that fall through the cracks. Not everything can be done. Just do what matters most.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:52 PM on February 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

I am so sorry. I have been in the same boat and it is terrible. I am not a woo person at all, and I wanted to slap every single person who said "yoga" or "meditation" to me, despite the fact I was desperate enough to download and try every available relaxation and sleep app going. I found exactly one sleep app that doesn't make me cringe; it does help me fall asleep, to my enormous surprise. One 30-minute sleep session is free, and that's the one I use.

Ambien, OTC sleep meds, Benadryl, apps, pot, CBD, white noise... whatever you are willing to try in order to sleep is worth a go, since that will make the biggest difference to your coping ability.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:26 PM on February 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

As a lifelong sufferer of chronic insomnia, I feel for you. A very good friend of mine also has this problem and she’s been seeing a therapist that specializes in sleep disorders. He’s been teaching her CBTI (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia)/ Sleep Restriction and she’s having unbelievable results after just two and a half weeks! She’s regularly sleeping seven hours a night now with no drugs, no wine, no sleep apps -- nothing. And this is after months of poor sleep.

You should definitely ask your therapist about trying it. It’s the only thing that’s worked for her and I plan on doing it myself the next time my insomnia returns.

You can read more about it here. You can probably get instructions online too, but she says having the therapist guide her and talk to about her anxieties really helped, especially in the beginning.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 11:58 PM on February 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sleep deficits can be hammered down, take a Benadryl at 9pm and set your alarm for 7 (or earlier if you like). Wear earplugs and use a vibrating alarm. Have a banana and some coffee in the morning. See how cold you can make the shower just before you turn it off and get out. Go into work early. Tell your boss to "save it until after the deadline, you ghoul."

I bet a day of being on your game will reorient your perspective so the deadlines are more achievable. All the things standing in your way sound like they can be ignored.
posted by rhizome at 12:53 AM on February 7, 2018

Can you get to the gym? Maybe pay for a spin class or similar? You need some headspace and you need to flush some of that cortisol out of your system. A good, sweaty workout can really help take the edge off, relieve some of your anxiety and help you sleep. Even half an hour of listening to angry music on an elliptical can help you feel a bit better.
posted by nerdfish at 5:42 AM on February 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I feel you. In 2010 I also was hit with a year-long bout of insomnia, also largely due to stress. And then the year after that - I did my last stage management gig, which was a show that rehearsed until 11:30 at night - and then I somehow had to get home, do paperwork, and then unwind fast enough to get a decent amount of sleep before getting up at 6:30 am to get going to the day job.

i think that talking to a therapist about stress management is good for the long term. So I have advice about the short term:

1. I went to my regular doctor about this too. We discussed medication, and both of us agreed that we'd prefer I not get prescribed anything - she did write me a prescription for a single bottle of something as a "last-resort" move, but I think i only ended up taking one pill once and then didn't need it. Instead, we both agreed that the vitamin-supplement route was better for sleep support. I'd tried melatonin but it didn't do jack shit for me; so she suggested valerian, which I'd already been trying in tea form. She said that the supplements work better, and then added that you need to take them every night, and that it takes about a week for it to start "kicking in". So if you've tried valerian or some other supplements and they haven't worked instantly, they aren't supposed to as such; stick with it.

2. I also tried adding magnesium supplements, and that ended up being the magic bullet for me. Even better - after only a couple days starting with magnesium, I noticed that even though i still wasn't getting enough hours of sleep yet, I started feeling like the sleep I was getting was deeper and more refreshing. So with magnesium, even if I still only get 6 hours of sleep, they're a good six hours. I still try to get magnesium into me today, and even play around with using it topically - in the form of baths with Epsom salts. Which just gives you the excuse to take a nice warm comfy bath, and to even get really fancy and use essential oil to make it smell nice. You may be doing so for medicinal reasons, but it's indulgent too.

3. Finally - at the time I was doing the play, I posted an AskMe looking for music to add to a "lull me to sleep" playlist. The playlist I made from that worked so well that I have titled it "Auditory Ambien", and it can still settle my mind down enough to get to sleep after only about 20 minutes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:33 AM on February 7, 2018

I second the magnesium. It helps combat the effects of stress on the body. I also like Pandora’s “Spa Radio” channel for falling asleep and general chill-out music. I even listen to it while working because I find it soothing, yet conducive to focus.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:58 AM on February 7, 2018

Short-term, you might look into going the other direction and getting a script for Provigil. But only if you think this is a temporary crunch. I wouldn't want to rely on it long-term. It offers a very smooth stimulation.
posted by praemunire at 10:15 AM on February 7, 2018

Download the headspace app and try the first meditation. I know that adding more stuff to do sounds daunting, but it's a max of 10 minutes. The effect surprised me the first time I tried it. And again, it's only 10 minutes.
posted by aeighty at 10:45 AM on February 7, 2018

If this is a temporary crunch, melatonin is your friend. Also, listening to a semi-interesting but not terribly dynamic podcast does wonders for getting my brain to STFU.

I'm a big fan of history podcasts—The British History Podcast, The History of Byzantium/Rome, etc. Other people swear by Sleep With Me, but I find it a little too... conceptually all over the place.
posted by functionequalsform at 11:26 AM on February 7, 2018

As an informal trick, my brain reliably shifts into sleep mode if I tire it out by listening to talk radio while reading. Too many words to process via separate senses, I assume.
posted by rhizome at 11:30 AM on February 7, 2018

My thought is that if you make some headway on managing your sleep, a lot of those other problems will be less impactful and you'll be able to work with a clearer head. Here are some of the things I do for sleep (as a person with a long and wretched history of insomnia.)

I now take a combination of things to sleep, both prescription and not. The prescription thing for me (bc my insomnia is largely tied to anxiety) is a .5mg dose of clonazepam.

In addition to that I take melatonin (helps me fall asleep much faster) and L-theanine. I was skeptical of the L-theanine at first, it being a supplement, but it was recommended to me by my amazing prescriber who has just saved my life, so I decided to try it. It says on the bottle it is for "relaxation" and I find that while it's hard to put my finger on what exactly it does for me, it seems to make my sleep more restful and I wake up more easily and feel less cloudy when I wake up. It has really had an overall positive effect.

I also used to fall asleep to the Jimi Hendrix songs "1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be" and "Moon, Turn the Tides...Gently Gently Away," and they ALWAYS helped, even when I was anxious and wild-eyed.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 11:43 AM on February 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Definitely address the sleep. Sleep is so important. My recent insomnia was due to work street, moving, and weaning hormones - situational, and left me feeling absolutely awful.

After about six weeks of sleeping 3-4 hours every other night or so, with zero results from melatonin (both common over the counter vitamin brand and prescription) or magnesium, I did indeed end up with a prescription for temazepam. I had long given up naps and coffee by then too.

I started out taking a half tablet (nothing) and took a whole tablet every night for about a week. At that point I could fall asleep by myself, but not stay asleep, so I probably spent another 10-14 days taking one at midnight when I'd wake up to pee. Eventually I learned to get myself back to sleep too.

So yes, go ahead a pull out all stops for the insomnia. Do whatever you have to do to get better sleep as soon as possible - I kept holding out thinking it was about to get better and I'm sorry I didn't ask for help sooner. My dr. said a one month script was usually enough to kickstart your body back into gear, and if it was still a problem after that to come back and we'd discuss.

Yes, ask for deadline extensions! I work with legislation and lawyers and we do this all the time. We all have more work than we can possibly do, and lots of people will understand that.

Also, outsource whatever you can. We just had to move, and this is the sixth move in six years, none wanted, and I finally caved and hired cleaners to do a move out clean. Just knowing this huge annoying task is DONE and done not BY ME was massive.

Do you have a few people you can call for standing dates? Like, if I lived near my sister I might ask her to come over every Thursday night with a frozen lasagna to watch TV and listen to me vent for the next month. Then you have scheduled downtime/socialisation/support + dinner.
posted by jrobin276 at 6:15 PM on February 7, 2018

Short term I would schedule an emergency appointment with a psychiatrist (an MD that can prescribe drugs) and get them to prescribe you sleeping pills. It's not optimal, but it is what I would do.
posted by xammerboy at 8:26 PM on February 7, 2018

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