When I am having difficulty in life I look to my sleep patterns first to see if they have been disrupted. Invariably something has given in my regular pattern that needs to be addressed immediately.

I find it sneaks up slowly and then suddenly. My to do list starts getting longer or stressors in my life start dominating my thoughts. I start failing to sleep sometime in the middle of my day when my own expectations and hopes for the day are unrealistic.

I don’t start having trouble sleeping at night. Once I learned this I was able to start adjusting my patterns to help me benefit significantly.

Everyday I focus on setting micro goals for the day that I commit to. I have re-wired my brain to recognize that when my goals are completed sleep is the reward.

Like everyone, I have 200 things that need to get done everyday. 200 unrealistic items that simply increase stress, anxiety and irritation. I have emails that I “touch” dozens of times before acting because I don’t know what to do.

Once I start delaying or spinning I begin to eat away at my sleep reserve. Why? Because I am putting things into my mind that are causing me to think without closure.

This open loop of tasks are the things that frighten me at night. Think about it this way — if you take out the garbage after dinner, do you lose sleep over the garbage?

By focusing on my own spirituality I am able to set more realistic goals and focus my energy on the things that I can control in my life rather than the dozens of things I can’t.

For example, I want my friends and family to be successful and happy. I wanted to have a supportive and loving father. I want my clients to succeed. The more time I spend obsessing about any one of those topics, or even engaging in conversations with people about them the more I distract myself from taking care of myself and my needs.

Everyone morning I create a list of things that I am going to “turn over” or release into the universe. This simple act is equivalent to taking a deep breathe and letting your shoulders drop.

Refocusing my energy on the day ahead helps me focus my energy on today. It helps me have a clear head when faced with indecision or requests of my time.

Now, as I move through my day, I find myself absorbing less of the days problems and not borrowing from my sleep reserve. At the end of the day, rather than obsessing about what hasn’t been done or what needs to be done, I look to my thoughts and catalog them before sleep.

Anything I find myself obsessing about gets written down and clears my mind for the restorative sleep I so desperately need!

Originally published at medium.com