Sleep Tight!

I recently came across a Ted talk with Arianna Huffington about the importance of sleep and productivity and from personal experience I had to agree with her. I see so many freelancers on the verge of burnout as they twitter away about how much work they have to do, how they’re going to pull an all nighter and just in general how they feel like they are never going to catch up or how they can’t shift this cold they’ve had for ages. And I get this, I’ve been there and I learnt the hard way. It’s no recent scientific revelation that the brain needs a decent amount of sleep to function properly, that along with hydration. Sleep is the bodies way of sorting and fixing the brain and body out, lack of good sleep can be quite detrimental. Well that’s easier said than done, I hear people say. Well it all depends on how you look at it but here’s a little bit about my story and sleep deprivation.
I used to suffer really bad insomnia, so bad it left me emotionally and physically fried and I walked into the doctors one day and told them I couldn’t stop crying and I didn’t know why. The first question he asked was ‘How are you sleeping?’ It turned out that several years of not being able to sleep properly had taken it’s toll and I was pretty much suffering from physical and mental exhaustion. Getting into a good sleep routine is hard, yeah getting to bed on time was easy but actually getting to sleep was another problem altogether, and as a last resort I ended up on medication to help reset my sleeping programme. I don’t advocate going on meds but if that’s what you need, then that’s what you need! But if you can do it without meds then that is better.
It took nearly two years for me to get back into a decent sleep pattern, it seemed weird at first because it literally forced by body and brain to slow down when it had been running at hyper speed for so long but slowly the benefits began to show. I was firstly less snappy even with people who deserved it, I could think clearer which meant I could plan clearer, make better judgements/decisions, the permanent sniffles and regular migraines began to ease up, I just began to function better. Whilst this all might sound obvious, we as a species seem to think that running on four hours sleep is an achievement, something to brag about and it’s not! We all know that lack of sleep can have devastating consequences, like when a driver falls asleep at the wheel, yet we continue to ignore the warning signs and push through and as a freelancer, I know how easy it can be do this.
I quit my old job because the stress was getting beyond ridiculous and I could see me heading back to my old ways of sleepless nights. The job wasn’t going to get better, it was in fact getting worse, the work load was getting bigger as they made other people redundant and not long after I left the company basically got shut down and absorbed, not related, even I’m not that egotistic but I knew that was going to happen and so I got out when I could and I’m so glad I did.
I had this big plan when I left but do you know what I did first? That’s right I slept! For two months I rested and I was in a fortunate enough position to not have to delve back into work right away but it enabled me to plan my future/my business and realistically see that it was going to be a long journey and it would be longer if I tried to cut corners to get there quicker. I opted for the creative field, make stuff and sell it. I’ve learned along the way when are the busier periods and when to take time off during the quieter periods to recharge and plan my future steps. I’ve learned to make sure I’m really prepared for the busier times, like a month or two in advance so I don’t get burned out from all the rushing around. My busiest period is Sept-Jan, I make sure I have a clear cut plan to deal with these period and you know it works and I can pretty much stick to a ‘normal’ working day. Yes I do end up working a few extra hours here and there and pretty much a seven day week but it’s about time management. There are probably a few people still scoffing at this point and that’s fine, I get that! As freelancers we don’t get sick pay or holiday pay, and we’re constantly worried that the work will dry up, trust me that thought crosses my mind at least twice a day!
But mistakes caused through lack of sleep and tiredness will cost you more in the long run and it will be the stupidest of mistakes that could have been easily avoided if you were on the ball! If you’re constantly tired or sick, you slow down and become less productive. You’re prone to making mistakes that could cost you and your business, and in some cases create even more work for you as you need to fix those mistakes. Sounds silly but when I’m tired I get my husband to double check my work for me just because he’s usually around but sometimes 9most of the time) he’ll spot things I haven’t even though I’ve checked it a ten times already!
The trick (or at least one of them) is to treat to your job like you’re in a full timed employed job for someone else, remember when (that’s if you ever did) work for someone else or a company. How you had set hours, tea breaks, deadlines etc, do the dame for yourself as a freelancer. Easier said than done but seriously it can be done and will benefit you in the long run.ย  Set your hours like you would if you were working for someone else. You’re entitled to personal time, take into account overtime for projects/commissions but remember to bill for your time! Treat any extra hours you do as overtime and don’t feel guilty for taking those hours back to go out and catch up with a friend or go shopping or basically have a day off.
Obviously I’m not a sleep expert or a medical professional or a business expert even, and I can only tell you what I know from personal experience and of course everyone is different. Personally I like being awake at night but for practicality and work purposes I need to sleep at night, some jobs allow you to work the hours and times of day you choose, which is great but don’t neglect the fact that you still need sleep. It’s fine to pull an all nighter on a deadline once in a while but if you find yourself constantly having to pull all nighters to keep up with work, you need to either stop taking on so much work, be better organised or ask for help! There are plenty of other people in the same position as you willing to lend an ear or hand if needs be, even if it’s just referring you to someone else who could be able to help. Remember you can do anything, just not everything! Also get some sleep!

#BEDN – Food Glorious Food!

Today is one of my favourite topics food, I love food, trying new cuisines, fresh baked good straight out of the oven, one of my favourite smells is freshly baked bread. A scrumptious roast dinner with all the trimmings, don’t get me started on desserts! But all that said the last few years me and food have had a bit of strained relationship. For a long while I suffered bad IBS caused by food intolerances, it took a while and a lot of experimenting before I found out what food and drinks were causing it and various other problems. I used the FODMAP guide to help me and basically I don’t eat food with any gluten in it. I also avoid apples, pears, onions and artificial sweeteners as they appear to be the main triggers. Drinking beer, wine and ciders are also out, just the smell makes me nauseous. I also avoid dairy as much as possible for my eczema.

Gluten free, dairy free homemade pizza!
I can’t tell you the number of people who have been mortified when they discover I can’t drink wine, like I’ve lost a limb of something. Have they never heard of gin! Some behave like I’m being a fussy eater, well yes mainly because my choice is pain or no pain. Think I’ll opt for the no pain thanks! Besides there are plenty of alternatives out there, some are really good, some are not. The gluten free ranges are getting much better albeit a bit more pricey than the non gluten free ranges but the real pain is eating out, I tend to research first and some places that do afternoon tea, do offer gluten free but again treat it like a fad and generally just go and raid the free from section at the local supermarket! I’ve even been offered gluted based products as alternatives!! In one place they put the gluten free and the normal sandwiches on the same plate and I accidentally ended up eating a normal sandwich. Not that it did any harm on that occasion but I had to explain that if I was a coeliac it could have been a lot worse, however some places are really good like Sketch for instance and Wagamamas where you can opt for rice noodles in your dish instead. Or just ask for the dietry specialists menu, most chain branches do them.

Gluten free, dairy free tart made using tomatoes grown in our garden, recipe here
Anyhoo, one thing it has prompted me to do is get back into cooking. I have already blogged one or two recipes and definitely have made it plan to add some more. I had some left over purple carrots because they had some in the supermarket for Halloween. As a gardener I like to grow my own veg and am always picking up seeds which are different like pink tomatoes, rainbow chard, lemon cucumbers, white strawberries etc.

Did you know that carrots were not originally orange but purple, red and yellow? So I decided to make some soup a bit like Borscht. Now when it comes to cooking, I am educated at the school of Ready, steady cook and lets wing it and am well practised in the art of using random items in my cupboards to make meals. Recipe books, even though I have tonnes of them are mostly used as a guideline rather than for instruction! Ergo some recipes are good, some not so, this recipe I just cobbled together using stuff I had at hand.
500g of peeled carrots, they don’t have to be purple but these ones helped give the soup and extra deep red colour.
500g of beetroot, preferable fresh or if buying ready cooked not in vinegar
I used half a tsp each ofย  mustard, celery and coriander seeds but you can use a vegetable stock cube if your prefer.
Two cloves of Garlic
Bay Leaf or two
Pinch of salt and Pepper.
If using fresh beetroot I boil up separately but do not keep the juice, it’s easier to peel once cooked or if using pre cooked beetroot everything up in a pan, cover with water and boil till the carrots are cooked. Let it cool off a little, remove the bay leaves and then blend. Usually borsch is served with sour cream but I used Alpro soya cream and some gluten free crackers or bread.

I probably should have waited for it too cool down before taking pictures (hence the steamy effect) and the splat in the middle is my poor attempt at creating a swirl of cream in the middle. Anyway, I can honestly say this is a good soup and it would probably work as a chilled soup in the summer.

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