Liza Shulyayeva

The leaves

Brown autumn leaves, top down view

It was 3am and I was awake, thinking about the pile of leaves in the backyard again. These leaves had been there for two weeks, in a wheelbarrow. There was no composting/recycling place for green waste within walking distance so we’d need to hire a rental car to drive them somewhere where you could drop them off. And during the day, we just never got to it.

At night, though, there I was: at 3am, awake, tossing and turning with anxiety about what we were going to do about the leaves.

As soon as I woke up the next morning, I couldn’t figure out what the heck I was thinking. The leaves seemed like such a trivial thing to lose sleep over. During the day, they didn’t bother me at all! Sometimes I wake up at night worrying about the war, or the economy, or electricity prices. But lately it’s been the stupid leaves of all things.

The fact that it seemed like such a trivial thing during the day only exacerbated the problem: during the day, there are more important things to do. The boyfriend said he has some unspecified idea for them. We’ll get to it eventually.

Finally, after another night of bad sleep, I hired a recycling service to just come and take the leaves for 400kr. The leaves were gone an hour later. I wish I’d done this two weeks ago.

My sleep and anxiety had worsened drastically since the latest stage of Russia’s invasion started in February, but in reality I think this has been going for a while. Years maybe, in retrospect. I didn’t realize it was so easy to ignore until suddenly I’m losing sleep over leaves. And it is easy to ignore, even now, during the day. During the day I feel fine. I’m productive. I have daytime energy. I’m enthusiastic and motivated. I find it a little hard to switch off my brain and just relax, but other than that I’m fine!

The issue comes at night, and manifests through bad sleep. Before this camel-back-breaking realization that some level of anxiety is likely impacting my rest, I tried a few things to help my sleep, each of which did help:

Stop taking creatine in the afternoon

And in general I started taking all supplements as early as possible (with the caveat that some should be taken with food and I don’t eat breakfast). This did seem to help.

Read and write (in my head) before bed

Reading in bed always helps get me sleepy, but I also started “writing” in my head while trying to fall asleep. This mostly involves imagining scenes, images, storylines, plot points, etc for my fiction. I decided to try this after I remembered that as a kid, I’d do this every night, and I never had trouble sleeping then.

This coupled with reading greatly helped my time-to-sleep. But it did not really help much with waking up at night, worrying.

Take magnesium before bed

I’m not sure if this is working yet because the circumstances of my sleep were a bit different when I started taking it, but I noticed I have been sleeping through the night more over the last week. I woke up again last night, but fell asleep much quicker than before. I also find myself waking up easier when it is time to get up (and even an hour before my normal wakeup time). Maybe it isn’t due to the magnesium, but I’ll keep taking it and see how it goes over the long term.

Post-leaves: try “coaching”

This was the main thing I got from the leaves: “This is ridiculous, now I really should talk to someone.”

I always thought of “coaching” as a bit of a fluffy concept. Who are these coaches? What makes them qualified to coach me? What are their credentials?

I’ve tried a couple of traditional therapy session in the past few years, but somehow it never resonated. I feel like I have a ton of things going on right now, and the leaves are just one part of that. Maybe talking to a “coach” would help me get my mindset in order for the future, which would also help the anxiety?

Having recently read more about “coaching” and gotten a free intro session to try it, I am now convinced to give it a shot. The intro session was largely introductory, but already seemed valuable and gave me some great insight. I found a coach who also has an extensive therapy background, greatly alleviating my “who are these coaches and what are their credentials?” concern. I look forward to giving it a proper shot.

Post-leaves: just deal with the leaves

Possibly my biggest lesson: if it’s waking me up in the middle of the night, no matter how silly it seems in the light of day, just deal with it. Pay someone to take the leaves, get a composting bin, carry the leaves to the recycling place by foot if you have to, whatever. Just get rid of the darn leaves.

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