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Green Is The New Black

How to Deal With Sleep Health & Burnout: 6 Tips From Experts in Singapore & Hong Kong

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Burnout. Stress. Insomnia. Words that unfortunately we hear all too often. With studies showing more than 20% of employees worldwide feel burnt out, how can we look after ourselves better? How can we wake up feeling rested and rejuvenated?

We brought together six experts from Singapore and Hong Kong to help us deep dive on these important topics and give us little steps we can take to find the white space to live our lives to the fullest. Here are six lessons from six thought leaders on burnout and sleep health.

1. Burnout is not a ‘work thing’ but a ‘life thing’.

James Lim, Founder of Emmaus Strategies and Social Worker

James has experienced burnout 3 times himself and once while he was even advocating against burnout. From his personal experience, burnout is a mix of many factors like family, work, personal mental health struggles etc. Hence, he thinks that burnout is not a ‘work thing’ but a ‘life thing’. Burnout is not something you can shake or sleep off; deep and intentional work is required. However, to overcome burnout, we need to identify the symptoms first.

A handy tool to look at is ICE: Ineffectiveness & Inadequacy – Cynicism & Detachment – Exhaustion. If you have identified these pillars, engage in activities that help you detach and recover psychologically from work, like doing your to-do list at the end of the day or an after-work activity. Improving sleep health is also crucial in aiding recovery. If you have burnout, don’t blame yourself. Instead, remember that burnout affords us the opportunity to confront what is keeps us from thriving. And that’s a great place to start.

2. Take ownership of your lifestyle

Sandra Marichal, Founder of Up2degrees, Explorer & Adventurer

Sandra knows what it’s like being in stressful positions – having been on not one but two trips to Antarctica, working as the Marketing Insights Manager APAC at Facebook, starting a movement #Up2Degrees and getting a law changed within one year, and if all that wasn’t enough, is about to sail around the world for a year! To her, whatever situation you’re in, you have the power to change it. Firstly, acknowledge that something is wrong. Accept the pain, but respect your mind and body. A simple exercise is to feel your fingers and toes at least once a day to be more conscious of your own body.

If something does not feel right, something IS not right. Do not blame yourself or feel guilty. Do not get burnout or sacrifice your sleep health for the sake of others. Assess what makes you happy or unhappy and make a change now. If not, your life will worsen over time. As a high energy person herself, she also suggests exhausting yourself positively through exercise or reading a book to help you fall asleep. Designate space and time that is for work and time that is for rest.


3. Examine your own sleep habits

Gary Tho, Founder of ChiroWorks and Doctor

Gary is one of those people who actually sleep at 9 or 10 pm. This is what he has to say: sleep is essential, not optional. Sleep health helps to avoid illnesses. Some reasons why people don’t sleep well are pain, anxiety, snoring and living on autopilot. He believes to even get good sleep, you need to identify why you can sleep in the first place.

Here are some tips he recommends for examining your sleep habits:

> Write down how you feel and what happens when you don’t get enough sleep. Pen down the consequences of them.

> Reflect on whether the activities you engage in after 11 pm are important to help you achieve your goals in life and work. Is your performance compromised the day after a late night? If it does, is it possible to change your habits?

> Pay attention to what keeps you awake at night? Is something is calling for your help? Do you need to find out if there’s something else that needs addressed by an expert?

By being in tune with your body and listening to it, you can take your first step into achieving better sleep health.

4. Heal in the vibrations of sound

Malbert Lee, Sound Healer and Yoga Instructor

Malbert went for his first yoga class in 2000 and then discovered sound meditation. He is on a mission to bring people a new medicine: sound. He uses sound vibration to enhance your sleep health and meditation experience. This helps to create a free flow of energy and clarity in your mind to improve total wellbeing. While sound can be calming and relaxing, sound can also be destructive. So, if you are near any loud environments, walk away. However, if you cannot, start humming. It is the vibration that comes from within which calms you.

What you can do is take short rests or practice short meditation to reduce stress level. Also, listen to relaxing sounds and think of things you are grateful for before sleep. Last but certainly not least, go to sound baths that guided by experienced sound practitioners. These tips will be sure to relax you, improve your sleep health and prevent burnout.

5. Treat your mental health as you treat your physical health

Ying Han Cheng, Founder of Transform Passion to Action

Ying battled with anxiety and eating disorder in the past. Now, she transformed into an empowered woman, and a life and business coach. One thing that struck hard was why not enough people take mental health as seriously as physical health. If people did that, they would seek help earlier to get themselves in shape. When you are working on your strength in the gym, you don’t give up or blame yourself when you cannot do something. Likewise, sleep health and burnout prevention is measured by how well you can let go of your weaknesses or self-blame and push forward. To do that, practice makes perfect.

Train your ‘letting go’ muscle with specific meditations here. Something interesting she talks about is getting into brainwaves to improve physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual wellbeing to improve sleep health and prevent burnout. She suggests trying micro-current machines to calm your body quickly. There are places where you can get short trials for free, so go and try.

6. Be aware of the different levels you function at

Thomas Amiard, Breathwork Practitioner

Thomas is a practitioner with Enhale Meditation Studio. Something that he really focuses on is how we are functioning at five levels: Body, Energy, Emotions, Mental, Spiritual. These different levels are meant to characterise our being and actions so that we can have amazing sleep health and be at an optimum state of being. The Body is about your physical wellbeing and Energy is about how we fuel what we do. For Emotions, it is about considering how you feel in situations while Mental is about what you think in those situations. Lastly, the Spiritual is about having this higher sense that is beyond oneself. He uses the Breath-work & Mindfulness tools to improve your everyday life.


Overall tips on how to get better sleep and prevent burnout

> Basics first.

– Sleep, sport, breathing. This will help you in so many aspects of your life.

– Don’t be afraid to reach out to therapists, life coaches or counsellors when you need to.

> Ensure you get adequate and quality sleep.

– You can achieve a good night sleep with the help of various experts – not just the traditional sleep doctors.

– Avoid heavy food, coffee and alcohol 3 hours before bedtime, though it may vary for individuals.

– Do your best to sleep in a dark room with a little noise.

> Use your screens responsibly.

– Try not to use electronic devices right before you sleep.

– Make your bedroom phone-free, so you don’t jump on it in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning.

– Indulge in a cool alarm clock.

– Track your screen time, remove all notifications on your phone.

> Breath work.

– Breathe and be aware of your body to focus on things other than stress.

– Start the day by taking 5 minutes to breathe mindfully. Meditate, with calming sounds, to relax.

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Keith is a locally-based environmentalist, currently studying in Yale-NUS and is the Chief Sustainability and Design Officer of MBF. He is passionate about sustainability issues and, as the content creator of Bizsu, he educates the public about them.