Written by Jurjen

In the summer of 2017, I moved to Tunisia for an internship. I really loved my time in Tunisia. However, there was one problem: sleep. I was living next to a mosque and every night around 4 a.m. there was a prayer that was spreading the word of God through speakers. I respect every religion, but I still woke up grumpy because I wanted to sleep. The heat also made it more difficult to fall asleep again. It all became worse when after a few of these short nights I started to worry about my lack of sleep and I ended up in a vicious cycle of fear of not falling asleep and not being able to fall asleep because of the stress that the fear gave me. This resulted in a very bad performance at my work the next day. There was only one positive thing: my working days ended at 1.30 p.m. So, I could nap at the beach after work.

I would only stay for three months, so I expected that when I would get back to Belgium for my studies, I would get rid of this sleeping problem. But this was not the case. I developed insomnia and I didn’t get rid of it. I woke up every night with the same stress-reflex (even though I wasn’t living next to a mosque anymore) and couldn’t sleep anymore, even though I was extremely tired and had nothing to stress about. I started to live on short nights and naps during the day. This wasn’t ideal and created more stress around my sleep. This kept going on for months, and I started to do meditation to calm myself down. This helped a bit but didn’t solve my problem. I even went to the doctor, but sleeping medication wasn’t an option because it is addictive and does not treat the source of your sleeping problem. So, what could I do to break out of this vicious cycle?

But then one day I got my eureka moment when I realized: “what instead of stressing about the nights that I can’t sleep, I start to appreciate every night that I actually catch enough sleep to function properly?” This wasn’t easy because 90% of the time I slept badly, but when I had a night that I had a few more hours of night sleep than usual, I was appreciating it much more. I started to create a positive mindset, where I focused on the nights that I slept longer and not on the nights that I didn’t. Because of this different positive focus, I was building up my nights of proper sleep. You could say that I was reprogramming my mindset around sleeping. This was the medicine that I was searching for because I came to the source of my problem: my mindset. In combination with meditation, I got rid of my insomnia.

So, what is the point of this story and why am I posting this on a website about stuttering? Now… I actually started to apply this type of mindset in my daily life as well. In particular on my speech. I was used to focusing on the moments or periods that I had more blocks and where I felt more anxious to speak and stutter in front of a group. But with applying this, as I call it now the ‘upside-down-mindset’ (turning your thoughts around), I started to focus on the moments that I actually felt comfortable in front of a group and where I got positive feedback from my listeners about what I had to tell. And you know what, I started to feel less bad to speak in front of groups. So, as I reprogrammed my mindset around sleeping, I also started to reprogram my mindset around speaking.

Am I a totally different person now? No. I have still moments that I am anxious in front of a group or with new people, but I chose to focus on the moments that I am not, and when I feel confident. These are the moments that I feel joy that I want to remember. In the end, I am the one who decides where I want to focus on and I decide to focus on the positive.