Last night I had a very hard time getting to sleep. I’ve been struggling with sleep disorders my whole life. If I go three months without at least one week of insomnia, it is a rare surprise. Many insomniacs just focus on coping – they drink tons of coffee, they take naps in the afternoon if they can, they meditate, and find tasks that require little energy or mental acuity to focus on at work. I used to do the same, but now I refuse to settle for coping. By being responsible for the results I get in my own life, I also accept that coping is not enough when I can be taking more steps. Accordingly I have become something of an expert on sleep problems – and getting yourself to sleep.
I have discovered that one of the best cures for feeling restless at night is to get a good shave. It is also a good cure for anxiety, an excellent tool for anger management, even a decent substitute for meditation, if you do it well.
A shave with a blade – straight, safety, or modern hand razor alike – is one of the surest ways to snap your focus from anything else that is bothering you:
- You are dealing with hot water, cold, sharp steel, and potential eye irritants that demand your total attention unless you want to walk around with bits of toilet paper or bandages all over your face all day. You can’t think about tomorrow’s presentation, yesterdays lousy basketball game, or your budget when you are shaving – unless you want to lose an earlobe.
- If you shave with a blade often, is is very automatic. Your hands move with a comfortable practice. That Easy familiarity itself has a calming effect on nerves and emotions.
- It also demands strict muscle discipline: you can’t afford to move fast or be careless – gentle even strokes of the blade, and a face held in perfect stillness when the razor is near it are absolutely important.
- A good shave takes is self-care. It tells your unconscious mind that right now your health and your well-being are a priority, and that guides your emotions accordingly. Many men live in a state of self-neglect: they rush endlessly about taking care of wives, children, clients, and bosses – they eat on the run, skip meals, sleep less than they should, abbreviate their workouts, and overwork themselves on the weekends to please other people. But a careful shave with a real razor forces him, for at least a few minutes, to just take care of himself.
- A good shave is also a ritual, it takes time and care to detail – especially if you are caring for an older-fashioned razor rather than a modern disposable one. You will need to sharpen it, open your pores with warm water on your face, run a basin of cold water for the blade, apply an oil, cream, or soap to your face, shave, clean and dry the blade, trim or clip your mustache or beard, put your tools away, wash out your sink or basin, dry your face, and apply some moistuizer or aftershave lotion.
- If you have taken pride in your work, you are also going to stop and admire what you have done, and that means looking at yourself with a critical, and then a pleased eye. A little self-admiration can go a long way when you are feeling troubled.
Many men I know have never learned to shave the old-fashioned way. They settle for electric gadgets to do their shaving for them. That’s fine if they are in a rush to be somewhere, or they are traveling and don’t want to carry a big shaving kit, but using only the electric razor and trimmer means missing out on a powerful self-care ritual.
If you never learned to shave the traditional way, see if you can find a barber who still offers a traditional shave, and have one done. See how getting a proper shave makes your face feel, and how you enjoyed the experience. You may find it worth the time and effort to get the gear and teach yourself.