Self Care

How to Beat Insomnia

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“Our bodies need rest, but our brains need sleep.”

This is something my chiropractor told me a long time ago. When talking about mental disorders, this seems like a pretty important thing to focus on (brain, mental… you see where I’m going with this?).

Getting a good amount of sleep every night can be extremely helpful in dealing with and getting through depression, anxiety, and well, really anything. It is essential for your overall mental, physical, and emotional health! It is the foundation for all things health related. If you are not sleeping, or not sleeping at the right times, or for the right amount of time, you are going to suffer.

I have been working hard over the last few weeks to establish a good sleeping routine. Doing this has proven to be challenging as I have had insomnia my whole life, but it’s made a big difference in how I feel overall.

This is not an easy schedule. It requires commitment, but if you have tried everything and are still struggling to get enough sleep, this is what you need. Commit to this schedule for two weeks and see how you feel. Then continue. Make it a part of your life and enjoy the benefits of feeling refreshed physically and mentally.

The Rules

  • You must go to bed at the same time every night. Pick a time and stick to it. Even if this means ditching parties with your friends, not getting the dishes done, or not finishing “just one more episode”.
  • You must also get up at the same time everyday, whether or not (this is the hard part) you have slept. I repeat, whether or not you have slept. This is important. Even if you have just fallen asleep an hour before, you have to make yourself get up and you are not allowed to sleep until your bedtime that night. This is the only way you are going to be able to reset your body’s internal clock. Unless you have tried, really tired this, you are not allowed to say that “I’ve tried everything to sleep and I just can’t”. (Especially if you are posting this on Facebook at three in the morning…sorry.)
  • Your room needs to be dark, quiet, and cool. We’re talking pitch black dark. No light shining under your door from the hallway, no digital alarm clocks, block out the street light coming in through the window. Use white noise or calming music without words to drown out any distracting thoughts or sounds. Keep your room temperature between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Stay in bed for eight to nine hours. Do not get up, turn on lights, etc. (The exception to this is if you have to use the bathroom. However, if you are finding yourself waking up for this reason, stop drinking fluids before bed.) We want you eventually sleeping solidly through the night without interruption.
  • Turn off ALL electronics 30-45 minutes before bed. TV, computer, smart phone, all of it. Electronics keep your brain from being able to shut down and transition into sleep. The blue light emitted from them prevents your body from producing melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by your body that helps regulate your sleep and wake patterns.
  • Spend the last hour before going to bed relaxing. Create a routine (check out an example of my nightly routine) that you can follow every night that will signal your body that it’s time to sleep. Take a bath, read a book, drink tea, wash or face, brush your teeth, whatever it is you need and want to to at the end of your day.
  • Consider using a sleeping pill for the first week or so to help you jumpstart this routine. Don’t become dependant on it though, we want you to be able to keep to this schedule without it needing a pill that will cause you to feel groggy in the morning.

Now picture yourself crawling into clean sheets at the same time every night, in a room thats dark and quiet, that maybe smells of calming lavender, and listening to soft music as you drift off to sleep. Then discover yourself waking up each morning feeling more relaxed, refreshed, better about life, and ready to start your day! (We will discuss a helpful morning routine in the future). This is the goal we are striving for.

This is hard. It’s strict. The first few weeks might feel like torture and be sleepless. Eventually, though, your body will adjust itself and you will realize just how important sleep is after experiencing it in the way we need it.

Please let me know if you try this and how it works for you, tell me what helps you to sleep better, and feel free to ask if you have any questions!

photo credit: Insomnia or login to sleep illustration via photopin (license)

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My Goals for the Week

medium_5820119430I’m doing okay (:

I went to see my therapist today and even though I’ve had a few not-so-great days, I’ve been able to recover from them fairly quickly so that they haven’t turned into bad weeks. Instead of being triggered by something, getting really upset, and then having EVERYthing get progressively worse from there… I’ve been able to go back to “normal” shortly afterward. This doesn’t mean I’ve been blissfully happy all week but I’ve been pretty stable with only slight ups and down opposed to my usual highs and super low, long lasting lows. It’s nice… I feel more like me (:

All through my 5 months of weekly therapy we’ve focused on mt anxiety, depression, cutting, panic attacks, emotions, and techniques for dealing with all of these. Anytime something came up about any abuse I may have experienced when I was little, my therapist would say something like, “That’s something that we can start to talk about when you’re ready and feel you are at a point when you can handle it”. Which makes complete sense, bringing up something like that and trying to process it when you’re depressed or anxious isn’t going to go well at all! Today, though, she brought the subject up briefly and even asked me how I would feel about exploring other therapy options in relation to that. While I said I didn’t want to get into that right now (because my summer is going to be pretty busy and potentially stressful, and I want to be able to focus primarily on just that when I decide to tlk and think about it) I’m so excited that she thought I was at a point where I could deal with processing something like past sexual abuse…

It means I’ve made progress!!

I really have made a lot  progress. It hasn’t always felt like it over the months, I’ve had some really bad low points, but I’ve worked really hard to understand what’s going on with my mind and what I can do to help it and I’m starting to learn how to even apply some of those things I’ve found. It’s a lot of work! Anyone trying to recover from a  mental illness will understand that. It can be hard too because most people around you can’t see the amount of effort you’re putting into getting better because for the most part the work all takes place in your head!

So I just want to say to anyone who is working towards getting better… good job! I know how hard it is and how mentally (and physically) exhausting and draining it can be. You should be proud of yourself for putting forth that effort to do what’s good for you (:

Anyway, since I have decided I want to focus on just staying where I am at right now, working on using my relaxation techniques, trying to stay on a good sleep schedule, ect, I thought I would share my list on specific things I want to work on over the next couple of weeks…

  • Acceptance. I’m going through a lot right now. I’m doing really good though so don’t let minor setbacks upset you too much… have a bad day? Feel guilty for something you did? Acknowledge it and move on, you have tomorrow to try again (:
  • Sleep. I was doing good for awhile at turning my computer off at 9 and spending a couple hours trying to relax so I could fall asleep before 12 or 1 in the morning. I need to get back into that.
  • Headaches. For awhile I was doing good at noticing when I was starting to feel anxious or down and then using the appropriate coping skills to deal with it. I have had quite a few especially bad headaches over the last couple of weeks though that have made it hard for me to want to DO anything when I notice my mental state dropping. Physical pain makes it hard to deal with mental and emotional pain. So! Work on a few ideas for coping with headaches (not like I haven’t been doing this for years… I’ll keep trying tho).
  • Balance. I have a couple of trips to make over the next few weeks, so I’m going to be busy. Being busy can lead to stress and anxiety and a physical and mental crash afterwards. Try to pay attention to how I’m feeling while I’m away from home and take a break when I need to. Don’t overdo it! (;

So there you have it. Some of the things I am going to try to work on, think about, and keep in my this week. Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what kinds of things you would put on your list for the week! (:
photo credit: LateEnough via photopin cc

Take Time to Focus on YOU

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It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary. – Mandy Hale

Many of us grow up being taught to be selfless. To give of yourself to others and to put their needs ahead of your own. I agree with this for the most part and know from experience that helping others can bring you real happiness, distract you from your own problems, and help put your problems them into perspective when you see that, really, everyone has struggles of some kind or another and we need to help each other through them.

However, (yes, here comes the “but”) when you are dealing with a mental illness you need to IGNORE some of this. Telling yourself and hearing that you need to just start thinking about others and realize that “there’s always someone who has it worse”? Isn’t going to help. If you’re depressed or anxious you’re probably overwhelmed enough as it is. You don’t need added pressure. It’s okay to focus on yourself. You’re not going to be any help to anyone else if you can’t take care of yourself first. So don’t try and don’t feel bad about it. Realize that you’re taking time to learn to be easier on yourself, to take care of yourself and to make YOU happy so that, later, you can focus on and help your family, friends, ect, better than you’re able to right now.

You need to be able to love and care for yourself in order to love and take care of anyone else properly. This doesn’t mean cutting off all human ties and relationships, but it means letting THEM help YOU for a change. Allow yourself to take the time to do things that you enjoy and find relaxing. To do the things you know you need to in order to get through this. In the long run it will benefit both you and those who you are close to.

I’m discovering that happiness is contagious. I had to stop worrying so much about what everyone else was thinking of me. I had to stop stressing about how I thought I was making them unhappy. Then, when I accepted that was just how things were right now and learned that they didn’t love me any less for it? When I stopped trying to hide how I was feeling in an attempt keep people from leaving me? I realized that THEY were happier because I was happier. Overall it means less stress for everyone and allows me to relax and be okay with taking as much time as I need to care for me! (:

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.

Well now they know.

Let it go!

– Frozen

photo credit: DonnaGrayson via photopin cc