Have trouble getting to sleep? Be kind to yourself even if you are worried about it. Part of getting ready to relax is allowing for the discomfort of the unknown. Know you are working on new habits and that effort pays off.
Have you been working to shift your bedtime routine to support your quality of sleep. This is one of the hardest skills my clients struggle with. It is such a fearful time because “what if I don’t get enough tonight?” or “will I even get to sleep?” the thoughts begin to plague us before we hit the pillow.
Your job … is to believe that you can shift old patterns and that you are patient enough to work through the effort it takes to make a change in your life. This is hard work. New behaviors take 20-40 days to get set up. Sleep is one of those that takes a while, and often we’ve conditioned ourselves to worry about it.
Tonight, as you go to bed, have grace with yourself and say “I am going to sleep well. I have been working hard to get back on track and shift my system, step by step. I am doing the work and I sleep well as a result”. If it does not go great, just remind yourself that you are working on it and step by step shifting old patterns. Have compassion for the work you are doing and know that each night you give it effort you help make those changes possible.
If you are like me – you like breakfast. And you like it to be full of protein, fat, and nutrients to start your day off well. Here’s an easy breakfast salad that will fill you up and and get you through your morning with lots of energy.
I am not a great cook, I’m good when I want to be, but honestly my mind is usually somewhere else and following recipes is really, really hard for me. Any distraction – 3 kids, the dog, a friend, a flower – and boom, we are having “blackened” food again … usually without the Cajan part. So I started making my food simple. Really simple. I wanted healthy and easy.
Share the Knowledge: “Maintaining a healthy weight has always been touted as an issue of calories in and calories out. But it’s clear that 100 calories of candy is not the same as 100 calories of vegetables; it’s just not that simple. One of the many ways mindfulness can help our relationship to food is through conscious and empowered decision making”. – Dr Mark Hyman
I eat eggs everyday. I have most of my life. If you are like me, you don’t like to get bored and I’ve lived long enough to need some extra creativity when eating eggs for breakfast daily.
Rip up some kale, enough to fill your plate or bowl.
Fry 2 eggs in the fat of your choice – I like real butter or bacon grease. I also like to salt and pepper in the pan – I think it tastes better when they are hot.
Drizzle olive oil on your kale. I also like to salt and pepper my kale.
Place eggs on top.
*Extras: sometimes I like to add sliced tomatoes or avocados on top of my eggs. If I’m in a hurry I scramble the eggs and lop some salsa on top. You can also add a breakfast meat or sunflower seeds for a little crunch.
If you don’t have kale, use whatever greens you have. Sometimes I add cabbage, because I like it the contrast.
Let’s talk about sleep. According to the CDC one third of the US population struggles to get enough sleep. take medication to get and stay asleep. Our work, technology, and movement needs have changed throughout the years. As a result more of us have trouble falling and staying asleep. A good number of us turn to sleep aids – pharmaceuticals, alcohol, falling asleep with the TV on, doing more and more so we are “really tired”. However, these aids are often short sighted and do not help us access the deep sleep we really need. Read on to review key areas where you can shift your behavior and take control of your sleep cycle again.
Many people struggle with sleep because they negate its benefits. In our individualistic action oriented culture many people see the value of doing more over taking a break. Thus, they short their sleep in favor of getting one more item graded, one more report done, one more idea mapped out, one more treat made. In the long run this is a recipe for disaster. Your mind keeps racing with ideas as it gets trained to do more and those ideas sometimes become worries. Before we know it we’ve lost precious sleep time to thoughts, fears, and anxieties.
There are some key strategies you can do to end the cycle of not enough sleep, self medication with caffeine all day, and then being too wired to sleep well. Inevitability starting the cycle all over again.
Let’s start with the first and one of the most easy places to intervene: Time. Research shows that for the average adult 7-9 hours of shut-eye is best. That being said there are some exceptions – most of us are not those exceptions. Instead, most of us who get less than 7 hours or more than 9 have adapted to habits. Our bodies are amazing adaptions machines.
This does not mean it’s always adapting to optimal – it adapts to survival. As we shorten the time we sleep we impact the Hypothalamus – Pituitary – Adrenal axis. The body’s stress system. This impacts cortisol levels and fluctuates things like weight gain, inflammation rates, joint problems, pain levels, disease states, immunity, ability to concentrate and be productive, our ability to connect and play well with others, and energy balance needs (creating more carbohydrate cravings) to name a few. Today commit to making changes to get at least 7 up to 9 hours of sleep per night.
Below we will discuss how to do that. As I know some of you are like “WHAAAAT!?!?! How the hell am I supposed to do that?!?!?!”
One of my favorite tools to get and stay asleep, I love this ladie’s voice! Works to get to sleep and when I wake up in the middle of the night and have to get back to sleep. Jen Piercy, Yoga Nidra for Sleep – Powerful Guided meditation to fall asleep fast –
Next let’s talk about diet. What you eat all day matters. When your nutrition is depleted by poor food choices your body can not make the neurotransmitters and hormones it needs to restore itself to optimal health at night. By eating for your bio-individuality you give your system what it needs. Then during the night your body helps itself recover and prepare for your day ahead. In turn this keeps you from reaching for “crutch” foods to maintain your energy balance – sugar, caffeine, alcohol, quick carbohydrate.
These “crutch” foods can be ones that deplete the system, increase stress and inflammation on the body systems, and actually do not provide you with maintained focus and clarity you are really looking for throughout the day. Instead picking dense nutritious foods provides you with the sustainable energy while also giving your body what it needs to prepare for a good night’s sleep. When you choose foods that give you sustainable energy you are creating a positive cycle that supports your system rather than tearing it down. If you need help knowing where to start. See a dietitian or nutritionist to help you find your bio-individually meal plan.
Light and Sound
Now let’s talk about light and sound. Our physical bodies were made to respond to fluctuations in light. As the sun rises so does our cortisol helping us wake up. As the moon rises so does our melatonin helping us prepare for sleep. This system is often disrupted by things like electricity, sounds, and screens. Many of us keep our home lights on full force during the evening to help us preform tasks of daily living in today’s society. As we use this technology we have to manage it well. Start lowering your lights, shut off bright ones, close curtains, lower music, TV, other sounds. This allows us to work with the natural systems rather than fight against them leading to that “2nd wind” many of us have experienced.
In addition, screens are tough on sleep. They emit a blue light that signals cortisol and “wake up” like morning light. Plus the pixels move even when they look steady to our eyes. This keeps our brains awake and paying attention. Start turning screens off about an hour before your bed time, keep them out of your bedroom, and use a blue light filter if you do need to look at them prior to bed. This time frame gives you space to build a solid bedtime routine, which prepares your body and your mind to rest.
Finally let’s talk about the body. Our bodies ere made to move. Allowing them this pleasure helps them metabolize stress chemicals, focus the brain, and just plain get tired. This prepares us for sleep. Most of us do well to do harder workouts at least 2 hours before bed time and a simple easy stretching routine 10-15 min right before bed. This helps slow the mind by lowering the breath rate, signaling the heart rate to slow, and the brain to signal time to relax to the rest of our systems. Things like a warm bath, shower, tea, cozy clothing, weighted blankets, relaxing smells, all help us get into the physical system and shift it toward sleep. Plan to spend the hour before bed winding down with these activities helping yourself crawl into bed ready to rest.
Developing a New Sleep Hygiene Routine
Routines take time to develop. Here are some ways you can build your sleep routine to help you get to sleep, stay asleep, and wake up refreshed and ready for your day – no matter what’s on your agenda or when the coffee’s coming.
Complete all strenuous physical activity 2 hours before bed.
Have a list where you can place all items you are thinking about right now. Shift your focus to getting ready for bed and being done with today. Anything on this list will be addressed tomorrow morning, so you can rest assured knowing you will take care of it. Place the list by your bed to capture any ideas, thoughts, worries that wake you up in the middle of the night, remind yourself you will deal with the list in the morning.
Begin shutting down lights, closing curtains, decreasing sounds, and light 1 hour before bed
Turn off screens. Shut off the TV in favor of paper reading items, turn off your facebook, instagram, and email. If you must look at screens, turn on your night filter to eliminate blue light.
Spray your pillow, bed sheets, room etc with a relaxing scent like lavender or chamomile.
Brew yourself a sleepy time tea, settle in with blankets and soft clothing to enjoy it.
Take a warm bath, shower, or wash your face, hands, feet with warm water to signal the brain to begin slowing down. It helps if you use essential oil to help your brain really relax.
15 min before bed time, do a simple stretching routine. It could be moon salutations from yoga, or easy movements that feel good to your body, stretching all the ones you used today. As you stretch focus on the physical sensations of letting go and resting. Use props, blankets, pillows, your bed, etc. to help your body release any tension and really let go without worry.
Walk through the house, prepare to end the day – lock doors, straighten papers, shoes, etc so you can rest well. Nothing big here, just gentle reminders that you are done for today and ready to rest. Tomorrow you can finish the dishes or wipe the floor under the wet shoes. Crawl into bed, set your alarm, and turn off any soft lighting still on.
If needed use a guided sleep meditation or soft music to help you adjust and drift off to sleep. These can be helpful if you wake up in the middle of the night, too.
If you do wake up – do not panic. Just note, I am awake right now. Write any racing thoughts, ideas, worries, on your list, remembering to remind yourself you will deal with this tomorrow and by sleeping now you are better prepared to solve those problems. Use scents, mediations, etc as needed. If you do have to get up – say to pee – keep lights low or off and move slowly. Do not even open your eyes if you do not need to. Again reminding yourself it is time to sleep now.
In the event you cannot fall back to sleep. Get up and move to another room – keep lights low/off and movements slow. Curl up and get cozy. If you have to read use paper materials and low lighting. Maybe fix a sleep tea to help your system calm. The more you worry about being awake the worse it gets as anxiety sets in and you struggle to rest. Need more ideas here’s another article with 10 ideas for getting and staying asleep.
Self Compassion with Sleep Changes
In the end … Remember it takes time to build a new routine. If you have created habits around not sleeping or getting up throughout the night it takes some time for the body to shift. About 21-30 days. By practicing your new routines without judgment toward yourself you are setting yourself up for success. Many times, just shifting how you view your routine can be helpful. Move away from negative talk and toward what is working. Start by:
Shifting your sleep time by 15 min per week toward your ultimate goal.
If the list above is overwhelming, take on one change a week
If you wake up – DO NOT panic. Just go with the flow and remind yourself you are working in a positive direction. Be gentle with yourself and your environment.
If you find too much light (if you can see your hand move in front of your eyes with them closed after lights out) or too much noise, help yourself out and get a sleep mask, ear plugs, and/or a white noise machine.
Limit all distractions – pets in your bed, kids in your bed, partners. Sometimes a good pillow or separate blankets between ya’ll is enough.
An often overlooked piece of our health is spirituality. Spirituality is so important to our health. We all crave purpose and meaning. Spirituality is a tool to help us access the values we want to manifest in our lives. It is a way to live into the values we hold dear.
Although religion can fit within spirituality, religion itself is not spirituality. Spirituality is broader, where religion often has sets of rules or rituals related to the particular dogma/denomination one adheres to.
According to a quick google search spirituality is “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things”.
One is not necessarily better than the other, especially if it gets us to our goal of being more connected to something larger than ourselves.
When we access the great power of looking beyond ourselves we come into service of each other. This connection lifts us. From a human development point of view it helps us build our brains. We have these things called mirror neurons in our brains. When I see you do something I to go through a process of “doing” that thing. So when you smile at me, you get a hit of dopamine and so do I. By sharing these moments we connect to the larger system outside of ourselves and get a better understanding of the huge circle of life we all live within.
Many people like to use prayer or mantras to help them access the deeper connection we all share. Finding a statement, habit, ritual, or perception that gives us a spiritual focus can be a way to help us live into our desire for purpose and meaning.
Today, try this prayer, it is one of my favorites and often reminds me to consider my role in relationships to others, myself, and the world at large.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”
To plan your workouts think about doing something focused 3-6 times a week and taking 1-3 days of what’s called active rest (clean house, walk the golf course, go for a hike, take the dog for a long walk, do squats throughout the day – link it to every time you go to the bathroom for example.
This movement is important for recovery and allows your body to do something active for fun, wellness, blood flow to the sore spots from your focused workout, etc. This keeps the body oriented toward energy flow and movement.
Making sure to get a weekend workout in is a great way to make sure your active rest days are not consecutive. Consecutive days off can make it harder to return to your focused workouts on Monday.
Make sure to warm up. Spend 5-10minutes doing easy movement, stretching, and allow the muscles you are going to work to “wake up”. Work to include all the big joints and major muscle groups. It’s a great time to get your music right, your shoes tightened or loosened, or make sure you hair is out of your way. By fixing these things now, you are more likely to stay focused on the work.
When you complete the round, give yourself a pat on the back, a fist pump, something that celebrates your accomplishment. This is a big deal for helping habits stick, and helps you be realistic about all the hard work you are doing.
10’s For Strength
Do 10 reps of each exercise below. Make sure you have good form before you make any movement harder. Form before function or you won’t have function (you’ll hurt yourself instead).
Elbows Wide Push ups
Elbow-In Low Row (to make weighted use dumbbell, bands, canned goods, full/semi full milk jug, your kid – be creative & make sure it feels good to lift, some items do not)
Forward lunges. (if you have problems keeping your knee over your ankle here, do another set of backward lunges)
Elbow-Out High Row (see above for weight)
Narrow Squats (put a block, small ball, or towel between your inner thighs for this one to help focus on those muscle groups)
Supine Overhead Lat Row (lay on your back on the floor or a bench, feet flat on the floor, knees bent, with 1 weighted item in hands. Move that item from chest level over your head and return pulling down toward the stomach area. Do not move lower than the floor/top of the head, and keep the arms straight throughout the movement. If low back lifts shorten the range of the movement. And make sure you do not drop the weight on yourself)
Elbows in Push Ups
Single Leg Squats – 10 to each side
Shoulder Lateral Raises
Tricep Overhead Press
YOU DID IT!! Now that you have finished the “work” portion, it is time for flexibility training. Spend some time stretching all the muscles you worked – in this workout, it’s full body so give all your major muscles a good stretch. Then grab a good post workout snack. Together these get your muscles ready for tomorrow’s movement and make sure you are ready to meet your goals.
Words of Caution …
Please make sure to follow your body. Do not push through pain. Discomfort/Challenge are different than pain. We want to challenge ourselves we do not want to hurt ourselves. Find the level that is right for you and move at that level. Make sure to choose weight and stances that support your body style – if you have to use the wall to do your push ups do that, if you need a chair or a bench use those. Make sure you are doing what you need to do for your body type and current personal level of fitness.
Want your life to be different? then you have to do the work of making small shifts in your daily habits to form new routines that get you where you want to go.
Now that Friday is almost done, how did your 1st week of the new year go? Many of us want to accomplish so much, but forget to take time to review what we’ve done to see how we got where we are.
Not to blame, shame, or feel bad, but to take a true honest inventory of ourselves – thoughts, behaviors, interactions/connections, and projects we’ve worked through – so we can better prepare for next week.
Tonight take a moment to review and rate yourself how’d you do last week? Did you meet your goals? Where could you do better, where did you soar?
Jot down some notes about what worked and what didn’t so you know what to improve on for next week.
Change happens in small increments, small 10% increments. When we take the time to review and make the corrections necessary to remain focused on our goals we increase our chances of success. It also helps us shift our lifestyle and find the joy in the experience of change rather than stay stuck and overwhelmed by the doing of it.
Tonight, take a moment to examine your last 7 days, make note of at least 1 thing you did well and 1 thing you want to shift. Then determine a small shift you can make in the direction you want to go. Remember, all you have to focus on is doing the action that makes the most sense in this moment, it doesn’t have to be anything big or bold, just 1 small step in the direction you want to go.
Feel like you struggle to regulate yourself? Can’t seem to find a way to calm down when things are tough. Just Breathe … and here’s why.
Take 5 long breaths in and slow your exhale. Begin your count on the exhale and it will automatically slow your inhale. This equals about 30 seconds of deep breathing, which engages the relaxation response through your endocrine system. This response counteracts the stress response and they cannot exist at the same time.
Your breath controls your mind. It does this by impacting your heart rate, known as heart rate variability. As you breathe you are changing and shifting your nervous system between parasympathetic (rest/digest) and sympathetic (fight/flight) all day long. By taking control of your breath, you take control of your heart rate, when you do this your brain gets the signal that things are ok.
This builds self confidence by allowing you choices in each moment. Over time you learn that you have skills to figure things out, even when you do not like any of the choices in front of you.
Choices allow you to respond rather than react, thus you are more regulated in every interaction throughout your day, doing just what is needed in each moment. No more, no less.
I am not a great cook, I’m good when I want to be, but honestly my mind is usually somewhere else and following recipes is really, really hard for me. Any distraction – 3 kids, the dog, a friend, a flower – and boom, we are having “blackened” food again … usually without the Cajan part.
So I started making my food simple. Really simple. I wanted healthy and easy.
Here’s a great side dish or lunch idea. It can make a great meal on it’s own, a dish to share at the local potluck, or a side to some great grilled items, a soup, or smoked turkey.
Tomato Cucumber Salad: 1. Get some tomatoes. The fresher the better (may need to check out the local natural food store this time of year). 2. Get some cucumbers. The fresher the better (same as above). 3. Get some onion. I like the white or yellow kinds in this dish. 4. Cut all those up in bite sized chunks. I like to keep all the tomato juice and seeds in. If you don’t, don’t. 5. Find some really good ranch dressing. I haven’t gotten to the point where I make this from scratch yet. I use full fat and organic. I like the Newman’s Own brand. I just look for small list of ingredients on the back and low to no sugar. Put a little in the bowl. Start with a small dollop. You can always add more. 6. Salt and pepper if you like. I usually add cracked black pepper, but salt depends on the dressing. 7. Mix it all up and taste. If you feel like you need to add more of anything, do.
Word of caution – If you are going to put in the fridge to blend the flavors, you need less dressing and salt/pepper than you think. Even when I make and eat, I need less salt and dressing than I think.