It all starts with sleep. How you finish your day determines how you start your day. A good night’s sleep is the cornerstone of healthy habits and healthy habits are the foundation of self-care.
No matter what your objectives are, it is difficult to implement new routines when we are tired. I have discovered through trial and error that having an evening routine helps me get for sleep. My routine begins much earlier in the day.
Evening Sleep Routine:
- Avoid caffeine after 12pm
- 1 hour before bed if I still feel awake, I drink a relaxing cup of herbal tea
- Preview the coming day – make list of appointments, organize items needed, plan wardrobe
- 30 minutes before sleep put away all electronics
- Hygiene and ready for bed
- Contemplative reading of a physical book or meditation
At a sleep seminar I attended, the professor encouraged us to not drink coffee after 12, because it’s half life was 5.7 hours. Caffeine interferes with our sleep cycles and prevent us from entering deep restorative sleep.
It has been shown a a drop in body temperature happens before sleep, so if you still feel awake a cup of herbal tea make help. Use this time to preview your upcoming day, so that your sleep will not be disturbed by thoughts of things you may forget.
I avoid external stimulation at least 30 minutes before bed, such as tv, exercise, or a book I can’t put down (reading is one of by obsessions) because when I get caught up in a book, game or show, all my good intentions fly out the window. It is much easier to avoid temptation than to interrupt it.
Creating a consistent way of getting ready for bed will send your brain the signal it is time to slow down; include skin care and other hygiene practices.
Once I am in bed I mentally think of what I am grateful for, I may read some contemplative book, one with short entries or meditate for 10 minutes. Then I’m asleep ready to embrace the adventure of a new day.
What steps can you take to improve your sleep and build the cornerstone of your healthy habits?
I don’t know about you but I am always surprised by how difficult I find it to maintain my self-care routine. I know how much better I feel when I do 30 minutes of cardio or 30 minutes of mobility exercise (which is stretching/strength training in motion), and mindfulness practice every day, yet one little bump in my plan and my routine crumbles.
It’s disheartening when my routine crumbles. My self-talk turns nasty and I know I have let myself down. Often breaking my wellness routine leads to a cascade of poor choices. I didn’t walk, so it doesn’t matter if I have pizza, or sit and binge watch “Lost in Space”. Keeping commitments to myself is the foundation of self-care.
I’ve been listening to a book by William Ury called, The Power of the Positive No, which says that for many of us, our biggest challenge is to say NO to the things which take us away from our YES. I understand this idea. If I am deeply committed to my YES of self-care, including good food, lots of movement, and meditation, then it is easier to say NO to the behaviors that interfere with these intentions.
Today I am spending some time journalling, visualizing, and exploring all of the underlying benefits of my self-care YES. I will condense my new knowing into a short statement or symbol which I will use to remind me of why my YES to self-care is so important, and then study it before bed, upon waking, and a few times during the day. I will add at least one gratitude to my end of day practice about self-care to acknowledge that I treated myself well today.
How will you add self-care to your day?
Featured photo Courtesy of ABMP
Whether professionally as a therapist/counselor or personally as one among many taking life one day at a time, the issue of health, particularly mental health, is often front and center, or at least a persistent, just below the surface, consideration. Unfortunately we often look at health, even mental health, through only one lens, with the physical or social or emotional taking center-stage. This myopic vision directs intervention through the question of “What is wrong?” and isolates a part from the whole. As if a life that encompasses so many varying relational connections to people, events and things can be seen as simply having a piece of bad code.
Looking at mental health from within the perspective of Wellness is one way to expand the vision of professional service and promote a broader understanding in the dialogue of everyday life. Many models of wellness have been offered, from the “Six Dimension Model” for Hettler, to the “Wellness Continuum” from Ryan and Travis and “The Indivisible Self” of Myers and Sweeney.
“A synthesis of the models defines wellness as a state of the totality of a person’s life as mind, body, and spirit interacting with environmental contexts. Throughout life, an individual moves along a continuum from illness to wellness through personal choices and action” (Hollingsworth, 2015).
Within this tripartite view of humanity, there are several common facets focused on, including “social, occupational (which could be considered school work for children), spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional” (Hollingsworth, 2015). Note the multiplicity of related factors, where a person is mind AND body, social AND individual, logical AND emotional. Within this paradigm a person’s wellness or mental health is a composite, not the conclusion of a simple journey from A to B.
Wellness is worked at from within a strengths-based approach, which becomes clear when considering the above related factors. A consideration of health from a single issue lends itself to seeing lack or weakness and the promotion of shame, doubt and/or judgment. This is due to at any given moment of our lives, one or more aspects of our lives being less than a projected ideal.
Wellness is strengths-based precisely because it is just as easy to note where one is doing well and/or capable of finding benefit in an area of their life. A person having difficulty with a particular idea may have great social connections; someone working through emotional difficulty may have a spiritual practice that is helpful or where social difficulties are easy to see, their physical activity is high. The key is no single facet of a person’s life is enough to condemn them or cast them aside as incapable of growth and development.
The article from Hollingsworth being looked at here contains a study focused on assessing the needs of college students, in order to ascertain where a wellness paradigm promotes self-awareness and skill-building.
“The current study included a survey of graduate students and faculty on perceived needs for which students could receive support through the university counseling center. Of 746 student respondents, 45% indicated financial issues to be a concern and 34.9% noted a concern with time management. Student comments included the observation that almost all graduate students had full-time jobs in addition to school, and some shared feelings of frustration with trying to maintain balance between family and class. Of 64 faculty responses, 91.9% indicated that students needed help developing effective time management strategies and organizational skills.”
A view from within wellness helps us move beyond the identification of problems to an appreciation for a person as a whole. Note that the graduate students are also dealing with full-time jobs and further, that they’re asking for help, not merely identifying a difficulty. In the study here, those who engaged in self-assessments and skill-building felt more competent at the end of the course. These improvements occurred precisely because time-management was not taken as an outlier, but bound within wellness relationships. Helping students identify their strengths within the social, emotional and intellectual parts of their lives, contributed to developing further the management quality needed to find balance in their lives.
A strengths-based wellness paradigm is not simply a pursuit of positivity. It doesn’t ignore the difficulties of a person’s life, rather the focus shifts from isolation to one of relational wholeness, where one or more aspects of a person’s life can and likely already does support and help other parts grow. Finding how each relates is about the expansion of one’s vision, where potential behavior that otherwise was kept in the dark, can now be brought into the light.
© David Teachout
Frankfurt, Harry G. (2006-10-31). On Truth (pp. 58-59). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Hollingsworth, Mary Ann. (2015). Wellness: Paradigm for Training and Practice. Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2015. American Counseling Association.