What I’ve learned in the past 4 weeks and what you can do now to have both!
“Sleep can be the cause and the symptom of poor mental health such as depression & anxiety”
1. Sleep affects your emotional health, mood as well as your ability to manage stress (make sleep a priority and an (sp)ritual)
2. Your state of mind and mindset impacts your ability to see challenges (like mental health) as opportunities to grow (make a growth mindset your new baseline)
May has been a very long month, hasn’t it? It is the month of Mental Health Awareness and have I been made fully aware of it! It wasn’t the final season of Game of Thrones or the powerful & rare Full ‘Blue’ Moon we had or even the highly emotional family drama in the past 4 weeks since my last ‘GoodNews’ blog.
It was all of it and more! I’d like to share with you something I’ve learned about sleep & mental health through my own recent experiences that I know can help you. You can say I’ve been away on a retreat, a mental health retreat going really dark and deep and here’s what I’ve learned.
We’ve all seen how mental health has impacted all of us from the news of school shootings in America to the rise in teenage suicides and even leadership (we won’t go there)! It’s still a subject that most aren’t comfortable talking about or admitting because we think of it as a sign of weakness when in fact it’s a sign of strength to ask for help.
If we truly are a society of wanting to ‘be the best we can’, we really need to address ALL aspects of our wellbeing, especially our mental health as well as our sleep, the most neglected aspect.
Don’t believe me? People who suffer from insomnia (about 30-45% of the adult population) are at a higher risk of depression. 300 million people globally have depression, according to the World Health Organization, which translates to 16.2 million adults in the United States.
“Without enough sleep, we all become tall, (sometimes dark and dangerous) two-year-olds.” adapted from JoJo Jensen
SLEEP & MOOD
I work with the concept of the 5 seasons (from Traditional Chinese Medicine) and Spring can have intense new energies! Spring is associated with the liver and the emotion of anger.
Neuroscience tells us that sleep regulates the emotions and your mood. A lack of proper sleep will impact your brain where your emotions are regulated.
It also impacts your ability to learn, concentrate & receive new information so if you’re not getting enough sleep, you won’t be able to manage your higher executive functions such as reasoning, decision making, attention and much more! Here’s what you can do to change that now.
1. When it comes to your physical and mental health, make sleep your highest priority, followed by regular exercise and then your food (more on mind and spirit later). Make it a ritual or what I call an (sp)ritual and make it non-negotiable to get your 7-9 hrs of sleep. We’ll work on the quality of that sleep once you get there.
2. I know it’s difficult for most but try to take things easy and find a balance between your active life and rest and sleep. Take a 20 min walk outdoors every day or do other gentle exercises to relax your mind, body, and spirit. This can make sleep a little easier to achieve. You wouldn’t use your iPhone without recharging it, would you?
3. Now, this is almost impossible for many but if you love a challenge, avoid alcohol or keep it to one (2-3 hours before bed) because the Liver is responsible for metabolizing alcohol, drinking in moderation can go a long way towards preserving your Liver’s energy, giving it a break and getting better sleep.
“You try something, it doesn’t work, and maybe people even criticize you. In a fixed mindset, you say, ‘I tried this, it’s over.’ In a growth mindset, you look for what you’ve learned.”Carol S. Dweck
Why is a growth mindset part of this conversation with mental health & sleep? I’m learning more & more that your mindset or what I had previously called a MindUnset, determines how you face any challenge.
If we don’t learn something from it and change something then what happens when you experience that challenge again? It can be a mad, endless cycle.
Here’s a piece of my own personal story having to do with the challenge of caregiving. It’s difficult enough caring for others but when you add negativity, a ‘fixed’ mindset and abusive, unkind words from the people you’re caring for, what can you possibly learn from that?
Complicate that with words from my father of suicide and a loaded gun in the house (I’ve since removed the bullets), alcoholism, narcissism and my physical abuse growing up in my household, it’s enough to drive anyone insane. What did I learn and how can it help you?
1. The Art of allowing is usually something referred to the ‘Law of Attraction’, something many people have heard of and understand but I’m applying it differently. I’m learning to perfect it as a way of deflecting the triggers that begin a negative spiral and opening up space for transformation if it’s meant to happen. It means for me, that I accept (to a degree) some behaviours from people without me being affected by it. It means I allow people to act and be a certain way without being a doormat. I don’t approve of their behaviour but I allow it because I can’t change people. My purpose is not to change my parents (or others) but to learn how to be more compassionate without judgement and care for them. Not an easy task if you can relate!
2. Self-care is especially important for all caregivers and is the most important takeaway I’m learning from my ‘mental health retreat’. Talk about depression, anxiety and very little sleep! Check out what I learned about caregivers in a Stanford University study. You’ll be shocked and hopefully, you’ll make a change and do something for yourself. You can’t help others if you’re depleted. I couldn’t write this blog the last weeks, move forward with my goals and I started to doubt my purpose being here. I own it and now I’m back to serve you.
3. Gratitude is another incredibly powerful practice that not only supports your mental health and happiness, but it can also help you sleep better knowing that you have a choice in how you choose to feel. I want to thank the people (too many to mention all) who have helped support me through this difficult time especially Lydia, Annie, Vicki, Pamela, the staff at Puget Sound Home Health and most of all my wife, Adriana. I am grateful.
If you’ve had a Mental Health challenge lately, let’s chat. I’m here for you and I want you to start with this: