Adjusting Your Nighttime Routine: Tips for Better Sleep and Good Mental Health
For those people who struggle to get a good night’s sleep, have you considered that you might be your own worst enemy? There are some definite do’s and don’ts to observe, which include important measures that have a direct effect on your ability to sleep and maintain good mental health. Consistent, restorative sleep is closely tied to mental health when you’re tired, your mood suffers, you’re impatient, and you have trouble concentrating. Consequently, your sense of well-being is compromised, and symptoms of depression and anxiety may occur as a result.
What’s more, sleep is especially important for people recovering from drug or alcohol abuse. Sleep has a powerful healing effect on the body and mind, bolstering the immune system and strengthening your metabolism. It also improves your mental outlook, an important factor in recovering from the ravages of addiction.
Consider the following points if a lack of sleep is affecting your mental condition and ability to function on a daily basis.
Observe a Sleep Schedule
Many of us get to bed only when our daily responsibilities have been completed and, as such, fail to get the necessary seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Your body functions best when you follow a regular schedule, and going to bed at the same time and waking up every morning at the same time is the best way to recalibrate your internal clock. Also, stick with your sleep schedule through the weekend and on holidays so as not to disrupt your sleep schedule. Eventually, your body will fall into line and let you know when it’s time for bed.
You can’t expect to climb into bed and fall asleep straight away if you’re experiencing sleep deprivation and insomnia. It’s important to spend an hour or two winding down, so prepare yourself to sleep by observing relaxing habits such as reading a book, taking a hot bath, or engaging in meditation. These activities can calm your thoughts and slow your heart rate, both of which are necessary for you to feel sleepy.
Insomnia can be a serious problem, leading to both mental and physical complications. If it persists, it might be time to take a close look at your sleep environment. People often make the mistake of leaving a TV or computer screen on at night or keeping a smartphone on the nightstand. These are disruptions that can prevent sleep. What’s needed is a dark and quiet environment, so consider installing blackout shades and using a white noise app or machine to mask any disruptive external sound. Pay close attention to the comfort of your bed, rough sheets, and heavy blankets may drive up your body temperature, making it hard to get to sleep.
Don’t Force It
As a kid, do you remember being told by a parent just to lie in bed until you got tired? It’s a convenient piece of parental advice, but it doesn’t work when you’re an adult with a sleep problem. Whether you’re tossing and turning or just lying in bed thinking about next week’s big client presentation or an argument you had with your spouse, you’re only making the situation worse. Instead, get up and sit quietly in a darkened room, or do some light reading until your eyelids start to get heavy.
Limit Food and Drink at Night
Ingesting caffeine at night is a bad idea if you suffer from insomnia, as is eating a meal too close to bedtime. Your metabolism has to work to process the food, and you won’t feel like sleeping. Some people like to have a few drinks before bed, thinking it’ll help them wind down after a busy day. Unfortunately, alcohol undermines the healing, rejuvenating REM sleep you need to feel good and stay healthy.
Think through your sleep habits if you’re having difficulty at night. You might find that a simple adjustment will make a big difference. A consistent nighttime routine, a restful sleep space, and a little willpower in the evening can restore your mental well-being and leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated during the day.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 Relaxing Breath
We live in anxious, chaotic times. Watch 10 minutes of any news channel or spend time on any social media app and notice your blood pressure rise. We pride ourselves on our abilities to multi-task. You’ve seen them (or this may be us), during rush hour, driving, talking/texting, putting on make-up (or dry shaving), and eating breakfast, all the while trying to navigate successfully to our destinations. Mindfulness is a call for us to slow down and focus on one thing, one event, one activity at a time…purposeful breathing is at the foundation.
Breathing you may ask, Don’t we know how to breathe? Clearly, it is automatic in the sense that we don’t even have to think about it. The medulla oblongata is the part of the hindbrain that detects levels of CO2 and O2 in the bloodstream and automatically determines if any changes are needed, sending nerve impulses to the heart and diaphragm to either increase or decrease activity. However, the breathing I am talking about in this blog is deliberate and intentional, to produce physiological calmness, emotional well-being, and mental clarity.
Dr. Weil offers us his 4-7-8 breathing rhythm, the relaxing breath. On his YouTube video, he explains that breathing in this manner over time can produce wonderfully pleasant states of consciousness and is one of the best ways to control anxiety and emotional reactivity (especially if you have been triggered in some manner).
To begin, hold your tongue in the Yogi position (behind front teeth, where teeth meet the gumline) exhale for a count of 8, inhale (through your nose) for the count of 4, hold this breath for a count of 7, and exhale completely for a count of 8. Do 3 more breath cycles to complete the circuit and notice any changes. Keeping the ratio is important, of note, the exhale is twice as long as the inhale and holding the breath for 7 facilitates a drop in blood pressure. Practice this throughout the day (bare minimum is twice a day), especially when you notice yourself getting upset, irritated, or otherwise emotionally reactive. Choosing to breathe in this rhythm instead of emotionally reacting allows a gap between irritant and reaction; thus, thoughtfully responding and in control of your words and actions (not emotionally reacting).
The applications for using this skill are numerous: someone cuts you off in traffic (breathe); your child speaks to you in a perceived disrespectful tone (breathe); you are in the check-out line at the store and there is no movement and your ice cream is melting (breathe); you are next in the queue to be interviewed (breathe); you are sitting down to take a test (breathe); you are getting ready to take a free-throw to win your basketball game (breathe); you get the idea. For as many anxious moments we face throughout the days, months, and years of our lives, use this breathing rhythm to calm your body and your mind and be deliberate in your words and actions. Relationships can flourish when we take the time and make the effort to regain emotional control once triggered. Practice Dr. Weil’s breathing rhythm at every opportunity…you will benefit greatly.
4 Ways to Help Encourage Your Children to Attend School
School refusal is becoming and evermore common concern for parents of children and teens. School anxiety effects 25% of school aged children, with 2-5% refusing to attend school altogether. With its short- and long-term consequences being particularly concerning, parents often feel unsure about how to address the problem.
For our purposes, school refusal should be considered separate from general truancy, due to the presence of emotional distress (specifically around attending school) and an absence of antisocial behaviors. School refusal is a psychosocial problem, meaning it can be considered the result of both psychological and environmental issues. This may manifest as complaints of physical symptoms shortly before it is time to leave for school or asking to the nurse, but once allowed to stay home, the symptoms quickly disappear. Common physical symptoms include headaches, stomachaches, nausea, or diarrhea with behavioral symptoms manifesting in tantrums, inflexibility, separation anxiety, avoidance, or defiance.
The emotional distress that is frequently associated with school refusal often manifests as fear or anxiety, with about 50% considered to have anxiety disorders. However, while it is often characterized as anxiety driven avoidance of school and school-based activities, there seems to be no absolute-uniformity in the development of these behaviors. Depression has also been shown to be associated with poor school attendance. And although mood-related issues are often centered around school or school related activities, that is not always necessarily the case. For example, the presence of depression often manifests in symptoms that may result in poor attendance yet not be directly related to school, such as general lethargy and/or loss of interest.
The question then becomes, what can be done to help combat school refusal problems? Most of the research done on school refusal interventions has centered around Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), behavioral interventions, and psychopharmacological interventions. A 2016 study that examined the effects of combined intervention of CBT and fluoxetine (Prozac) showed significant improvement in school attendance and mood concerns; with the improvements showing stability at 6 and 12 months. Behavioral interventions often draw upon principles of operant conditioning, focusing on how school refusal has become reinforced; either positively or negatively. Graded or In Vivo exposure both have a long history of use in anxiety management and can be implemented to help re-acclimate the child to being in school. Parents can also help support consistent attendance by emphasizing the positive aspects of school, helping to develop a support system within the school, meet regularly with teachers/counselors, encourage distractions such as hobbies and interests, and talking with your child about their feelings/fears about school.
4 Ways to Help Encourage Your Children to Attend School
Although it can be scary and troubling when your son or daughter starts refusing to go to school, it’s important to remember there are things you can do to help.
- Don’t panic! It’s tempting to interpret refusal as disrespect, rather fear or distress. Keep your cool.
- Intervene early, as it will improve outcomes.
- Utilize outside support; spouse, teachers, counselors, therapists, etc. You don’t have to do it on your own.
- Be supportive.
For more information about helping your child or teen manage their anxiety reach out to Armstrong Family Counseling, (913) 204.0582 or at ArmstrongFamilyCounseling.com
Positive Thinking & Gratitude
Take a moment to reflect on this morning. What was your first thought when you awoke? If you are like many people, it was, I did not get enough sleep last night. It is also likely that your last thought as you prepare to go to sleep each night is, I did not accomplish enough today. If you are frequently beginning and ending most days with these not enough thoughts, you might have difficulty engaging in positive thinking throughout each day. Your thoughts about all the things in your life that are not enough may lead to feeling that you are not enough.
Our culture is filled with messages that feed this not enough mindset. There are expectations that in order to be enough, you have to be the best, work the hardest, and achieve the most. This idea that the ordinary is not enough cultivates dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
Replacing your not enough thinking with positive thinking will improve your satisfaction and feelings of happiness. This process starts with a shift in perspective.
Circumstances have a lot less control over your emotions than you might realize. Your emotions, including feelings of happiness, are closely connected to your thoughts. Positive thinking leads to positive emotions. A key to increasing positive thinking about yourself and your experiences is gratitude.
I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude. Bren Brown
Gratitude is more than saying, thank you, to a stranger for holding the door open. Gratitude is a state of being a lifestyle. Living in a state of gratitude means recognizing that you do have control of your thoughts and choosing to trade in your, not enough thinking, for enough thinking. Gratitude is choosing to say, this is good, because or, I am doing well, because
Mindfully choosing to practice gratitude will increase contentment, reducing not enough thinking which traps people in shame and feelings of inadequacy. Gratitude provides freedom from feelings of shame and inadequacy and allows you to begin thinking positively about yourself and your circumstances.
Can Talking To Someone Help My Anxiety?
There is an old proverb, Confession is good for the soul. But is it really?
It sounds odd but can talking with somebody make you feel better? It can and it does. But why does it work? Why can just something as simple as talking about something that you are worried about, or feel guilty about make you feel better and less stressed?
To understand that question you have to understand how memory storage in our brains work. Doctors as far back as the 1890’s have recognized some memories fade into nothing and some memories resist that fading away. Mostly the memories that won’t fade are ones that are charged with emotions.
Simply, there is a part of us that feels and there is a part of us that thinks. Generally, we want to keep these things in balance. However, in life when we are scared, worried, guilty or sad we feel those emotions strongly. When your feelings are strong it diminishes your capacity to think; especially, your ability to say what you are feeling.
Have you ever seen a parent tell their screaming child to “use your words.” The parent instinctively recognizes that a child has to calm down and talk before they can stop being hysterical. That is because when the part of your brain that feels gets overwhelmed your body will actually shut down parts of itself in order to conserve fuel. When the “fight or flight” part of your mind is triggered, energy is diverted from other parts of your brain-systems in order to give you energy to fight of run. One area that is impacted is your ability to think rationally.
So, let’s say you got in an argument that escalated. Or that you made a mistake at work and are scared you will be fired for it. So, in that moment you are feeling strong emotions instead of thinking. If you do not communicate with anyone about it, after your emotions have calmed down, you will be putting that memory into the bookshelf of your mind with an emotional charge.
So what does an emotionally charged memory do? An emotionally charged memory is one that when you think about that memory you feel that emotion all over again. So you could be lying in your bed after having had a great day but start thinking about something from your past and BAM! Right there in your bed you feel what you felt then. Despite the fact that you just a moment ago felt at peace with the world. That is an emotionally charged memory.
Going back to the initial question, why does talking help you feel better? Because in order to take the charge out of a memory you have add thought to that memory. Remember that you both think and feel. A memory that is all feeling and no thinking will remain a charged memory. But when you talk about the past, especially when you think about what you were feeling and why, it helps add thought to that memory . A memory that has thought and feeling in it a memory that can be put on the bookshelf of your mind and just fade into the thousands of other memories there.
When you talk to someone who influences you to think about why you felt what you felt it can make that emotional charge go away which feels wonderful. This is why the whole practice of counseling even exists. To help people remember their past without feeling what they felt in the past.
Do you feel that you are haunted by your past? Do you feel that there are things in your past that you will never get over? Let’s get together. I can help you move forward. Contact me today!
Defined By My Past
What does it mean to be defined by your past?? The answer lies in the brain. The brain?s primary function is to keep you alive and safe, and that function will override any and all other functions when it perceives that you are in danger.? When I use the word perceive, I mean that over the course of your life, your brain has learned what is dangerous, physically and emotionally, so whenever a situation presents itself, your brain immediately recalls whether any danger has been associated with this type of situation in your past experiences or learning.? If so, your brain will react protectively.
?Learning in the Brain
Your brain learns every time you encounter a dangerous situation.? For example, the first time you were burned with fire, your brain learned that fire was hot, painful, and dangerous.? This programming is deep and long lasting.? For the rest of your life, you will always have some level of fear around being burned by fire.? The same type of learning happens with emotional danger, particularly when shame is involved.? Brain imaging suggests that when a person is overwhelmed with shame, it acts protectively in that same way it would if you were dying.? This suggests that the brain does not distinguish between shame and death.? This further suggests that we learn to defend against anything that the brain perceives as shameful.? This may include performance, looks, perceived competence, social behavior, status, and more.
Trauma is any event or sequence of events, physical or emotional, that has permanently raised the brain?s and body?s awareness and preparedness for danger beyond normal levels.? After a traumatic event, there are often permanent changes.? A person?s heart rate may permanently increase or decrease, they may become hyperaware of any potential danger, have an increased startle response, have unexplained anxiety, have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and perhaps most troubling of all, they may have a difficulty maintaining healthy relationships.? In this way, our past is defined by trauma, holding us back like a ball and chain shackled to our ankle.
Getting your Life Back?
To restore the person you were, or perhaps discover the person you never had the chance to become, the brain needs to learn that you are now safe, and it needs to learn how to lower its defenses when they are not necessary.? The brain will not let its defenses go lightly as its primary function is to keep you alive and safe.? It takes time, and it usually requires professional help.? As the brain?s defenses begin to lighten up, you are freed to find yourself.? This happens naturally since your faculties are no longer bogged down by the need to be constantly on guard.? People who recover from trauma find that they feel new peace and enjoyment in life, greatly improved relationships, and perhaps most of all, they feel that they are no longer defined by their past.
If you feel like you are defined by your past, if you are having trouble moving forward, or if you just need to get a few things off of your chest?please contact our office today. We have a team of experts who are ready and eager to help you move forward.?We will help you recover from your mental trauma.
Can I Have A Life?
Many times,?I have sat with couples?who have told me that they?ve lost their romantic spark. They say that attraction that drew them together is gone. When I ask them to describe their marriage as it currently is, I often find that one of them?or both?lacks personal friends and hobbies.
Having a life outside of your marriage is vital to the health and attractiveness of your marriage. Don?t believe me? Think about this, when you were first dating your spouse, they had a life without you. They had fun, made friends, and spent their time and money without consulting you, yet despite all of that, you still were attracted to them.
How often did you love to hear them talking about one of their cherished memories? Or cheering with them as you watched their favorite sports team together? Remember when they took you to their favorite?and quite personal?spot?
It?s interesting how those same couples who found the other?s strength and independence SO attractive have lost the fire in their relationship. Now the individuals see themselves married to a partner with whom they have shared almost all the same experiences together. They live in the same house, they go to the same shows and restaurants, they attend the same church and hang out with the same people, and then they wonder why the other person seems so dull: familiarity breeds contempt!
Breathing by yourself is okay! Having a life outside your marriage allows you to grow as a person. Spending time with yourself is good for your health. You then take that healthy individual back and share it with your spouse. Then, you get to share new memories and experiences with them that they don?t know about?that makes you attractive. They get to see your skill-sets grow in hobbies from an amateur level to an expert. They get to share your highs and lows; this too makes you more interesting.
Here?s the million-dollar question: what if your spouse doesn?t like your hobby? This can be tricky, but it?s essential to learn to communicate with each other about your interests and the things you don?t like.
What if he doesn?t like to dance?
What if she doesn?t like to play video games?
What if he doesn?t like to drink?
What if she doesn?t like to go to sports games?
It may be beneficial to?seek a counselor?s assistance?to help with communicating with each other.
When it comes to recreation, it is the person who is left out?or at home by choice?that can develop resentment or a poor attitude about ?the hobby.? However, this can often be rectified with improved communication.
Ask yourself, ?why is it an issue that your spouse has a friend/ or a hobby that you can?t participate in?? The answer may involve jealousy?? I don?t get ?me? time, why should you???or it might involve fear/worry??You aren?t spending enough time with the kids or me.? These are valid concerns that are not problems but are opportunities to grow the marriage even stronger.