Let's get this 6-week series started! I am SO excited to do this series because as most of you know, I am extremely passionate about holistic health and how it can be incorporated into our everyday routines to aid us in coping with the ups and downs of mental illness. The great thing about these practices is that you can practice many of them anytime, anywhere and you and practice them as a compliment to medications if you're on them! There is no cookie-cutter recovery and there is not just one book on the subject either. We all have our own paths. What works for me might not work for you and what works for you might not work for me, but we learn by keeping our hearts and our minds open. For the first week, I'm not going to talk about a fancy-shamcy breathing technique for anxiety. I'm going to start at the basics because we ALL forget their importance. I'll be the first to admit that I practically had to tape my eyelids open this morning because I binge-watched Netflix till 2 am last night. Do I regret it? Not really, but I do feel more antsy than I normally do which is never fun. Anxiety throws our entire system off. My appetite, my immune system ( woke up with a sore throat) and my ability to concentrate are totally outta whack today.
So, let's talk about the benefits of sleep first and it's impact on our overall mental health. A lack of sleep wrecks havoc on our brains. When we sleep, our brains and bodies repair themselves. We process information and studies have shown that we're less likely to be able to process new information without adequate sleep. When reading these studies, I immediately thought about all my past clients who consistently needed me to repeat myself and it dawned on me that they all had issues with disrupted sleep at the time. For the most part, I'm a sound sleeper, but I did struggle quite a bit when I was really unwell. Without sleep, we're unable to regulate our emotions and that's already difficult to do when you have a chemical imbalance, am I right? I remember someone telling me all this when I was really sick years ago and I remember thinking to myself "COOL... BUT IS IT GOING TO FIX MY BRAIN?" It's sure going to help! So, what natural things can aid you when you have difficulty sleeping?
- Create structure in your life. This is a HUGE contributing factor that many people do not think of. For me, this looks like waking up and going to sleep at the same time everyday. The intention isn't to be rigid, but you want to hold yourself accountable to doing it more often than not. Even if this is just your routine during the week while you're in school and/or at work, it helps. When our sleep schedules are erratic, it's difficult to tell our brains to go to sleep at a reasonable time when that's not our normal.
- Listening to guided meditations before bed. There are a lot of really great apps you can download on your phone such as Headspace or Calm. One of my personal favorite things to do if I don't listen to a guided meditation is to play sounds of nature on my laptop. This is so grounding to me, especially if my mind is running wild at night. Spotify has a great playlist called "Gentle Rains" that I highly suggest you check out!
- Do some restorative yoga before bed. Let me just start by saying that you do NOT need to be flexible to do any of these poses. You want to do poses that help you transition out of the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system and into the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). These are gentle poses such as forward folds, child's pose and leg's up the wall. Leg's up the wall can even be done while laying in bed if you're near a wall. Just lay on your back and scoot your bum as close to the wall as you can. You can put a micro bend in your knees if you need to and you use pillows or blankets to get comfy. Yes, you can frequently find me in this position around 9:30 pm at night. It looks a little weird, but it's pretty delicious.
Next, let's talk a littttttle bit about nutrients. Since we are a recovery community and many of us have a history of Eating Disorders, I want to stay away from saying too much on this topic. I'm NOT a nutritionist and I've only found what works for me, not for others. The only thing I will say is that nutrition plays a essential role in our overall ability to function. I am only speaking from my experience, but I noticed an immediate difference in my moods and energy levels when I went into recovery. There is an abundance of information out there that shows the relationship between nutrients and our nervous systems. How can we expect to function properly if we are not giving ourselves the appropriate fuel? Just sayin'. Keeping your blood sugar stable helps with mood swings. If ya didn't know, now ya do! If you are still struggling with an Eating Disorder, my heart is with you and I encourage you to seek help. As a recovering anorexic, I can promise you that it's worth it. I worked in ED treatment for years and I know some good resources if you ever need them! Ya'll know that water is included in the topic of nutrients, right? If I'm going to be honest, I don't really like water that much. It's honestly such a daily struggle for me to motivate myself to stay hydrated that my boyfriend calls me a lizard. I add elixirs to my water, but I'll get more into those in upcoming weeks!
The last of the basics that I'm going to cover for week one is exercise. About a year ago, I set an intention to spend more time outdoors because I was going through a really difficult transition in my life and naturally I wanted to isolate. I made myself a deal that I was allowed to be alone as long as I was outside. I bought myself a National Parks pass and started hiking every weekend with my dog. I've always been active, but it was never consistent. You've all heard the speech about exercise triggering endorphins, right? These are the happy hormones that are released when you exercise that act as a natural anti-depressant. Exercise can look like dancing around your living room to an embarrassing playlist, going for a walk, yoga, going to the gym or anything else. Moving your body, getting your circulation flowing and burning off energy (not weight) is essential in anyone's wellbeing whether they are in recovery or not. Having a diagnosis can make doing these things more difficult sometimes, but the day I stopped waiting to wake up feeling motivated to do these things is the day I realized that doing these things regardless of how I feel is what fuels my motivation.
If you don't practice these things consistently, maybe this can serve as a reminder to take better care of yourself because you're amazing and you deserve it. If you already do these things, let this serve as a acknowledgment of your dedication to your well-being. Either way, you are worthy and supported.
The second series will be posted next Monday, May 14th! I will be covering aromatherapy and how I incorporate it into my everyday life. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments you have.