Step 2 in my optimum mental wellness plan is REST and the focus is on quality sleep, self-care and managing stress levels.
It is well reported that poor sleep can precede depression and anxiety. A lack of sleep can scramble your body’s hormone regulation and alter your brain’s function, leading to you feeling a lack of resilience and experiencing alterations in your mood.
In a world full of constant stimulation from phones, tablets, and laptops, bingeing on boxsets and being expected to be constantly ‘available,’ most people don’t get enough sleep. It has become socially desirable to appear ‘busy’ and sleep is frequently regarded as an optional extra. However, not prioritising sleep can lead to many chronic health conditions.
I have always been a lightweight when it comes to burning the candle at both ends, but it took me a long time to realise that when I prioritised my sleep, my mood greatly improved.
Set yourself up for success
Although individual requirements can vary, I always advise 7-9 hours of quality sleep. This means setting your body up for success so it can fall into the natural cycles of sleep to ensure some deep, restorative rest. These last 90 minutes per cycle and are repeated 4-6 times per night and, because many people struggle to ‘switch off,’ you can see how you might be cutting it a little fine if you don’t allow more than 6 hours for sleep!
- Keep to the same waking and rising times – your body really appreciates rhythms and cycles and will find it much easier to sleep (and wake up) if you try where possible to keep things consistent. Unfortunately, you can’t really bank sleep up, so skimping on sleep throughout the week and hoping to catch up at the weekend doesn’t work!
- Establish a bedtime routine – habits and rituals are a great way of signalling to your body that it is nearly time to switch off. Try shutting down laptops, switching off your phone and reading a good book, listening to soothing music or taking a warm, relaxing bath.
- Refrain from eating 2 hours before bedtime – this can really interfere with your blood sugar levels and mean your body is too preoccupied with rebalancing this, making sleep much harder to achieve (and staying asleep can become a challenge too).
- Keep a notebook and pen by your bed – if something is playing on your mind and making you feel anxious write it down to help stop it disturbing your sleep.
Take a look at my blog on STEP 1 NOURISH – because eating well can have a hugely beneficial impact on your ability to achieve quality sleep.
Manage your Stress
It is hard to escape stress in modern life, and a little stress can sometimes be a good thing, but prolonged periods of feeling stressed out and overwhelmed can have negative consequences for your physical and mental health.
Please take it seriously!
Many of my clients don’t realise that they are stressed and underestimate just how physically detrimental stress can be (it sometimes takes a functional test to truly highlight it on paper for them). Aside from chronic health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and obesity, prolonged stress can directly trigger depression by creating persistent inflammation, depleting serotonin, and damaging nervous system cells.
- Practise saying ‘no’ and get to know where your limits are, both professionally and personally. There is absolutely no need for you to justify your answer!
- Learn to anticipate any potential bumps in your day which might cause you to feel stressed and anxious. For instance, are you leaving home without having had enough to eat and drink, or are you setting off too late for work? Little actions can make you feel much more in control.
- Up your magnesium intake – this mineral is known as natures tranquiliser and can be hugely supportive in calming stress and anxiety. You can find good levels of magnesium in dark green, leafy vegetables, nuts, avocadoes, and tofu.
- Create a bullet journal – it can be surprisingly relaxing and help you to become more intentional.
- Step outside – even just short increments at a time can help reduce your stress levels.
It is all too easy to forget to look after yourself, especially if you have others to care for. However, identifying and prioritising what you need is not selfish and will ensure that you are better able to fulfil the needs of others. If you don’t fill your own cup, you won’t have anything to give and soon will feel depleted and your mental health can suffer. Regularly schedule in small moments for yourself into your normal daily routine, just as you would any other appointment.
Don’t think you have time?
Self-care doesn’t have to be all about meditation, yoga and spa visits – just small acts inside your usual routines can give you a sense of achievement and calmness. The most important thing is to make those 5-10 minutes non-negotiable every day.
Here are a few of my 5–10-minute favourites
- 5 minutes – set 3 daily goals, stretch, take your makeup off, change your clothes, drink some water, sit in the sun.
- 10 minutes – declutter your desk, have a warm drink and read a chapter of a book, write 5 things you’re grateful for, change your sheets, sit with your cat or dog, do a guided breathing exercise.
Don’t forget to check out my other blogs on Step 1 NOURISH, Step 3 REBALANCE, and Step 4 RECONNECT and if you’d like to have a chat about how I might be able to help with personalised support for optimum mental health, then book in a free call with me.