To Stay Balanced

Life can be full of ups and downs.  To stay balanced and productive we need to be conscious of our coping strategies and work diligently to establish good self- care. Healthy self-care usually consists of five main components of the mind and body including nutrition, exercise, sleep, and social and intellectual activities.  Of these, good sleep hygiene is one of the most essential in order to function properly.  We all know that when we are getting good rest we feel better. Studies show that people who get enough sleep on a regular basis have a more positive outlook, perform better in their jobs or in school, and report being more satisfied with life in general than those who get inadequate amounts of sleep. Lack of sleep can cause problems with our mood like irritability, poor concentration and sadness which over time can eventually contribute to anxiety, depression, and other medical issues. 

While most of us have good intentions for getting to bed on time, we also are aware of a multitude of obstacles that can come between us and our sleep. Even the smallest changes or events can cause increased worry and stress enough to throw us off kilter.  Taking a deliberate approach to sleep can prevent some major downturns.  When trying to develop healthy sleep habits consider the following:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. While a strict schedule may be difficult to maintain, remember the body prefers routine. Sleeping too much or too little even for one or two days can cause problems that may take several days to recover from.

  • Create a peaceful and comfortable sleep environment. While a good pillow and supportive mattress are critical factors, it can be equally important to reduce unwanted noises and other potential disruptions at bedtime. Sometimes a fan can help to improve the temperature in the room while also drowning out irritating sounds such as traffic or voices from another area of the house.

  • Take some time to transition into sleep. Having a bedtime routine is necessary from a very young age. In addition, introducing a relaxation exercise before you fall asleep can reduce overall stress and help the mind and body to relax which often results in improved quality of sleep.  Basic breathing exercises, reassuring thoughts or mantras, and self-hypnosis often aid in reducing stress in the day or night, but are especially beneficial for problems such as insomnia or wakefulness.  When we awaken at in the middle of the night we often have negative or worrisome thoughts which cause the body to automatically tense. This becomes a negative loop of bad thoughts, increased tension, and more bad thoughts. We can change that negative cycle into a more positive one by inserting and repeating positive thoughts, and by slowing our breathing with longer and deeper breaths.

It is always important to keep in mind that sleep is absolutely necessary for the body and mind to function. Sleep also plays a key role in helping one recover from stress and heal itself.  But also be aware that even if you are not fast asleep—no need to stress yourself more.   Mere relaxation is still beneficial and effective, and is often the one thing missing when slumber itself evades us!

Author: Julie Galat, MA, LLP