Last night I got into bed around 8pm, certain that I’d get at least nine hours sleep and hopefully kick this cold. Instead, I tossed and turned and scrolled through Instagram until the wee hours of the morning. So what? Sleep is soooooooo important! Especially when you’re feeling under the weather. Especially when you struggle with mental illness. Especially when you work with children.
[Disclaimer: This entry is going to be full of links and quotes. More of my thoughts later!]
Let’s talk some more about self-care. Honestly, I’ll probably write on this pretty frequently because I constantly need reminding; it can only help, right? This article (admittedly published back in 2015 but I think still very solid, thorough, well-cited, and easy to digest info.) published on goodtherapy.org suggests that are three critical areas to focus on: physical, mental (including emotional), and spiritual self-care. The physical component includes your usual suspects: healthy diet, exercise, and sleep. I’m going to focus on sleep since it’s the least talked-about and because I’ve failed miserably this week at getting enough rest. Here’s what goodtherapy.org has to say about it:
Finally, sleep—both quality and quantity—is a component of self-care that often gets overlooked, but according to a recent study in the Journal of Neuroscience, lack of sleep may actually cause irreversible damage to brain cells. In the study, researchers examined the brains of mice that were put under similar sleep conditions as late shift workers. They were only allowed to sleep four to five hours each day and after just a few days, scientists discovered significant brain cell loss in a particular area of the brain stem responsible for alertness and staying awake. Sleep is also important for healing damage we do to our bodies each day, weight loss, and maintaining healthy stress and hormone levels. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep each night for adults to remain healthy. To help you get better sleep, they also recommend the following:
- Try to keep the same sleep schedule even on the weekends.
- Try to incorporate a relaxing ritual such as reading a book or a few minutes of meditation before bed.
- Maintain a good exercise routine.
- Make your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bedtime.
If you’re still not convinced you need to sleep seven to nine hours each night, challenge yourself to do so for a week or two and see how you feel after you’ve gotten a period of good, restful sleep. The results will likely encourage you to continue taking care of yourself in this manner.
I think that’s a pretty convincing argument. Here are 3 things I’m going to do for the next 10 days:
– Avoid any caffeinated food/drink after noon
– Get a 30 minute walk (if not something more vigorous) in each day
– Read a book before bed (instead of scrolling through videos of dogs or reading Wikipedia articles)
I think the second leg of this self-care triangle may be the most complicated. What is mental self-care? It’s…everything. Your mental health can be affected by just about everything you experience [or don’t experience]; relationships and interactions, participation in a community, physical activity, exposure to natural light, dietary habits, drug and alcohol consumption, stress, sleep habits, and so on. The good therapy article I mentioned focuses on challenging your brain by reading, doing puzzles, engaging with your creative side and acknowledging your emotions.
Spiritual self-care is a bit abstract, as matters of the “spirit” often are. I’m having some trouble finding a widely agreed-upon definition of the word spirituality which mostly leads me to believe that it is a pretty subjective matter. What does spirituality mean to you? For me, spirituality is rooted in mindfulness. Mindfulness is judgement-free presence of mind and awareness. The Self-Care Wheel above outlines five aspects of self-care and ways to engage in them. I believe they are all inextricably connected and codependent.
I could go on and on [and trust that I will] but for now, I need to go take care of my physical health! Feeling lethargic and scatter-brained so I’m off to take my own advice and have a warm breakfast and clean up my apartment.