While most of us know that not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to our physical health, leading to increased fatigue and putting us at risk of several medical conditions, lack of rest also affects our mental health significantly. This, of course, doesn’t stop many of us from choosing work, entertainment, or other distractions instead of the amount of sleep that we need – more than 1 in 3 Americans report sleeping less than the recommended minimum of 7 hours per night.
So why should we prioritize finding opportunities to sleep longer?
Rest is Crucial to Mental Functioning
Without adequate time to rest via sleep, your mind will be less able to respond to the challenges of daily life, and you may experience mood disruptions.
Much like rest being one of the most common suggestions to accelerate healing after a physical injury, giving your brain time to recover from each successive day can be crucial in providing you the opportunity to subconsciously process issues, feelings, and emotions. Just like it’s important to set boundaries in relationships, it’s also important to set boundaries for your waking hours to ensure you’re able to function and feel as positive and energized as possible.
Beyond the well-documented physical benefits of getting enough sleep, the other main benefit from a mental health perspective is in helping to establish and build healthy habits for yourself.
By establishing a pattern of going to bed and subsequently waking up simultaneously, you build personal discipline and incorporate more predictability into your daily routine – which can help assimilate other healthy self-care habits as time goes on.
Ways to Strategize Your Way to More Rest
Stick to your schedule! While life can be hectic and responsibilities change quickly, do your best to stay consistent day-to-day.
Minimize distractions. Even on low-light output settings, looking at screens such as phones, tablets, or even TVs can make it harder to get to sleep. Try to eliminate or at least reduce your screen time for about an hour before going to bed.
Incorporate calming habits. Practices like meditation or reading a book before bed can be not only suitable substitutes for screen time but can also help you calm down and function as part of your self-care routine along with sleep.
Stress can originate from both external sources as well as internally in the manner in which we process and make sense of our lives.
Examples of things that cause stress in our lives are career difficulties and career unhappiness, difficult schedules as well as ties to perfectionism and low self-esteem.
Despite being a normal part of our lives, stress can become problematic when it begins to adversely impact our emotional and physical well-being and we are unable to manage it on our own.
Stress doesn’t simply impact us on an emotional level. If left unaddressed it can also manifest in physical health ailments such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, not to mention impact our jobs and families.
Stress impacts our entire system in an alarming manner and when it becomes chronic it doesn’t allow us to turn off our fight or flight response.
There are a few telltale signs that can tip you off to whether you are experiencing too much stress including, lack of patience and motivation, increased annoyance or aggravation, being easily moved to tears, and panic or anxiety attacks.
A good place to start to decrease emotional stress is by doing the things you enjoy such as devoting time to maintaining important social connections, getting some exercise, and being mindful of not taking on too much. Do something you enjoy or maybe try journaling or meditating.
So many of us are stressed due to being caught in the “what if” mindset. Pondering on the many things that can go wrong in the various situations we all face on a daily basis. A tiny bit of this can be helpful in fueling the planning and implementing the process of any task; however, it can quickly become an unhealthy rabbit hole into which we become stuck.
Try changing “what if” to “what is” which helps to ground you in reality and the safety of the moment. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to reach out for professional support in techniques to aid in the management of your stress.
How many times have you felt as though someone in your life has pushed you to your limits or made you feel very uncomfortable?
These might be examples of those people pushing your boundaries. Boundaries are the limits between you and another person. Healthy boundaries are set to help you become more mentally and emotionally stable.
They are a very critical component of self-care.
Setting a boundary can sometimes feel like an impossible task. Many people are resistant to change and can negatively react when you feel the need to place a boundary with them.
So how do you know when you are implementing boundaries? How will it feel when doing so? Over my time working with individuals, I have created a list of things that my clients have felt when choosing to set their boundaries with others:
It is not my job to fix others.
It is okay if others get angry.
It is okay to say NO.
It is not my job to take responsibility for others.
I do not have to anticipate the needs of others.
It is NOT my job to make people happy.
Nobody has to agree with me.
I HAVE a right to my OWN feelings.
I AM ENOUGH
Do not feel guilty for setting boundaries.
They are essential for our overall well-being, and just like we actively look to include other elements into our lives, like exercising and eating right, this is no different. It may take time, and that is fine, but your future self will appreciate the effort.
Anxiety and stress are some of the most common problems that enter through my therapy doors. This year has been no exception.
Between adjusting to life in a pandemic to natural disasters, stress and anxiety are very present. The “best” part of these two problems is that they affect everyone differently, making it tricky to combat them at times.
Throughout this year, I have noticed that parents and children/adolescents are particularly vulnerable to stress and anxiety. So what can you do when it seems inevitable at this point?
I think it is essential to understand what anxiety and stress can do to your body. Drs. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson lay this out nicely in their book “The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind.” They note that increased stress and anxiety can increase heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. It also affects our abilities to think and make judgments.
In their book, they state that having these problems is like “flipping your lid,” meaning that instead of thinking with the parts of the brain that control rational thinking, you are left with the more primitive parts that are in charge of making you feel big emotions and act on instinct.
Strategies To Overcome Anxiety
Now that we have a better understanding of it, what can you do to decrease these two issues?
Know that these are normal things that people face every day.
Make sure that you understand your limits (knowing when to take a break); burnout is real for both parents and children/adolescents.
Self-care!! I cannot express this concept enough. Make sure that you are doing things that increase your overall life satisfaction and well-being levels. It doesn’t have to be anything too much, but merely taking the time to listen to your body can be extremely helpful. Below, I have included some great apps that can be utilized to help!
Talk to someone! My job as a therapist is to listen and understand. If anxiety and stress are being persistent and driving you up a wall, talk with a mental health professional. We are here as a resource for you!