RECHARGE your mental and emotional health, is the next of the 4 KEY requirements in our Health Made Simple series. Previously, we’ve discussed EAT and MOVE for your body’s design. If you’re looking for an overview of Health Made Simple, check out our recent BlogCast!
Go, Go, Go
Seemingly, that’s all we do. Whether it’s work, piano lessons, soccer practice, family gatherings; it seems as though we are constantly busy. Certainly, this can lead to physical fatigue, but just as important, it can lead to a depletion in your mental and emotional health as well.
Think of your health like a bank account. If you are constantly withdrawing more than you are depositing, then you’re bound to end up in debt. Often we find it easy to picture this with our physical health. If you’re feeding yourself processed, low nutrient foods, and you’re unable to exercise consistently, then it’s no surprise when the body begins to break down. When this happens, you start to express symptoms, be that an illness, digestive problems, back discomfort, etc.
Less frequently, though, do we think about the debt accumulating with our mental and emotional health. If we withdraw too much from this “account,” you may experience things such as mental fatigue, memory loss, anxiety, or depression. These symptoms are just as important as the physical symptoms which might arise from a fast paced, busy life. It’s for this reason that RECHARGING is one of the 4 KEY requirements for optimal health.
So, How do I RECHARGE?
Understand that RECHARGE your mental and emotional health begins with developing rituals, not habits. Habits are the mindless things we spend doing ever day, like scrolling social media, eating junk food, and watching TV. All of these ultimately take their toll on our health. Rituals, on the other hand, are specific and purposeful, cognitive behaviors, repeated at specific points in the day. They are meant to reset the mind and body. As we discuss the strategies to RECHARGE, many will be centered on developing these rituals.
1 – DEEP SLEEP
Did you know 57% of Americans think sleep is a luxury? Sleep is not an indulgence. It’s something critical to your body. In fact, a lack of quality sleep can lead to a laundry list of issues. This includes mood changes, increased mental illness, lowered immunity, and obesity to name a few.
While everyone is different, on average, adults require 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you want to know if you’re getting regular Deep Sleep, take this short quiz. If 2 or more apply, then it’s likely you ARE NOT getting the deep sleep your body requires.
- require an alarm clock?
- take a long time getting out of bed?
- wake up regularly grumpy?
- require stimulants (caffeine, nicotine) to “wake-up”?
- look tired or run down in the morning?
- sleep considerably longer on the days you can?
If this is you, it’s time to change that! Here are tips for achieving deep sleep.
Build a Sleep Cave
Bedroom is Near Pitch Black – your sleep cycle is highly dependent on light, both artificial and natural. Limiting light exposure before and during sleep maintains your natural rhythm and the body’s ability to get Deep Sleep. Exposure to light can confuse the brain into thinking it’s daytime and not sleep time
Bedroom is Slightly Cool – our bodies are evolutionarily primed for sleep by falling environmental temperatures. It’s good to lower the temperature of your bedroom 30 minutes before you go to sleep.
Electronics-Free Zone – no computer, phone, tv, tablet, etc. Nothing. PERIOD. First, these devices emit blue light, which excites the brain and can interrupt your sleep cycle. They may also hinder you from falling or staying asleep with notifications, vibrations, or flashes. Lastly, the use of electronics can be a source of anxiety or distraction making it difficult to wind down.
Supportive Mattress and Pillow – if you’re going to spend one-third of your life sleeping, doesn’t it make sense to sleep on something that will properly support you (and your spine)? Because each of us is different anatomically, there is no “one size fits all,” recommendation. The best advice is to make sure your nose, belly button, and the center of your pelvis are in a straight line.
Bedroom is Only For Sleep – if your brain is taught that the bedroom is only for sleep, not things like Netflix or homework, then it will be easier to fall and stay asleep. Note that reading and intimate time with your partner are okay in the bedroom.
Have a Sleep Ritual
Regular Sleep Schedule – When you adopt the same bedtime and wake time throughout the week, you will sleep best. Deviating from this routine 2-3 times per month with have minimal effects, but 2-3 times per week might make it impossible for Deep Sleep.
- determine how many hours of sleep is best for you
- define your sleep and wake times
- write these down on your agenda and give yourself a 15 minute window on either side by which to abide
- follow the schedule as best you can, 7 days a week
30 minutes before bed, Start your ritual by ___________ – if you have a specific routine each night, your brain begins to become trained to be in the mental state needed to fall asleep. The minimum for your pre-sleep ritual is 30 minutes. Adding when necessary is encouraged.
Slow your mind by ___________ – choose simple activities to avoid a racing mind at bed time. Meditation, prayer, stretching, or a novel are great places to start.
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and food – alcohol, while easing the transition to sleep, can inhibit your brain from it regenerative processes. Caffeine should be limited in the afternoon, and restricted past 2-3:00 pm. And, you shouldn’t eat food any later than 2-3 hours before bed.
2 – Calm Mind
Have you ever noticed on days where you’re concentrating hard on your work or studying for exams, you tend to feel exhausted? While the brain and nervous system represent 2% of your body’s mass, it consumes 20% of the energy. Below are strategies for calming your mind and giving it a rest.
Take a break (it won’t kill you)!
Unrelenting and chronic mental stress place high demands on the body and can lead to myriad health problems and poor performance. Unchecked stress of a fast-paced lifestyle is linked with conditions such as cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disease, obesity, and lowered immunity.
Often, the best way to mitigate these issues, is to TAKE A BREAK. Give your mind a rest and a chance to use less of its energy requirements. If we are able to learn to control our thoughts and our mind, we can dramatically influence our overall health.
Mindfulness (it’s not woo-woo hippy stuff)
Mindfulness refers to the ability to be aware of your thoughts and emotions, and purposefully redirect them. It doesn’t mean sitting in a circle, wearing tie-dye, and chanting.
As you become more skilled with mindfullness, you’ll notice it easier to control your energy levels, mood, and emotions. You’ll be able to fully engage in tasks and develop increased mental flexibility to move between tasks. A calm mind also enables you to respond better to frustration or other malicious experience which are part of every day.
How do I start?
First, there are several apps which you can download for your smart phone. Two of the most common meditation apps are Headspace and Calm. You may also find it beneficial to reconnect with your faith. If you are Christian, for example, consider using a Bible app such as YouVersion.
Over the next 10 days, “take ten.” Headspace for example has introductory 10 day meditation sessions. Schedule a specific time each day to complete this exercise. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is to set your alarm in the morning, ten minutes earlier.
Check in Each Hour
Take as many opportunities as you can throughout the day to be mindful. Whether you choose a specific time, physical cue (going to the bathroom), or response to external stress, take time to break from what you’re doing.
A great strategy for this is diaphragmatic or deep breathing. The method of deep breathing most preferred to teach at Keystone Chiropractic is called box breathing.
When box breathing, think of drawing a square. Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold for another 4 counts. Repeat this for 1-2 minutes.
Diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to reduce heart rate, lower your stress hormones, and give you the opportunity to connect with your consciousness. It’s a great way to calm your mind each hour.
At Least 10 minutes
As discussed above, many of the available tools for mindfulness offer 10 minute sessions, making it quite easy to accomplish this task. 10 minutes is a great starting point for dedicated mind-calming practices, but as you get used to it, start to introduce a little more time each day, or each week. Unlike physical exercise, it’s impossible to overwork your “mindfulness muscle,” and it will continue to strengthen and grow with practice.
3 – Planned Rest
This is really the unifying theme of RECHARGE your mental and emotional health. For optimal healing of the body, including your mind, it’s important to maintain balance in energy expenditure (refer back to the bank account analogy).
Every day, there are numerous activities which consume our energy. Household chores, work, travel, relationships, grief, anxiety, etc. to name a few.
We must have times of planned rest to counter those withdraws. This includes things like sleep, meditation, prayer, and pleasure reading.
Planning your rest…
As you look to plan your rest and recharge activities, first schedule on a daily/weekly basis. For example:
- 5-10 minute prayer when waking up
- 2 minutes of box breathing each hour at work
- Lunchtime is for LUNCH. Dinnertime is for DINNER
- No food after 8 pm; No phone after 9 pm
- In bed by 10:00 pm
- Read a novel for 15-20 minutes
- Lights out at 10:30 pm
The important thing is to remain as consistent as possible each day, week to week.
As with the EAT and MOVE requirements, begin taking small steps toward achieving the RECHARGE your mental and emotional health requirement as well. The more consistently you are able to fulfill each of your body’s needs the more you will move toward optimal health. Remember that health is a journey, not a destination. Work to continually add another strategy and improve meeting these KEY requirements.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Keystone Chiropractic.