Life hasn’t been smooth-sailing lately. I have been quietly wading through a trough in my depression/anxiety experience these past few weeks. I’m grateful for recovering, however slowly. I’m also extremely grateful for the new insights I’ve had this time around. It’s amazing what a look at the basics will yield… a good honest look at how things have been going.
“Have I been eating well? Not really.
Avoiding caffeine and alcohol? Nope.
Moving my body? No.
Drinking enough water? Not at all.
Doing things that inspire and uplift me? Absolutely not.
Ahhhhh… Even with all of the other checkpoints I had been missing, here is the key. I had NOT been sleeping well. I had not even been trying, actually. My days and my nights had become one big and exhausted blur.
No wonder I felt so awful as I dragged myself through my days.
One day last week I pried myself up and got on the treadmill- this was the very most I could manage for movement that day- and I put on a podcast. I get so much value from the Rich Roll Podcast so I chose an unheard episode at random. Dr Matthew Walker… He wrote a book called Why We Sleep.
My friends, I had a deep and probably not surprising realization while listening…
NOTHING FUNCTIONS WELL IF WE AREN’T SLEEPING WELL.
Not sleeping well is absolutely the way I start my day off in a stress/crisis space. I am behind before I even begin. Talk about self-sabotage.
So the episode is over 3 hours long, but I encourage you to check it out. It’s everywhere, but I listened/watched on Youtube. I’m so glad that the Universe organized itself for me to discover this information when I did. Not only was I not getting 7-9 hours of sleep, I was absolutely not doing anything to try to reach that goal or arrange anything to improve the quality of my sleep. Life in our society generally doesn’t promote good life-habits, and sleep is no exception. We need to pull it together from being mindful and deliberate about what is actually best for us.
The more I research what is truly best for me, the more I see that I need to set routines for myself and vigorously defend them. My people-pleasing/self-sacrificing tendencies cause me to ignore/downplay what is absolutely crucial for my well-being. Every time. Without fail. And I burn out. Your routine may look different, but mine needs to look like: going to bed at 8:30pm with lights out before 9, with my awareness placed on my body when I lay down. I also need to abstain from alcohol and finish any caffeine/decaf drinks before 9 am. I need outdoor daylight for at least 40 minutes before noon and I need to avoid napping if at all possible. My evening is also scheduled to slowly wind down after dinner with activities becoming less and less intense and bright. So no screens after 7:30. I like to quietly reflect on the day by journaling and then reading a book before moving to my cool and darkened bedroom to be in bed by 8:30. This gives me some time to do some breathwork and some mindfulness exercises before falling asleep around 9.
I know this sounds intense, but it’s best for me. I try to keep to this routine as much as possible, but I know life gets in the way. Unfortunately, lately, life has gotten in the way often. To the point where I’ve lost my connection to this routine entirely. Definitely a slippery-slope when we start to deviate from what’s best for us. This routine really is an all-day process, but it gives me an amazing structure from which to approach my day. I get into the next day more aware of myself and more able to feel my intuition guiding me, never mind the fact that I’m just a more pleasant person. My energy for taking care of myself is much more wisely distributed- not so much self-sacrificing means I don’t have to recover with comfort food or napping. This is a slow process of both recovery and prevention for me. When I stay with this routine, I can choose water instead of the quick energy of a coffee or sugary drink. I don’t feel like having a glass of wine at the end of the day. I feel like engaging in projects that make me feel good and I am able to identify and say a confident “no” to situations that aren’t in my best interest. I am able to choose to take the best possible care of my surroundings or get outside for a walk or a stretch in the backyard more often when I am well rested.
To me, sleep feels like the first big step towards healing and recovering from both my anxiety and depression episodes. It also feels like the ground-floor when living a well-balanced life. I feel so much more calm and in control of my own life when I am experiencing a well-adhered-to schedule. I can really focus on listening to what my body needs when I’m not in a state of high-stress or low-energy. I’m recovering from this latest bout with grace and patience. One thing that I am realizing is that I will have to be incredibly astute, mindful, and diligent about routines and checkpoints for my basic needs for the rest of my life. Right now, it has to be my priority or I spiral and struggle to regain my balance. But I am deeply committed to living well and taking care of myself and it all begins with an excellent night of restorative sleep.