I have to be honest: self-care was never an essential part of my lifestyle. I always felt that I did not need it, that I was always perfectly fine. As a busy person who was always on the go, I did not feel like I needed to slow down and reserve some time to replenish. Up until recently...
In my previous blog post (you can read it HERE )I explained the circumstances that made me realize that there are times in our lives when focusing on self-care is absolutely necessary for our physical and mental health. In the past few months, constantly stressing and worrying about my family made me feel fatigued, burnt out, and left me craving sweets. However, the most severe effect that this had was the toll it took on my sleep.
As my sleep quality was disastrous, I was constantly tired, barely dragging myself through the day. I was waking up frequently at night and had a hard time falling back asleep. Quite often, I was up for hours, just tossing and turning.
Since poor sleep was the most troublesome of all the symptoms I experienced, I knew it had to be addressed first if I was to establish a new and effective self-care routine. Here are a few practices that I introduced and have been implementing daily since then.
1. Limiting my coffee consumption
I love coffee! Starting my day with a morning cup of java became a habit of mine when I was a university student. As the years passed, I also added an afternoon cup, which I often finished just before supper. Well, I said goodbye to my afternoon coffee as I suspected it was sabotaging my sleep. Now, I avoid anything caffeine-heavy past 2pm, including black tea. Occasionally, I will enjoy a cup of green jasmine tea after lunch, but definitely not past 4pm.
2. Being physically active
To start sleeping better at night, I made a commitment to schedule some sort of physical activity every day. Nothing too strenuous, I focused on light exercises at first, like walking. I put on my Fitbit which I had hid for awhile because I always felt guilty seeing the low number of steps I took those days! I started with daily short walks - 15-20-minutes long - just to get out of the house for some fresh air. A week later, I started to increase the length and the pace of my walks. As my stamina grew, I challenged myself to reach a new goal every week. It felt good not to be embarrassed anymore when I looked at my Fitbit! My numbers were looking better and better each day.
3. Drinking calming herbal tea at night
My pre-bedtime routine already starts after supper. When the dishes are done and the kitchen is tidied up, I make a cup of herbal tea to help me to wind down for the evening. My favourites are a chamomile/lavender mix and lemon balm, but I also drink a blend of valerian root/passionflower/lemon balm on days when I feel overstimulated.
4. Limiting blue light an hour before bed
In the evening, I will sip my tea while watching Netflix, but about an hour prior to my bedtime I will turn all screens off. This was a huge change for me! I used to do meal planning for clients or write client reports on my laptop late at night when it was quiet in the house. I would also easily get sucked into scrolling through social media and would forget about the time. Not anymore! I make sure all my devices and screens are off. Numerous studies have found that blue light, such as those from electronic screens, have a negative impact on the circadian rhythm and sleep quality. Implementing this to my bedtime routine has allowed me to return to an old hobby of mine, reading, which I was struggling to find time for up until now.
Finally, I will turn the light off and spend a few minutes meditating. This practice greatly contributed to improving my mood and helped me to start feeling more optimistic again. In this complicated time, it makes me feel grateful for everything I have and allows me to see the bright side of things again.
6. Taking calming nutritional supplements
The effects of my new evening "ritual" is further enhanced by two important supplements: magnesium and melatonin. However, these will be discussed in my next blog post as part of my self-care supplementation regimen.
This in a nutshell is what I have started doing in order to address my insomnia. I still wake up 2-3 times every night, but these days, I will fall back asleep right away. No more tossing and turning! Most importantly, I wake up well rested in the morning, which proves to me that my evening self-care routine works!
Do you have similar sleep problems? Is there anything that helps you to sleep better? Let me know in the comments!