Updated: Aug 23, 2021
JUNE: Basics of Self-Care
· Week 1: June 1 – 6
You probably already know what I’m going to say if you’re a client of mine. The basics of self-care are SLEEP, APPETITE, ENERGY and SEX. At a minimum I ask about the first three during every therapy session. Why? Because they are SO important. If one of these is out of balance, all of them start to topple over like dominos.
During the month of June I’m going to give you quick and easy ways to improve these areas in your life. We don’t need a major overhaul right now. We’re not looking for perfection. We’re going to focus on small, incremental steps towards better self-care.
Quick Sleep Hygiene Tips
Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep. Some of us may consistently need more. I know I need 9 and if I don’t get it I’m crabby. Recent studies show that new moms need at least one stretch of sleep for 6 hours in a row to reduce the likelihood of suffering from a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder. If you need help setting up a feeding schedule for your baby, let me know, I love figuring this out!
If you don’t fall asleep after 30 minutes, get out of bed, do something relaxing like reading a book (with pages! Not on a screen) Fold laundry, listen to chill music, sit outside, just don’t do anything activating like checking your email (or doing anything on your phone), pay bills, watch a tv show, etc.
Establish a routine. I’ve worked with clients who swear by their bedtime routine! What they all have in common is that they choose a time in the evening where they ‘clocked out’, especially regarding parenthood duties. So perhaps after the kids are in bed, or your partner puts the kids to bed every other evening but no matter what, there is a distinction and you’re officially ‘off the clock’. I’m remembering a mom I worked with who would always take a bath with Epsom salt and maybe some lavender oil, then she makes some tea, gets in bed and reads a book she’s really into. Eventually she’ll feel drowsy and then she does a wind down or sleep related guided imagery on an app like Calm or Headspace. She’s in dreamland before you know it. She’s come to count on that routine, in the same order, to prime her for sleep. Your routine doesn’t have to be identical, but find things you enjoy doing, the more sensory-related the better and add them to your schedule before bed and see how you like it. I can’t wait to hear what works and what doesn’t! That’s how we learn to take better care of ourselves, right?
Use your bed only for sleep and sex. No work, no eating lunch while watching tv. You want to associate your bed and bedroom for only these activities. And I’m not suggesting you only have to have sex in your bedroom (wink, wink no judgement here!), just that the bed is reserved for those two activities.
Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature. Some of us can tell if the thermostat is 1 degree higher or lower than usual. Generally cool, dark and quiet is the ideal environment. Avoid leaving the TV on for noise, it subconsciously tells our brain to stay awake. Try a white noise machine, they’re like $20 online.
Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime. In fact, the longer the better. I try to avoid using my phone after dinner time and on the nights I break that self-care boundary I tend to go to bed later or have more trouble getting sleepy and I always regret it.
Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack. Even better if it contains protein. A scoop of peanut butter, a cheese stick or a slice of deli meat. They might sound like weird nighttime snacks, but they’ll fill your tummy and help you fall asleep if you’re used to having a snack before bed.
Exercise regularly but timing is important. Some of us do better regarding sleep when we exercise in the morning, some of us can handle an after dinner workout and still get sleepy. Figure out what works for you and go with it. But if you notice you haven’t been exercising lately and having sleep troubles, this could be why. Movement is so important in mood regulation and prompting healthy sleep.
Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. This seems like an obvious tip but an important one! Push back your caffeine consumption at hour at a time and see what helps. You might be able to get away with a mid-afternoon latte but they only way to find out is to try experimenting.
Pay attention to medications. Check with your prescribing
physician, or ask at our next session (I’m not a doctor but sometimes I’m aware of medications that can promote or prevent sleep at night). Make sure you’re taking them when you’re supposed to. Many times when women have problems with sleepiness or insomnia a simple medication adjustment can help big time.
Remember, it is not realistic to tackle ALL of these things at once. That's too overwhelming. We're not looking for a major overhaul, or perfection. Simply choose ONE thing you'd like to consider working on to improve your sleep hygiene. I hope it helps!