There is a wholeness concept for an ideal way of living that I think is too often missed. We focus on physical wellness, social wellness, or professional wellness. The list goes on to components of financial, medical, and even spiritual wellness.
With recently reporting record numbers of anxiety, medicated emotional needs, and waiting lists for crisis and mental health services, I have to wonder if the mental and emotional wellness we all need is often the missing link that ties the need of all forms of wellness to wholeness.
One of the prime mental and emotional wellness factor I’d like to talk about right now is simply… Sleep.
Serving in a high-emotionally stressful profession, I am often asked “how do you sleep at night?” I suspect I am typically asked this question not for true interest in me or my profession but rather people seeking a better understanding how to care for themselves in times of stress.
Shouldn’t that be a question for us all? Sleep is a primal activity & vital need in our overall well-being. However, it or lack thereof, continues to be an underlying factor of many of our mental health and emotional wellness settings. The ripple effect of sleep needs not being well-managed shows up in employment, family stress, finances, and more.
What I have learned over time is that the time I have–24 hours a day/365 days a year–will never change. I have always worked in social work with crisis and safety matters at the top of my services. Being a foster parent, I’ve learned the main constant in my life is unpredictability, particularly with young children who have no time-stamps for tantrums, and a spouse with a job of unknown scheduling and fluctuating risk factors. The conscious and subconscious stress of life can be draining and the pace of worry can be fast. So, the answer to how I sleep at night is “soundly.” The why is a little more complex.
Here are three whys that we sleep well at night.
1. Put Sleep in Your Daily Schedule.
Even though it is a primary need, it tends to not be a primary event. I had to change that mindset in order to give the best version of myself each day.
My phone is set to “turn off” every day at bedtime. I have a schedule for a wake-up alarm that is consistent through the week and weekend. I put it on my written calendar also.
Unless it’s an emergency, if an event interjects with my sleep time, my apps and schedule tools remind me “you ain’t got time for that!” If you don’t schedule it now, you will be forced to schedule more rest later.
2. Learn About Your Sleep Needs.
Sleep is natural, right? Not at all. At least not in the society we are in today. People often say “I am so tired” but cannot sleep. Or they feel constantly tired. Or they can sleep but only for limited periods. And the list goes on.
We have to understand what the cycle of sleep really is, why it is important, as well as signs of irregularity to effectively identify what works or doesn’t work for each of us.
I also use an ActivityTracker app that records my sleep patterns and time. It, (freely) allows us to identify how much sleep I need, concerns, and patterns. It helps us to explore the why behind sleep pattern concerns. Information is key!
3. Do Your Best. Then Rest to Do It Again.
Half of effective sleep is influenced by our mental status. If your brain is still running while trying to rest, the race to wholeness will end with full defeat. About 30 minutes before bed, turn off electronics, drink a calming, non-caffeinated drink and engage in something that is self-soothing. If possible, avoid blue light electronics and high energy sounds.
Writing down your thoughts of the day and plans for the next day is a great way to let the planning and worries of them go for the night. Giving oneself a positive affirmation each night is a great way to reinforce how essential rest is to support us in what we love doing the next day. It gives rational to justified needing sleep.
Finally, if I wake up at night, I have water, my journal (to note intrusive thoughts), and tissues by my bed to reduce my chance fully waking up and reducing my natural sleep pattern.
Mental and emotional wellness through sleep plays a key role in not only our service to others but more importantly in service to self to keep serving others.
Amber Jewell is a licensed master social worker with over 15 years of experience working with youth and families in child protective services, education and mental health services. As an educator and an advocate for promoting change for and value within people, Amber works to inspire and motivate others to grasp their own form of hope. She is also a motivational speaker and has experience in the foster system. She is the author of Finding Hope: The 12 Keys To Healing Hardship, Hurt & Sorrow.