(good) sleep is the cornerstone of mental health

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STEP ONE

Today's Blog: (good) sleep is the cornerstone of mental health

In my experience, it's topics like this one that puts people to sleep! When I try and convince my teen daughter that she needs to get more sleep, I am annoying (at best). When I used to try and convince my (now) 24 year old daughter that she needed to stop getting home at 2.30 am in her HSC year, I was stupid.

You know what, I get it. We all know we need sleep - good sleep, and more of it. So many articles (please just google ‘the importance of sleep’), and the research, the blogs, the programs…. They go on and on into infinity (lost in space). Blah blah, it IS boring lol.

But it’s a fact, and even though some will find rehashing this topic boring, I just felt I had to share my own recent experience with mental health and sleep (not a new issue for me), and I was prompted to write this blog. I've got a habit of wanting to write blogs, and then waiting too long and losing the momentum of the topic, so I thought I’d better get onto this one - especially seeings as it’s almost been a week that I’ve been writing this blog in my head now!! I feel private about these things though, and sometimes I think that’s why I chose not to write a blog when the creativity strikes.

So anyway, avoidance - not today... I’m going to do it! 

There’s a grave misconception out there that anyone who is a teacher, or a trained professional in any area, won’t be human anymore. Some professionals even believe it of themselves… I’m quite the opposite. I still don’t believe in the perfect human. So I’m going to put myself out there and admit that last weekend I was starting to feel like I was in an emotional fog. I knew what it was,  because I’m no stranger to depression and anxiety (another blog, another day lol). I also knew I was facing a lot of uncertainty and fear and was working through it, using the tools and knowledge that I have learnt throughout the years. For a few days I was struggling to want to talk to anyone, go anywhere and just feeling on the verge of tears. Migraines, nausea, you name it. 

It was a quite natural and normal reaction to what was going on in my life, as (apart from signing on the dotted line for my first office and a 12 month lease - OMG, I know right), there was a lot of other stuff going on behind the scenes, and I knew I was just going to have to go through the motions, working my way through to acceptance. I teach mindfulness, and I’m a counsellor, therapist, coach, and I want everyone to know that although I practice what I preach, I’m still human. There’s never (in my opinion), a level of humanness that we reach where we don’t experience emotions (hopefully) - and thankfully lol.

Anyway, to cut to the chase, I ended up giving myself permission to take two days off over Easter. I went to bed early. I slept in. I had an afternoon sleep. Que day 3. What a difference a day (or two) makes! I felt energetic, emotionally and physically stronger, clear of mind, over 90% less anxiety, and ready to tackle my work. I contacted those I needed to contact and I got on with it. I even got my sense of humour back (sorry for those of you close enough to me to know how warped I am).

So, why is sleep so important? Well, I’m not going there in this blog, otherwise I might as well be writing a 2000 word paper, and I think you all know TBH.

However, just briefly let think about it. We all know (or should know) that toddlers and babies lose their cool and go bananas when they’re tired - we see it all the time. We all accept this. Well, I’ve got big news for us all. We are all wired the same. That short fuse, that emotional response, that desire to retreat, the feeling of overwhelm - all of it is built from a bedrock of sleep, or lack thereof (it’s also why I believe perinatal mental health and depression, etc,  is such a critical issue - add a lack of sleep to other stressors, and BOOM!).

Research has revealed time and time again that lack of sleep reduces our ability to think, learn, concentrate and regulate - and even reduces our physical abilities such as energy levels, motor movement, physical reaction times, healing from illness or disease, cope with pain, and even affects weight loss.

Sleep is the bedrock of mental AND physical health. It’s not going to be a cure for everything that ails, but when you’re building a house, a strong foundation is essential. Let’s start by working on good sleep, and then once that has been addressed, then we can move onto the other stuff, otherwise our walls will crumble when other stressors in life come to try and blow our house away. 

Love Jules x

Remember: good mental and physical health is a holistic thing

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