Focusing on Sleep and Emotional Health

October 18, 2019

Hello! You may have noticed it has been few weeks since I last posted. This past month has been one of the busiest and most stressful months I have had in a long time. Many good things have been taking up my time, like baby celebrations amongst friends and family, board meetings of organizations I really want to be a part of, parties, holiday celebrations and 10K training. Some of it has been less enjoyable, including a busy season at work, holiday preparations and personal stressors. As I have gone through this time I have had to evaluate what is most important in terms of my health and it had less to do with food and more to do with my mental wellbeing.  



I love to sleep, but I have never been very good at it. During my year of Empowered Nutrition Coaching, I had a habit focused on setting up a sleep ritual and it did help me develop a regular sleep schedule. That habit started to fade towards the end of the summer and by mid-September my sleep was way off course. I struggled to fall asleep and then I would wake up in the middle of the night. I knew more than anything else, I needed to recommit to my sleep ritual. For the past few weeks, I have tried to take at least 30 minutes to decompress before I go to bed. Sometimes this is reading with a cup of tea, other times it is listening to a meditation, occasionally I will journal, and most often it is watching TV while knitting. Taking this time to relax helps me turn off my brain to fall asleep faster, but my sleep pattern had gotten so off I needed extra help. 


I had to make a couple of nutritional adjustments, like decreasing my caffeine intake and eating more complex carbs.  I love coffee, but stop drinking caffeine by midafternoon so I can get to bed easier. When I couldn’t sleep I was drinking coffee all the time, which helped me get by a tiny bit more throughout the day and messed up my sleep a lot. Eventually, I accepted I had to limit my coffee intake.  


Kaitlyn says that complex carbs regulate the hormones that help you sleep. Complex carbs make it so that melatonin releases in the evening helping you fall asleep. While cortisol should be released in the morning to help you wake up. If you are waking up at 3:00 AM or having trouble falling asleep you may not be eating enough complex carbs. 



As I was struggling to sleep, I made a decision to start each day off with a complex carb, whether that was potatoes with my eggs, oatmeal for breakfast, or some high fiber granola in my yogurt. I also consciously sought out a complex carb option, like whole grain pasta or squash, as a part of my dinner. 


Despite doing all the right things to get to sleep, I was still struggling and eventaully I looked back into my PN manual to find the lesson about sleep aids. Then I went to Whole Foods to find a sleep aid that included valerian root, L-Theanine and 5-HTPI.  


After using the supplement for two weeks my sleep pattern had started to return to normal. I am no longer using the supplement, but I have stayed committed to having a sleep ritual, limiting my caffeine and eating complex carbs. I also make sure to cuddle a bit with my cute little pup (who is very good at sleeping) before bed.  



Emotional Health

I am stressed and if I am not careful about managing that stress it comes out in ugly ways. So I have had to hone in on my best stress-fighting techniques. 


The first has been “notice and name” which I learned as a tool for hunger and binge eating during my year of coaching. Instead of crying and yelling (or after crying and yelling) I have checked in with myself to see how I feel. Anxious, insecure, angry, scared, tired, and overwhelmed are all words that have come up. Noticing and naming helped me realized I needed a night to watch a chick flick night and cry.  I also noticed I eat fast when I am stressed. I don’t always know how to combat those ugly feelings, but when I notice and name them I can at least know why I have weird action instead of letting the reaction to the ugly feeling stress me out more. 



The most helpful thing I have done was purchase the app Sanity and Self. Sanity and Self is full of mental health audio lessons including “From Grumpy to Grateful” and “Girls with Goals.” I have been listening to a lesson every morning before work to get my mindset right.


I have also been making sure to savor the good stuff, because a lot of my schedule has been filled with good things. Last weekend I had the best fall morning at the pumpkin patch with friends, followed by an afternoon of vision boarding with my bestie. I have gotten to spend a lot of time with one of my best friend’s newborn and there are two more newborns coming into my life next month. I love being a part of the organizations I joined and it is exciting to build relationships with people whose passions match mine. I can’t really control some of the upsetting parts of my life, but I can enjoy the good ones. 


I have been eating the best I can with the stress I am under, but it was clear to me my sleep and emotional health were taking a much bigger hit than my nutritional health and I needed to make those the priority. I know I will come back to my food prep and slow eating when things calm down and am reminding myself to do the best I can for where I am right now. I have the tools I need to get past this stressful time and regain a healthy routine when it passes. 

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