Parenting can often take a toll on our bodies. When trauma and special needs enter our homes, we step up do all that is needed to take care of them. But that often comes at a cost to our souls. In today's post I'm going to share with you a couple of ideas you can do to ensure you are taking care of you so you can take care of them.
These ideas will have to be practical, inexpensive and quick because... we don't have the time or energy for much more! So trust me and try it out. I'm not making this stuff up. If you give it a try you will notice an improvement in the way you feel.
1. Create boundaries around your bedroom for yourself and your children. If at all possible, or as much as possible, make your bedroom your sanctuary. It should be a place for sleep and sex. Try to keep as much light, technology and chaos out of the bedroom as possible. We have a boundary where the kids need to knock before they are able to come in. It is a small act, but it helps us feel like we have a part of the house that is our own personal space despite the craziness that might go on outside that room.
2. Try to keep light out of your bedroom. The less blue lights and street lights the better. Some people invest in black out curtains, you do what you need to do to make sure it is a dark room.
3. Keep the temperature cool in your bedroom & pile on the comfy blankets. Want to save some money this holiday season? Turn down the heat! The ideal room temperature for sleep is between 60 - 67 degrees F (for most people it is around 65 F). During the day your body temperatures rises and falls and as your body gets drowsy your body temp goes down. If you want a silent night, help your body cool down. Your body naturally will start to warm up around 5am so that is when the house should also start to warm up.
4. Speaking of blankets, do you love yours? Are they comforting? To truly rest at night you need to be comfortable. Maybe treat yourself or ask for some new bedding for a gift this season. New sheets or a comfy blanket can make your ability to rest at night so much easier. Need more help, "How to Choose the Best Bed Sheets"
5. Use a relaxation app. There are some great ones out there that will help to slow down your heart rate to keep you grounded during the day or to play noise at night that will block out other noises and thoughts to help you fall into sleep. Some are free with ads and some require a payment. Check them out and see what works for you. Then you might be able to say like my son, "I don't go to sleep, sleep comes to me"
Smiling Mind: Non-profit web and app-based meditation program developed by psychologists and teachers to help bring mindfulness into your life. Guided exercises separated by age group starting at elementary school.
Calm: App for mindfulness, meditation, breathing, and improved sleep. There are lessons to help you learn the skill of meditation. Includes video lessons on mindful movement and gentle stretching to help you relax at home. Exclusive music playlists to help you focus, relax, and sleep.
Relax Melodies: Combining over 100 relaxation sounds, melodies, binaural beats and white noise, this free app allows you to create your very own relaxing soundscapes. Play them all night or for a determined period of time, thanks to its built-in timer. Personally I use this one often at night to help me sleep, esp if we have loud teens at night. My current playlist is "orchestral" mixed with "wind in trees".
Headspace: Hundreds of themed sessions on everything from stress and sleep to focus and anxiety. Bite-sized guided meditations for busy schedules and SOS exercises in case of sudden episodes.
6. Make your bedroom smell lovely. Believe what you want about essential oils, but you have to admit that smells have an effect on your body. And sometimes, in our busy life our bedrooms can start to smell like dirty laundry. I'm not going to get into the science of essential oils, but if you are one who enjoys the smell of lavender and finds it relaxing, why not diffuse some to help your room feel special. You can start the diffuser as you are getting ready for bed, so by the time you climb in the peaceful smells are filling the room.
7. Stick to your bedtime. We know that bedtime routines work for our kids, they also work for adults. We are no different! Create a routine for yourself that will help you end your day. Maybe it involves watching a simple show that doesn't increase stress (like HGTV or a simple sitcom), or mindfully enjoying a cup of herbal tea. Pick a slow down activity each night (just like we read a book to our children) that will help your body prepare for sleep. Figure out what works for you and try to follow that routine and put yourself to bed at the same time each night.
8. Do you know what I mean about mindfully enjoying a cup of tea? Mindfulness involves choosing to be present. Often we get caught up in the past and depressed about what went wrong. Other times we get caught up in the future, anxious about what we need to take care of and strategizing how to get it all done. Mindfulness involves living in the moment. So if you are sipping a cup of tea use all five senses. Look at the colour of the tea and really take it in. Breathe deeply and appreciate any sounds that you hear. Just noticing, not judging or complaining, just noticing what you hear. Smell the tea. Take some deep breathes and inhale the aroma and enjoy it. Taste the tea. Notice all the flavours as you roll it around on your tongue and slowly swallow. Feel the cup in your hand. Feel the warm and the smooth shape. Be present, slow down and notice the reality of your life before it passes you by. The days are long but the years are short.
9. Wake up at a similar time every day whether you have to or not. There is always laundry and work to be done! But the important thing is to get out of bed and let some natural light hit your face. Stand at a window for a moment. This will train your body for the times it needs to wake up and then to fall asleep when it is dark. So even if you have the chance to sleep in, choose to get up and get going. It will help you have the silent night you are looking for tomorrow.
10. Pay attention to what you are putting in your body.
It is no secret that I enjoy a glass of wine. But you need to do what is right for your body. Alcohol has the ability to help people fall asleep, but it doesn't sustain sleep. So if part of your problem is "interrupted sleep" (you wake up repeatedly) then a glass of alcohol at night could be your problem.
For some of you, caffeine is what keeps you going through the day... and night. If you are having problems slowing down your brain at night, you may need to decrease your afternoon & evening caffeine intake. The average adult can sustain 300mg / day so pay attention to when & how much you are putting into your body with your coffee, tea, flavoured water, soda, chocolate, protein bars, pain medications, etc.
In the evening if you are hungry avoid a heavy meal or anything spicy or sugary. Those types of foods will not help you sleep. If you have been running all day and need a snack try some cheese and crackers, slices of turkey alone or on some whole grain bread, or a banana. For a drink choose decaf herbal tea or a warm glass of milk.
11. Exercise during the morning or afternoon. This might be tough to figure out. Many of us cannot afford a gym membership and since the laundry & toys have taken over the living room we cannot work out in there. Figure out what works for you. This is not meant to be a guilt trip, but just a way for you to experience more emotional health. Our local gym was able to offer us a discount based on our foster parent status. That might be an option for you. But even though we have the membership, I cannot always get there. So some days my exercise is shopping at Costco (loading and unloading all that stuff is an exhausting workout!). But research shows that a 20min walk outside can do wonders for our brain. If you need to "clear your head", go for a walk and take some deep breaths. Maybe your dog needs it, but for sure you do. Taking that walk will not only burn some calories, but also help to reduce your stress level & help you sleep.
12. As you are working to establish a bedtime, don't toss & turn for more than 30min. That restlessness will only make things worse. If you are unable to fall asleep after a good effort, the best thing is to get out of bed and go back to your relaxing activity (read a book, watch a simple tv show, have a snack, drink some tea). Only go back to bed when you begin to feel drowsy.
Bottom line, don't make this list another thing to stress over and keep you up at night. If you are tossing and turning, worrying will only make it worse. Be patient and gentle with yourself. Practice mindfulness and take some deep breathes. Don't try to tackle this entire list at once, but pick one idea that stands out to you and try it this week. And if you find these ideas are not working and you need some professional help please feel free to reach out to me, firstname.lastname@example.org
I Need A Silent Night
I've made the same mistake before Too many malls, too many stores December traffic, Christmas rush It breaks me till I push and shove
Children are crying while mothers are trying To photograph Santa and sleigh The shopping and buying and standing forever in line What can I say?
I need a silent night, a holy night To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here To end this crazy day with a silent night
December comes then disappears Faster and faster every year Did my own mother keep this pace Or was the world a different place?
Where people stayed home wishing for snow Watching three channels on their TV Look at us now rushing around Trying to buy Christmas peace
I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night
Songwriters: Amy Grant / Chris Eaton