The routines you had in 2019, or even early 2020, probably look nothing like the routines you have now. Who would have known when we did our New Year’s 2020 planning and goals that everything would be turned upside down? Last week I wrote about grounding activities to keep anxiety and stress at bay and help your nervous system return to baseline. Over the next few weeks, I want to introduce another topic that is sure to help you keep those chaotic feelings at bay. I’ll be covering routines, schedules, and systems that help you maximize both mental and spiritual health. 

My first task when I have a client that is struggling, whether that is with anxiety, depression, or relationship problems, is to do a quick evaluation of the physical aspects that go into good mental and spiritual health. Yes, I do mean to include spiritual health here, because you will not be connecting well with God if your body is too tired or too dependent on stimulants to make it through your days. The first of the physical signs I look for is sleep.

Sleep

The name experts give to good sleep habits is called “Sleep Hygiene,” which always sounds a little weird the first time you hear that term. You can search sleep hygiene in your browser and find some really cool infographics that will help you with ideas to get better sleep. But here is one of the main points: go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning, as much as possible. If you are a parent you know the struggle–if you go to bed early, you have zero time to yourself, but if you go to bed late, you can’t keep up with the kids in the morning. Find a good balance of having some wind down time in the evening before bed, without staying up so late that there aren’t enough hours in bed. For me, that’s usually 10:30pm to 6:00am. 

If you are operating without enough sleep, you WILL feel like you’re losing your mind. Everything becomes more difficult, emotional regulation goes out the window, and your critical thinking skills will tank. This is the number one issue to tackle if you are feeling like your inner world is chaotic. If following a sleep hygiene routine is not doing the trick, be sure that you talk to your doctor about whether biological issues are interfering with your sleep or if medical intervention might be necessary. Additionally, you can check out a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia, which is proven to help clients get better sleep in just a few sessions. 

Rest

Wait a minute, didn’t you just talk about sleep? Yes, yes I did. And rest is something different. In Psalm 121:3-4 the Bible tells us that God doesn’t slumber or sleep (when two consecutive sentences are repeating the same idea, we know God really wants us to hear it!), but we do know from the Genesis creation account that God does rest. Resting is different from sleeping, and both are necessary for healthy humans. Our busy modern lives often prevent us from taking an official Sabbath day, although I believe it is something we can strive for. But what if your role requires you to work in ministry on Sunday mornings, or what if you work in retail and don’t have control over your weekly schedule? Sabbath rest is something we can achieve even in moments throughout busy days. Could you cut off activity at a certain time each day? Refuse to work through your lunch hour? Put your phone down and play with the kids instead of using the time to “catch up” on emails and tasks? In each of my blogs and other resources, I like to prompt my audience to come up with your own solutions. This is your cue: what is one way you can trade busyness and stress for Sabbath rest this week?

At the end of this series, I’ll give you a peek into how I personally manage my busy schedule to allow for adequate sleep and rest. Next week we’re going to continue with another of the physical aspects of mental and spiritual health: diet and exercise. Did you know that what you put into your body and how you move your body actually matters to God and to your mental functioning? Let’s talk about it back here next time.