How to Sleep Better

I used to struggle with sleeping- both falling asleep and staying asleep. It used to take me hours to fall asleep and then I would wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to fall asleep again. People know the obvious things to help you sleep like exercising, not eating right before bed, limit screen time, etc. I was following all of those recommendations but I was still having a hard time sleeping. Here are some things that I found beneficial to the quality and amount of sleep I am now getting.

Routine– With my lifestyle it was hard to consistently go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. I had to improvise to fit my lifestyle. I found that making my bedtime routine repetitive, helped me fall asleep better no matter what time it was. When I start getting ready for bed, I take my makeup off, wash my face, use moisturizer, brush my teeth, and climb in bed. Try doing your nightly routine right before bed- it doesn’t matter what time you are going to bed or what you were previously doing. Doing the same thing before bed helps your body realize you will be sleeping soon.

Control your sleep environment– Realizing what makes you most comfortable will help you get comfortable faster. I know that I sleep best when my room is cold and I can cuddle up with a blanket. I also like having it as dark as possible so I use black out curtains. I need white noise when I sleep so I like to use a fan since it helps with noise and keeping my room cool. You spend a lot of time in your bed and in your room, so it is worth investing in things that will improve your sleep such as a nice mattress and bedding. 

Melatonin– I used to be prescribed sleeping pills but I hated how they made me feel. I would be way too groggy the next morning and I was tired throughout the day. My doctor recommended I try melatonin. Melatonin is like a natural vitamin that you take that is meant to help you fall asleep. I have been taking melatonin for years now and I take it almost every night. There are times I am tired enough to fall asleep without it, so I am not dependent on it. I typically take between 1-5 milligrams. Melatonin is what your body naturally produces when you are tired, so this increases the amount in your body. It has helped me a lot, so, if you are having trouble sleeping, I recommend looking into it.

Opening Communications and Managing Expectations

You know the expression, “communication is key,” right? Well, it does not only apply to romantic relationships, it can apply to any relationship- friends, coworkers, romantic partners, family, etc. Learning how to communicate openly, honestly, and effectively will change the way you interact in your relationships.

The first question you need to answer is how do you currently communicate? Do you prefer to talk in person, over the phone, over text, or do you not have a preference? Identifying how you communicate best will help your conversations be more effective. You need to feel comfortable enough to be direct with what you want.

It is important to express what you need in a relationship. Processing your emotions and turning them into thoughts will help you decide what you need. From explaining how you communicate to what you are wanting, you have to remember that people cannot read your mind. They often do not know what exactly it is that you want unless you are direct with them. People oftentimes think that everyone has the answers- which is rarely the case. If a conversation does not go how you would like the first time, don’t hesitate to try a different approach.

One of my favorite things I have learned about communicating was learning the phrase, “do you want a solution or do you want to vent?” This helps both the person talking and the person listening because it establishes what the end result of the conversation should be. If you are talking to someone and you want them to help you with a solution but you do not tell them that, they might think you are just looking to vent and vice versa. 

It helps to consider the timing of conversations as well. If you’re talking to someone when they are tired or have had a long day, they might not be able to help you as much as you would like them to at this time. This works on the other end of it too, if you know you are too tired to have a certain conversation, you need to be honest and let them know. Try saying something such as, “I don’t have the capacity to have this conversation right now, could we talk about this tomorrow?” 

There are so many ways to open your communication within relationships and to manage your expectations. You have to figure out what you want before you can tell someone what you need. Try taking a few minutes to think about how you communicate best and what you need from others to be successful in your relationships.

Self-Care Sunday

I fully believe that everyone should take time to themselves to help improve their relationships with not only themselves but with others as well! I like to take Sundays to myself. This doesn’t always mean I get the whole day but I take what I can get! A few things I do for myself on Sundays are:

Clean– I like to take care of any cleaning that needs to be done after the week. For me, this typically includes picking up, doing dishes, and doing my laundry. I try to wash, dry, fold, and put away clothes all at once so I don’t see the mess of it on Monday. 

Organize– Each Sunday I sit down with my planner/calendar and fill out what I know I have for the week. In college it consisted of writing down my classes, my assignments, exams, etc. Now it consists of meetings, appointments, work tasks, and anything else I have planned that week.

Meal prep– I do meal prep a bit differently than most. Oftentimes people will see meal prep and think of eating the same boring meals for the whole week, right? That’s not how I do it. I will make up a couple main ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes. My core ingredients are usually chicken breasts and pasta. The worst part about cooking is how long it takes- especially when you are hungry! If you take 30 minutes on Sundays to cook the things that take the longest, then you will have access to easy meals the whole week! 

Shower/bath– I usually prefer to take a shower but once in a while I will prefer a bath. Either way, I make it relaxing and catered to me. No time limits, fully exfoliating, and using ALL the good smelling products. The times I choose a bath I will light candles and use bubbles and bath bombs.

Facemask– I like to end my night with a facemask. I go between clay masks and sheet masks, with different ingredients depending on what my skin needs. If my skin is dry I will use sheet masks with aloe or hemp in it. If I want to exfoliate I will use clay masks. While doing a face mask, I will relax and catch up on my favorite shows.

Try finding time at least once a week to take to yourself and do things that will benefit you. You will see how much your relationships improve. Your relationship with yourself will improve, which then leads to your other relationships improving as well!

Habits to Cut From Your Life and How to Improve Them

Not getting enough sleep– Prioritize yourself enough to make sure you are getting the right amount of sleep for your body. Studies have shown that different people need different amounts of sleep to be fully functional the next day. For me, I realized I need at least 9 hours of sleep to feel my best the next day. If I sleep less than that, I am tired and unfocused. If I sleep more than that, I am tired and unmotivated. You have to figure out what works best for you and try to keep to that number. I would recommend keeping a sleep journal (or even a note in your phone) to record how much sleep you get and how you feel the next day. 

Eating too much fast food– We’ve all been there. We have long days at work and don’t feel like cooking so we decide to stop for food on the way home. More often than not we drive through a fast food restaurant and usually pick an unhealthy option. This can be avoided ahead of time if you make meals prior or buy food that can be easily and quickly made at home. My favorite foods to make ahead of time are chicken breasts and pasta. With these two easy (pre-cooked) ingredients you can easily make different dinners for yourself throughout the week by simply popping it into the microwave. 

Drinking too little water– Realizing the different health benefits that drinking water can give you is a huge part of wanting to drink more of it. My initial motivator of drinking more water was to clear up my skin. I realized that when I did not drink enough water, I would have breakouts on my face. Once I started drinking more water, I not only saw my skin clear up, I felt better too! I now challenge myself to fill up my 40 ounce water bottle 3-4 times a day. I try to establish when I want each refill to be so I remember to drink it more often. On average, men should drink about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of water a day, whereas women should drink about 11.5 cups  (2.7 liters) a day.  

Not managing your stress– There are so many ways to help manage your stress, you have to find what works for you. Personally, I try to see the bigger picture when I am stressed out. It helps me realize that even though it seems negative right now, in the future it might make a positive impact. It is also a good reminder that you are in control of your own emotions. Some other things that I have found helpful for managing stress is to take a walk, take a nap, make a snack, or even make a list of everything stressing you out and decide what you can control and what you cannot control. For the things you can control, make a plan to resolve it. For the things you cannot control, try to let it go. 

What the State of Your Room Says About the State of Your mind

Recent studies have shown that people who described their rooms as messy had more mental health issues, such as depression and stress, compared to people who described their rooms as clean and organized. The studies also say that taking care of yourself and taking care of your room go hand in hand. If your things are scattered, your mind is probably scattered too. As you tidy up your room, it helps you tidy up your mind.

You can start by making your bed every morning. It only takes a few minutes and even though it may seem unnecessary, it can do more than leave your room looking clean. It will give you a sense of accomplishment which will improve your mood. This can set the tone for the rest of your day. Check out this video on YouTube if you don’t believe me- https://youtu.be/3sK3wJAxGfs.

When you set this time aside to make your bed, clean your room, or put away your clothes, it can be a good, productive distraction. Even though it can feel like a task sometimes, it can give you a sense of pride at the end. Try getting up a few minutes earlier to make your bed and give yourself time during the week to clean your room. This will all help your state of mind. 

How to Get Through Hump Day:

Other than Mondays, Wednesdays can seem like the longest day of the week. We are tired from Monday and Tuesday but the weekend still seems so far away! It is hard getting over the hump of the week. Here are a few ways I like to make Wednesdays a little better for myself:

Sleep– On Tuesdays, I go to bed a little bit earlier to make sure I am extra rested for Wednesday. I try to give myself about 30 minutes of extra sleep. One thing I have found helpful is once Wednesday morning comes around, try to get out of bed as soon as you wake up, rather than laying there wanting to go back to sleep! 

Coffee– Ahhh, coffee. Now, some people drink coffee every morning. This is not the case for me. I typically do not drink coffee or tea but almost every Wednesday morning I do. I will either make an iced coffee at home or I will stop at Caribou on the way to work. I love their blended drinks! For me, it is a nice way to treat myself- especially since I do not stop for coffee often. If you have coffee or tea at home every day, try to switch it up on Wednesdays by making it a special way or even stop at a coffee shop on the way to work to treat yourself! 

Water– This may seem like a given to drink water every day, but by Wednesday our bodies are getting tired. It is important to stay hydrated to keep us going. Challenge yourself to drink more water than you usually do! 

Lunch– If you are used to having the same lunches every day, try switching it up on Wednesdays. Bring something different than what you typically would and it will give you something to look forward to. You could even order lunch instead! Whatever you decide to do, make sure it has the nutrients you need to help you get through the day. 

Make Plans– If you don’t have plans already for the weekend, make some! This will give you something to think about for the next couple of days other than work. Even if those plans are something you will do on your own, it can be a nice mental distraction for you! This can also give you something to talk about with your coworkers and friends to get you through the day.

Smiling to Improve your Mood

You’ve heard the term, “fake it ‘til you make it” before. This can be applied to your mood as well! Faking a smile will trick your brain into improving your mood. If you are having a bad day or are in a bad mood, all you have to do is smile! 

Smiling helps release your endorphins. Your brain releases molecules called neuropeptides, which help relieve stress and anxiety, each time you smile. Your brain does not realize that you are faking your smile so, when you purposely smile, it releases neurotransmitters. These transmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, increase your feelings of happiness.

Every time I force myself to smile- it works! Not only does it work because of the previously mentioned reasons, it works because I feel weird forcing myself to smile, especially if I am by myself or in my car, which makes me laugh. So, the next time you find yourself having a bad day or are in a bad mood, look in the mirror and fake your smile so it makes you happy! 

Should I Use Sunscreen This Weekend?

With the upcoming 4th of July weekend you may be planning various outdoor activities from taking the boat out on the lake, to swimming, or just relaxing outside. Whatever activities you have planned, don’t forget about the sunscreen! Many people hesitate to wear sunscreen because they are hoping to get a tan. While sunscreen may prevent some color, wearing sunscreen still allows you to get a tan and will help prevent rays from causing skin cancer.

It is best to have sunscreen with at least SPF 30. SPF stands for sun protection factor- meaning the higher the SPF the more protection. The SPF in sunscreen helps your body’s defense against the two types of sun rays (UVA and UVB). This means a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 provides about 30 times more protection of your skin than without sunscreen. 

Broad spectrum sunscreen protects both UVA and UVB rays. On average, sunscreen lasts about two hours before you should reapply but should be more frequent if you are sweating or in the water. It may not give you as much of a tan as you are hoping for but it will help prevent those painful sunburns and save your skin in the long run!

Starting Your Day with a Good Breakfast

You’ve probably heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Break-fast stands for “breaking your fast”, since you went hours with no food during your sleep. Whats better than eating breakfast is making sure it is healthy. This will set your tone for the day. I have found that when I eat a nutritious, filling breakfast, I stay more full throughout the day and it helps prevent me from binging or eating junk. It gives you fuel, energy and motivation to start your day right. Here are some healthy breakfast ideas:

Avocado toast: this has been trending, you get carbs and healthy fats, plus it is delicious and filling! I like to add a couple scrambled eggs on top of mine. “Everything but the bagel seasoning” is great on it too (also good on eggs)! I also started adding tomato and arugula tossed in lemon juice. There are so many variations.

Eggs: Besides the obvious fact of containing protein, eggs increase fullness and helps keep your blood sugar and insulin steady. Eggs also contain choline, a nutrient helpful for brain health. If you get bored of eggs, there are different forms you can make them- scrambled, hard boiled, omelets, over easy, etc. and so many different toppings you can add from spinach to ham! Add some turkey bacon on the side if you want extra protein.

Oatmeal: Steel cut oats are healthiest, however if you prefer traditional oatmeal thats okay too! Starbucks has oatmeal if you’re in a hurry. I’ll post a recipe for almond butter banana oats I like to make.

Fruit: If you don’t have a lot of time, simply eating fruit is a great breakfast idea. Fruit can be hydrating after a night with little to no water. Adding fruit on top of yogurt is excellent too!

Journaling- Worth it, or a Waste of Time?

Journaling has been a common strategy used to cope with emotions and problems. Sometimes people just journal to get thoughts out they don’t want to share with others. Either way, it is an emotional release that I believe is too often overlooked. It helps reduce stress and anxiety, which has a domino effect on many other things. Once your stress is lowered, you sleep better, communicate more effectively, and your immune system is even stronger! According to intermountainhealthcare.com, journaling helps boost memory and comprehension.

Photo by Ann Nekr on Pexels.com

Try it sometime, next time you feel overwhelmed, set a timer for 5 minutes and do a “brain-dump”- just write down whatever is on your mind. What do you write when you know nobody is watching? When you know you can tare it up and throw it away after? Afterwards, read what you wrote. You will now have an outsider perspective and may be able to process whats going on in your head better. You will feel more at peace. Even if nothing is bothering you, journaling about things that are going good, or that you’re grateful for, has tremendous effect on your mood!