Are you considering going to therapy, but not quite ready to take the leap? You aren’t alone. For many people, the decision to call a therapist is a big one. It can feel like it takes more energy than you currently have, or maybe you are skeptical that it’s even for you. That’s okay! If you aren’t ready to decide, but would like steps you can take to improve your life in the meantime, then this article is for you.
We are going to go down to the real basics here for a minute, and bear with me: EAT. SLEEP. BREATHE.
That’s right. My expert clinical advice to making most situations feel just a little bit more manageable is to do what you’ve been doing since birth. Symptoms of every disorder in the book can be exacerbated by lack of sleep and proper nutrition. And as a yoga therapist, I believe that most people aren’t using the breath to their greatest potential. So here’s how I want you to improve the basics and why…
I cannot stress the importance of nutrition enough. Think of our dear old friend Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Words from 431 BC still ring true today. Every piece of food you eat has nutritional value with its own combination of vitamins, minerals, and bacteria. Some of these properties are really good at helping us with certain things. For example: Folate and B12 help you with mood and sleep, Magnesium with sleep and muscle relaxation, and probiotics for stress, anxiety, and depression.
If we deny ourselves foods that are higher in the properties we need, we deny ourselves the medicine we need to feel better.
Did you know that sugar has been linked to depression, especially in women? Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and researchers alike have been studying in the last decade the harmful effects that sugar has on mood. Research, such as that done by Dr. Meredith Bargman, has shown sugar to lead to spikes and drops of mood throughout the day. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have that piece of chocolate, but I am saying that what we eat has an impact on our mental health.
Just a little food for thought…
I work with very few people who would report getting the sleep they need or would like every night. And yet, when I hear a client say that they are having their best day in a long time, most times it is because of a good night’s sleep.
I’m sure you have heard these before, but perhaps you will listen if your friendly neighborhood therapist tells you how great they are? Put the phone and computer down, and make your bedroom a sacred space. Electronics are highly stimulating, but for some reason we like using them right as we want to calm our minds and bodies. If you’re not a reader, try Sudoku, word puzzles, or a coloring book instead. Protect your bed from the mayhem of the world and you will find that over time your body begins associating crawling in with sleep time. You might also try a calming cup of tea, magnesium for muscle relaxation, or some gentle stretching. There are even sleep apps out there that will tell you bedtime stories! Just be sure to turn your phone upside down and keep it on the side table while you immerse yourself in the lost art of imagination.
If you’re reading this right now, you’re breathing. But I would bet that your breaths are shallow and barely noticeable. Try something: Take the biggest breath you’ve taken all day. Your lungs just opened up and your brain and body got a healthy dose of oxygen. And it was that easy. Make a point to take several big breaths every day, noticing what it feels like and how it changes your experience. When we breathe, we allow there to be space where space is needed. The simple act of mindful breathing can carry us through some of life’s most trying times.
If you want more information on how to use breathing and mindfulness to conquer stress, stay tuned! I believe in it so much, I can’t resist but to give it its own article!
Emily Wagner, trauma expert, yoga therapist, and mental health counselor provides education for anyone looking to improve their mental health.