Category: Rest

Depression: 4 Ways to Boost Your Physical Health

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**As always, these ideas are merely suggestions and if you feel you might have depression, talk to your doctor. I am not qualified to diagnose or treat any kind of mental or physical illness. 

Don’t you hate it when you go to the doctor, for anything really, and the answer they give you is: diet and exercise? I swear every single doctor I saw during my “dark days” told me to exercise and eat right. I would stare at them blankly like, “What? You want me to workout and meal plan when I can’t even muster the strength to get out of bed to go to work or school?”

I wish I could tell you that I found a way to get myself to exercise and eat right when I was deeply depressed but I can’t. Even though I knew, intuitively, that those things would make me feel better I literally felt incapable of making myself do it. However, hindsight is 20/20 and now that I’m out of the “black hole” I can see some options and ideas that I didn’t try. I have used these ideas to prevent me from getting depressed.

It took the right medication to pull me out of that dark place in order for me to feel capable of making changes to my diet and movement. But if you find yourself starting to slip into that dark place, these few ideas might be your first line of defense. Don’t ever forget how very connected your mind and body are. Taking care of your body will in turn, help take care of your mind.

1. Exercise

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I have had to consciously work on my attitude toward exercise. For a long time I didn’t count it as exercise unless it was a long run or an exhausting trip to the gym.

My new definition is “moving with motivation.” This means, hoofing it up and down my stairs to do my laundry totally counts. I love to take walks even though I didn’t use to consider it exercise. I don’t necessarily sweat that much and it doesn’t usually make me sore afterwards but it absolutely gives life to my body. Being out in the sunshine and fresh air is a definite plus. 

If you can find a buddy to just walk with you, it will give you even more reason to get out. Just be careful you don’t ask someone who is going to make you feel worse than you already do. Instead, think about someone you know who could be compassionate and if you try to bail on a walk, that will be helpful and encouraging instead of critical and judgmental. 

2. Healthy Eating

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Eating healthy is extremely difficult for someone who feels depressed because again, if you can’t hardly get out of bed how are you going to prepare a meal? The pressure to take care of our families can bring with it an added layer of failure that we feel when instead of cooking healthy meals at home, we resort to McDonalds or pizza just about every night of the week.

Instead of spending that money on take out or expensive pre-made meals at the store that are mostly junk, what if you just hired someone for a little while to cook for you and your family until you’re able to feel a little better? I doubt it would cost as much as you think it would. I’m positive it will cost less than eating out every night.

You could put up a quick ad on Facebook, KSL, craigslist, etc. Or, if that seems like too much work, ask a friend or family member if you could hire them to cook twice the amount they would for dinner to help you care for your family while you’re going through this tough time.

Chances are, they’ll want to do it out of the kindness of their hearts but if there is any way for you to afford it, I would suggest you insist on paying them. Paying them will get you around that feeling of being a burden and help you offer work to someone who could benefit from the extra money. As a bonus, hopefully the healthier food will help you work your way out of a slump. 

3. Sufficient Sleep

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Everybody responds to depression differently. Some don’t get enough sleep while others oversleep. The trick is getting sufficient sleep, not too little and not too much.

I was an over-sleeper. I could sometimes sleep for 14-16 hours a day. That’s equivalent to the amount of time we should be awake in a day! The result was constantly feeling groggy and wanting to escape my life by going back to sleep. Now that I have kids, that would never be an option. Although I have at times, gone through the day half asleep and hardly moved from the couch. 

Just like any other habit, creating a routine and sticking to it is key. Explain to your family how important it is for you to get to bed at a certain time and enlist the help of everybody to make it happen. Follow good sleep habits to ensure you get to bed and have the best chance of falling asleep on time. Then create a morning routine and give yourself an appealing reason to get up on time.

My new favorite alarm is an app called Kiwake and it literally makes it impossible for you to miss it, skip it, snooze it, or otherwise ignore it. It makes sure you’re totally awake and annoys you to the point that you have to be. Works for me!

If you can get out of bed before anyone else, try doing something you love during that alone time. Savor it to take care of you emotionally. Whether this is when you take your walk, read, write, paint, or dance around the kitchen, it doesn’t matter. Just pick something that excites you and makes getting out of bed easier.

4. Light Therapy

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Sometimes all we need to feel a little better is to head outside and let the sun’s rays boost our mood. For me, nothing brightens my day more than just being outside for a little while. It is proven that sunlight boosts our serotonin levels which helps lift our mood.

For some of us, the struggle with depression worsens during the winter months when the days are shorter and the amount of sunlight in a day drops significantly. Especially in a place like Utah where the sub-freezing temperatures keep us from heading outside most days. I know for me, cold temperatures exacerbate my anxiety which can lead me to hunker down indoors during the winter as much as possible. This doesn’t do much for my mood though and has a tendency to lead to depression.

When I returned to Utah after living in Texas for a couple of years, it was a huge climate change. I came home and went straight to the coldest place in Utah to go to school, probably a 70 degree drop in temperature from the sunny Texas weather. Clearly I didn’t think about this ahead of time.

I noticed myself slowly slipping back into the attitude of wanting to stay in bed instead of walk the five blocks to school in the snow and ice. One day after grocery shopping I saw an advertisement for a tanning salon and it occurred to me that all I wanted in the world in that moment was to be warm and to feel the sun on my skin. Against my better judgement I signed up for a punch card.

Let me be clear that I do not advocate tanning beds, we all know they can ruin our skin and give us cancer. But let me tell you, those tanning bed sessions that winter were like a healing salve to my anxious-ridden soul. It was a combination of the warmth and the light that saved me.

Since then, I have done some research and found a much healthier option. I had heard of light therapy for people with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) but didn’t realize you can buy these light boxes and have one in your home. Basically, it is a small-ish box that you can place on a table and sit in front of it for 30 minutes while it fills your eyes with light. You aren’t supposed to actually look into it but rather do something else while sitting there such as get ready, read, write, crochet, whatever. 

They don’t emit the harmful UV rays but have been proven to lift people’s mood, especially during the darker months. I haven’t tried one yet but I told my husband this is a must have for next winter. 

When our bodies are taken care of it is much easier for the mind to think rationally and to pull ourselves out of a slump. Sometimes we need medication or other therapy to get us to that point. If we consciously take care of ourselves by moving regularly, eating healthy, getting sufficient sleep, and getting outside (or at least in front of a light) we can strengthen our mind/body connection and hopefully avoid some of those traps that lead us down the rabbit hole of depression. 

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Have you seen a difference in your mood when you take care of your body in these 4 ways? Which one affects you the most and how do you make it a priority even when you don’t feel like it?

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10 Tips to a Better Night’s Sleep

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Whenever you get a group of moms together and they start swapping stories and chatting about the hard-knock life of motherhood, you’re bound to hear about sleep deprivation. It is a universal struggle. We know to expect it with our newborns but what about when we can’t use that excuse anymore because our kids are now sleeping through the night? Why is it that we still don’t feel rested in the morning?

I’ve put together a comprehensive list of some things we can do in order to make sleep more of a priority and for those of us who might have a harder time making it to bed early or falling asleep once we’re there.

1. Assess Sleeping Environment

Your bedroom is a sacred place. Use this checklist to create a fortress that will induce sleep:

•   Keep the temperature lower, between 60-67 degrees preferably.

•   Keep it dark with blackout curtains if you need them.

•   Make it a rule that your bed is for sleep and sex only. Creating any other associations (such as working, watching TV, or browsing Pinterest) will create a discord when you climb into bed to sleep.

•   Is it comfortable? Do you look forward to crawling into a soft, lush bed with cloud like pillows and warm blankets? If not, make it a goal to create that, STAT.

2. Calming Nighttime Routine

Just as the parenting books say it is important to create a nighttime routine for your kids to help them sleep, so it is with your routine. If you like to have a few minutes to yourself once the kids are in bed, find a calming activity that you can make a part of your routine. Reading, crocheting, writing, yoga, or stretching are all great ideas. Try not to include electronics in your routine as they can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.

3. Same Sleep Schedule

Part of your nighttime routine will include a non-negotiable bedtime hour. Which should follow with a non-negotiable wake up hour. Working toward going to sleep and getting up at the same time everyday will pay off great dividends in life. It’s difficult when you have young kids who sometimes wake up in the night and require your attention. However, making it a goal and protecting that time as best you can is one of the smartest things you can do for your health.

4. Exercise Daily

Daily exercise has proven to help most people fall asleep at night. It’s a good idea to do something, each day, that gets your heart rate up. It doesn’t have to be a marathon run on the treadmill but something that gets your blood flowing. Try to do it earlier in the day for the best effect.

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5. Power Down Electronics

Screens from any of our electronic devices are a huge problem when it comes to sleep. So many of us plop ourselves in front of the TV, flip open our laptops, or grab our phones to “unwind” at night. The problem is, these activities don’t help us unwind, they stimulate our brain and tell it to stop producing melatonin because the light from these screens suggests it’s daytime.

Try turning these devices completely off or plugging them into a central charging station for everyone’s devices an hour or so before bedtime. This is sure to help you get to bed on time and fall asleep quickly once you’re there.

6. Close the Kitchen

I want to scream every time my kids tell me, well after dinnertime, “I’m hungry!” My response is always the same, “Why didn’t you eat when it was time to eat?” I have made it a habit to warn my kids when they’re ready to get down from the dinner table, “Are you sure you’re done eating? The kitchen is closed as soon as you get down from the table, understood?”

Not only is it annoying to feed my kids when we’re in the middle of our bedtime routine, going to bed on a full stomach can make it difficult to fall asleep. Drinking too many liquids too close to bedtime can cause us to get up in the night to go to the bathroom. If we make it a habit to “close the kitchen” after dinner, we’re much less likely to suffer from these things when we’re trying to fall asleep. I make it clear the kitchen is closed by turning off the lights.

7. Avoid Caffeine, Tobacco, and Alcohol

Caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol can all have a negative effect on our sleep habits. If Diet Coke is your vice and you’re telling me there’s no way you’re going to give it up, consider giving it up after a certain hour in the day. These things can stay in your system for many hours so at least try eliminating them in the afternoon and evening hours.

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8. Dim Lights

A really good way to change gears at home when it’s time to start getting ready for bed is to circle your house and turn off all the overhead lights. I usually leave a lamp on in each room but the difference in brightness is a good sign to your brain that nighttime is approaching and to start producing melatonin.

9. White Noise

The other night, my mom and her sister were talking about when they were young they used to listen to the radio or their records at night to fall asleep. Now they both have this major problem where they can’t sleep some nights because they have a stupid line of a stupid song that gets stuck in their heads. I’m no expert so I can’t say listening to the radio causes this weird problem but I will say, white noise is probably a better idea.

You can use an app on your phone or purchase a white noise machine. This kind of noise isn’t stimulating like music or TV, it’s background noise if you have a hard time turning your brain off at night.

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10. Don’t Lay Awake in Bed

If you still can’t sleep and you’re laying awake in bed, don’t lay there and stress about how you can’t sleep. Get up and do something relaxing for a while. If you’re worried about something, write it down on a post-it note and tell yourself you’ll think about it in the morning. The more you lay in bed stressing, the less likely you are going to fall asleep. Interrupt the pattern and get up for a minute to distract yourself. Try some relaxing yoga or a low-key book.

Of all the things we can do for our health, sleep is one of the most important. It helps regulate every process in our body and mind and helps us to be more effective during our waking hours. With all of the demands of motherhood, we have to commit to protecting this precious asset. If we don’t, it is far too easy to let other things get in the way.

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Have you tried any of these suggestions to help you get a better night’s sleep? Do you have any others? What is the one thing that most often gets in the way of you getting a good night’s sleep?

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