A Step Before Self Care
There’s a meme floating around on revenge phone use — aka that time when it’s late at night and you know you should go to sleep, but you’ve spent all day doing things for other people, whether it’s your boss or your family, and you just. want. time. alone. to. do. what. YOU. want. The time passes so quickly, and suddenly it’s morning and you’re desperately trying to get yourself out of bed when in fact, you could (and probably should) stay in bed and get another couple of hours of rest.
Does this sound like you? It’s me.
I am a monster without 7–8 hours of sleep. I’m quick to lose my temper, I have a hard time making myself think, and I end up relying on sugar and caffeine to get me through, which then makes going to sleep again that night even harder.
But what’s a girl to do?
In some ways, this has been the best part of #RoadLife. Living in a 23-foot trailer with a toddler means that when he goes to sleep, we ALL go to sleep (because all day with a toddler is enough. No one is doing anything to risk waking him up.). Going to bed so early has been such a crazy experience. At first, I was bored and couldn’t fall asleep. I kept thinking of the millions of things I could be doing. I was frustrated that I wasn’t getting enough done during the day, and I missed having time to myself.
But slowly, I began to love it. I don’t wake up exhausted anymore. I don’t need a venti latte with an extra shot to get through my morning. I don’t need a cookie to get over my midday crash because there are no midday crashes, and while the floor might be strewn with toys and the laundry is a little extra piled up, it doesn’t really matter because I feel good.
Prior to this, I tried all the sleep hygiene tips. I would turn off my phone an hour before bed, I would keep the room cool and dark. I charged my phone in the kitchen so it wasn’t close to my bedroom, and I would try to read or meditate for 30 minutes before my desired bedtime. I tried jersey sheets, cotton sheets, satin sheets, and linen sheets.
None of it worked — until I gave myself permission to let everything else go and to prioritize my sleep.
Life is just so busy these days. You can fill every waking moment with courses and chores and work. I can go on and on about all my various duties, and why the world might fall apart if I don’t get everything done, but the truth is that nothing gets done well if I’m not taking care of myself. You’ve probably heard it a million times, but only because it’s true: you can’t pour from an empty cup. Self-care is such a buzzword these days, and maybe a long, luxurious bath works for you, but I needed something more. I needed permission from myself to stop the ride and get off for a moment.
Saying it like that makes it sound easy, when in fact, it’s the hardest part of all. We have been raised in a culture that makes overwork feel like the norm. We reserve our praise for burning the candle at both ends — and now we’re paying for it. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
But it requires acceptance — acceptance that you can’t do everything, at least not all at the same time. Acceptance that some things (see: my laundry) won’t get done on a daily basis. Acceptance that our health is more important than our to-do list. Changing this mindset takes work, but it is so essential. They say that the first step on the road to recovery is acknowledging the problem, but I’m going to add a step 1b — giving yourself permission to commit to that change.
If it doesn’t happen right away, that’s also ok. Health is a practice, and every moment you have the chance to stay on the same path or change direction. I don’t know anyone who says they’ve made all the right choices all of the time, and we can rejoice in the simple fact that we have the option to make all of these choices. I also know that sometimes it feels like we don’t have a choice in the matter (see: my laundry), but this is where a health coach can really benefit, helping you wade through all the endless lists and prioritize so that you can take the rest you deserve.
What helps you sleep better? Do you have issues with giving yourself permission to relax? Is there anything you want to try differently? I’d love to hear all about your experiences, so feel free to drop a comment below, or head over to my social media to tell me about your thoughts!
Caroline is an Integrative Nutrition Health coach and a licensed pediatric feeding specialist. Through her company, Nest Level Care (www.nestlevelcare.com, @nestlevelcare), she provides health and wellness coaching for new mothers, while also supporting families with feeding practices for children, whether they are breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or starting solids! When she isn’t providing individualized services for her Nest Level Care clients, you can find her on Instagram (@campernicus), traveling around the US in a travel trailer with her husband, son, and dog, or watching episodes of The Great British Baking Show.