Have a think for a moment about when you got out of bed this morning; are you one of the lucky ones who leapt out of bed ready to tackle the world and all that it brings? Or did you wait for everyone else to get out of bed and get going for the day while you stayed under the sanctity of the blankets until all was quiet again and the clock on the wall was approaching midday?
All the while wishing and hoping that the strange and annoying upset stomach that you seem to get at the same time every morning will go away and not come back tomorrow? How do I know about the latter and how hard it is? Because I have personally been there, I have been the one who got the upset stomach every morning, the one who waited until everyone had left for the day before having a hot shower, agonising over what productive task I could possibly achieve for the day and then slipping back into bed with a feeling of defeat and frustration.
I can still remember the feeling of having to force myself out of bed at midday, the feeling of security and relief that I was finally alone in our house, locked away from the world’s prying eyes and probing questions. Questions about why I wasn’t working, how could I be on holidays for so long and why had I lost so much weight.
So how did I make myself get out of bed at a reasonable time, if at all? Well to start with, I had to sort out getting a full night’s sleep so I didn’t have to sleep half the day away because I had been awake most of the night. I can tell you some things that didn’t help; thirteen previous years of shift work, alcohol, alcohol and more alcohol (contrary to popular belief) and the use of sleeping tablets, both prescribed and natural products.
Well I guess that last statement is not entirely true! Prescription sleeping tablets and their natural/organic cousins did help, they helped me get a few nights sleep here and there until my body woke up to what was going on and started building up a tolerance to both versions of them. So as most sleep deprived people do, I upped the dosage or changed the type of sleeping tablet, unfortunately this only fooled my body for a very short period of time.
Back to the alcohol solution (or attempted solution) to assist me with my sleeping problems. Well at first I thought I was on a winner, happy days……… so to say, not only did the nightly alcohol make me feel semi-human again it made me feel happy and relaxed whilst I was drinking it and it initially helped me get to sleep.
The problem was it didn’t keep me asleep and I found myself waking after a few hours and not being able to get back to sleep, along with waking up with a headache, the cost, and my body doing that annoying thing again of building up a tolerance to my so-called solution. So the cycle started. More alcohol to get the same amount of sleep as the night before, more headaches and more money to buy the increase in alcohol needed for that few hours of sleep.
What else did this do? Well it made my ability to push myself to get out of bed the next morning all that bit harder. Take it from me! Alcohol won’t fix your sleeping problems and subsequently won’t help you get out of bed in the morning when you are dealing with mental health challenges. Imagine my surprise that I had to find this out from personal experience and have since found out that the medical world have known this to be true for years!
Enough about what didn’t work; let’s talk about what did work for me. How did I find a manageable sleep solution that allowed me to get out of bed in the morning? I must stress this is what worked for me, it may not work as good for you or hopefully it may work better for you than it did for me, either way, please ensure you consult your appropriate medical physician for a review before embarking on your own journey.
I wish I could say it was one specific thing that helped me, that there is a magic pill or potion that made me feel fantastic in the morning. Fantastic enough not to have an upset stomach every single damn morning, fantastic enough to have me leaping out of bed ready to take on the world for another day! Reality is; that is not the case. But like most good things in life the hard work was worth it.
For me it was a combination of different approaches that allowed me to eventually wake up with an element of confidence that I could face the day, get out of bed and function before the two hands on the wall clock hit the number twelve.
Medication – Yes you guessed it medication. Not just any medication I am talking about the right medication for my health issues. For me that was mental health medication that had a slight sedative effect whilst addressing the chemical imbalance in my brain, thus assisting me in my quest for a better night’s sleep. Guidance from a GP is essential and also, critical to this process is being honest with your GP.
They can’t assist if they don’t know what they’re dealing with. Don’t leave out any details in what you are experiencing. Make an appointment and don’t waste the appointment by understating your symptoms. If the words are too difficult to say out loud, write them down.
Music – When I found I couldn’t shut my brain off at night I would listen to music on an iPod whilst in bed. I would just set my iPod to random and let it go, it was a happy distraction from the chatter in my mind. I often found myself waking up in the morning with my ear phones still in, all tangled up in the cord with the iPod battery flat, but waking up, meant I had slept and that was a positive.
Acceptance – Acceptance within my inner-self that I was not alone in having a mental health challenge, that I was not the only one in the world going through an issue like this. Acceptance that although it was bloody tough running through the trenches of my mental health challenge, I would get through it and look back on this time and realise that it was a mere blip on my life’s radar.
Determination – I should just clarify, not just determination, I am talking about sheer dogged determination. Determination to latch onto and drag to the surface, the tiniest glimmer of the normal, confident, capable person that I remember looking at in the mirror. Determination that you have, when you have two young kids that miss their old daddy, their old, happy, driven, fun-loving daddy.
Not their current withdrawn, sleep all-day, always cranky daddy! You would think this alone would be enough to push someone out of the morning doldrums, but believe me when I say mental health challenges can be all-consuming and very hard to get through without the right, support and guidance.
In one of my previous articles ‘5 Ways to keep your mind healthy’ I also touched on a number of other ways to keep your mind healthy, such as talking about issues, intense exercise, meditation and yoga, concentrating on small milestones and of course medication as also mentioned above.
If I can leave you with a last thought. Studies show that mental illnesses can result from lack of sleep and mental illness in itself can cause sleep disruption. It’s not a fair cycle, but it is a cycle none the less. Activity of any kind and ideally a combination which includes physical activity, allows your brain and body to tire, which allows your sleep pattern to return towards a natural cycle.
Your daily activity levels are a part of what dictate your pattern for the evening for winding down and your evening routine and sleep quality, affect the following day and your ability to get up and start the day. That is because in-order to get yourself out of that bed in the morning and back onto the road to recovery, you have to consider the activity levels of the day before. The healthy sleep cycle starts the day before. Start simple, start achievable, start sleeping.
If you would like to know more about this subject or share your story with me I would love to hear from you, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or a tweet at @HMHFuture.
Life Life. Be Positive!
Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health