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Category: Coping Methods

Healthy Thinking: Why YOU Aren’t the Problem (Free Printable)

Healthy Thinking: Why YOU Aren’t the Problem (Free Printable)

Do you ever feel down in the dumps?

What Road Rage Taught Me About Life - http://hopemire.comLast week, I wrote a post called What Road Rage Taught Me About Life, where I discussed unhealthy thinking patterns related to the Fundamental Attribution Error.

Gosh, what is the Fundamental Attribution Error?

Well… go back and read my post! It explains the science behind this powerful principle.

In today’s post, we’re going to discuss how to apply that science. And I have a printable worksheet you can use to work through these principles in your own life. You’re welcome!

You can download the printable at the bottom of this post.

Unhealthy Thought Patterns

For people who struggle with depression or anxiety, when something goes wrong, it’s easy to blame ourselves. We attribute the situation to our own low self-worth, saying things like:

  • I’m just not good enough
  • I’m not smart enough
  • I’ll always be a failure

The problem is, that kind of thinking is self-defeating and doesn’t provide any room for hope or self-development. For example:

  • If I’m just not good enough, that must mean I don’t have what it takes to be successful.
  • If I’m not smart enough, how will I ever learn the skills I need in order to move forward?
  • If I’ll always be a failure, then why even try?

A Healthier Approach

When experiencing a challenging situation, instead of jumping to negative conclusions about our own character or personality, what if we explored the situation more fully and recognized that there are several factors at play, and not all of them are even under our control?

What if we focused more on what we can do, than on how defeated we feel?

I understand that can be a hard step to take…. It’s not easy to stop the train wreck of racing negative thoughts. I know that from experience. But, friend, it’s worth a try!

Getting Out of the Rut

Learn healthy thinking patterns at www.hopemire.comOur thoughts are like wagon wheels that develop deep grooves in the ground. The more we think a certain way, the deeper those grooves become. Over time, it feels impossible to change our thinking patterns. We no longer have to even steer the wagon. It will still follow the path of those grooves.

But, with the help of friends and sheer determination, it is possible to lift the wagon out of those grooves and start it on a new path. It will take time and effort, but it can be done.

About Your Free Printable

In this post, I’ve included a free printable worksheet on the attribution error topic. It can be downloaded below.

This worksheet takes you through five steps in recognizing the attribution error in your personal life and using it to improve your thought patterns. It follows these five steps:

  1. Internal context: What negative emotions am I feeling?
  2. External Context: What situation triggered these emotions?
  3. Internal Attributes: What do these emotions reveal about how I view myself?
  4. External Attributes: What external (outside of myself) factors contributed to the situation? How can I use that knowledge to shift my thought patterns in a healthier direction?
  5. Accountability: Who will I invite into the conversation, for an outside perspective, and to hold me accountable in practicing this healthier thought pattern?

For Example, Here is How I’ve Used This Printable

1.) Internal Context: What did I experience emotionally?

Frustration, self-doubt, dread, self-hate

www.hopemire.com2.) External Context: What situation triggered those negative emotions?

I had to come back early from a two-year mission stint in Peru, but several of my friends were successfully staying long-term on the overseas mission assignments. I was comparing myself to them.

3.) Internal Attributes: What negative thoughts did I believe about myself in the midst of that situation?

I must be a failure. They’re successful, but I just can’t make it. I’m not good enough.

4.) External Attributes: What was a healthier explanation of the situation?

They had significant training for their mission work, whereas I had no training in long-term mission work.

They were participating in a much more like-minded ministry experience, where as I had teamed up with people who did not share all of my beliefs and values. In such a situation, conflict is natural and to be expected. That does not mean there is something inherently wrong with me.

I thought I’d been a failure, but that wasn’t true. I had followed through with what God called me to do. That means it was a success. Some of the other stuff leading to my premature departure was simply due to factors outside of my control, and I cannot penalize myself for that.

5.) Accountability: Who can I call and talk with for support and an outside perspective?

The situation I’m describing above happened several years ago. When this took place, I shared my fears and emotions with a few key friends: Piccola, Janet, and Millie. They helped me walk through the process and provided emotional support as I sought a healthy, constructive perspective on what had happened.

Practice Self-Compassion

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." Arthur Ashe Quote

When you struggle with negative thought patterns and low self-esteem, it can be very challenging to treat yourself with compassion.

You would have no problem loving on a friend who’s going through a difficult season, but when you go through the exact same circumstances, you beat yourself up.

C’mon, that’s just not necessary!

You are a beautiful human being, made in the image of God Himself. That doesn’t mean you’re perfect. But it does mean that you have an inherent dignity given to you by God.

Your Healthy-Thinking Homework

Ok! At long last, here it is:

Download your free printable here!

For practice, go ahead and work through one recent situation where you experienced negative self-talk or other unhealthy thought patterns. Practice filling out those answers.

If you need help, feel free to shoot me an email with questions about this printable, at hopemireblog@gmail.com. Or you can talk to a trusted friend about the situation, one who loves you and will speak truth over you.

Then I’d encourage you to print out a few copies of this (front and back) and keep these pages somewhere handy.

That way, when you experience a negative situation, you can easily pull out one of these sheets and start processing where your thoughts and emotions are with regards to that situation.

I truly hope this worksheet will help you develop newer, healthier thinking patterns! Remember that it takes time and effort though.

Keep working at it, and don’t give up.

After some time, you might just find that you’ve created new “wagon wheel grooves” along a healthier path.

For Further Reading:

What is Your Bedtime Routine?

What is Your Bedtime Routine?

Back in April, I wrote a blog post in which I shared my bedtime routine. Since I struggle with anxiety and had a high stress job at the time, I really needed a routine to help establish a sense of normality. Preparing my lunches and picking out my outfit the night before also helped me go to bed with a greater sense of peace, because I knew things would be ready in the morning.

I must confess, I haven’t been great about keeping up with that routine, especially since I moved, changed jobs, and went back to school. It’s been hard finding my new normal. Life is much less structured, and sometimes a bit unpredictable.

In many ways, that’s great! I’ve had more time for me, for blogging, for dreaming, and I’ve been able to catch up on sleep! But sometimes I really miss the routine.

Anyway, I’m participating in a 7-day blogging challenge today, from www.problogger.net. It has been awesome! Today is day 6, and our challenge today was to create a piece of content that is a “discussion starter.” We’re supposed to ask a question of our audience.

So my question to you is this:

What is your bedtime routine?

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you do for your bedtime routine (or what you wish you did!) I’d love tips and fresh ideas, and I’m sure we can all learn from one another!

If you don’t have a bedtime routine, feel free to take a look at my post on what I do (or used to do, lol!) each night. It might get your juices flowin’!

How to Find a Therapist

How to Find a Therapist

One common question I hear is: how do I find a therapist?

Maybe you’ve finally decided to get some counseling, but you just don’t know where to start.

Here are some simple steps you can follow:

1. What kind of therapist should I see?

  • Psychiatrist – a medical doctor who specializes in psychiatric illness. Their main function is to diagnose and prescribe medicine. Once this is complete, they often refer you to a psychologist or LPC for counseling.
  • Psychologist – typically has a doctorate degree in psychology, which includes extensive training in human psychology, behavior, and evaluation. They provide counseling, including a range of treatment options, and can also perform psychological testing and evaluations.
  • Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) – a counselor who has a Masters degree in Counseling, passed an exam, and completed 3,000 hours of supervised counseling work, in order to receive the LPC credentials.
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – social workers specialize in case management, helping clients connect to local resources with the goal of improving overall quality of life. A social worker with LCSW credentials has a specialty in mental health and can do some counseling.

2. How do I find someone in my area?

Option 1: Seek referrals from your primary care physician, as well as family members and friends who see a counselor

Option 2: Use Psychology Today’s therapist search page:

A.  Go to this website: https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/
B.  Enter your zip code
C.  You can filter results by insurance carrier, specialty, language, faith tradition, etc.
D.  Review the results and make a short list of therapists in which you might be interested
E.  In reading each therapist’s description, look for professionalism and treatment philosophy

3. Call them and do an interview (yes, that’s allowed!):

  • How long have they been a counselor?
  • What credentials / license do they have?
  • What is their counseling philosophy?
  • Do they have any specialties?
  • How much do they charge and do they take your insurance?
    • If you like the therapist but can’t afford him or her, ask for a referral. Some might even let you send them your short list from step 2 above, and they can then give you feed back on those therapists you’re interested in.

4. After your first meeting with a therapist, ask yourself some questions:

  • How comfortable did you feel with the therapist? You shouldn’t expect to feel absolutely comfortable because, by nature, therapy is challenging, especially the first session. However, you should feel comfortable enough with a therapist that you’re willing to share your deep anxieties and emotional issues.
  • Did the therapist treat you with respect and dignity? If not, then that therapist might not be a good fit. You want someone who is going to help your self-perception, not hurt it.
  • Did the therapist truly listen and ask questions? You’re paying a lot of money for that appointment and you’re investing time into it. You want someone who will listen to you and seek to help you improve.

5. Select a therapist, set some goals, and stick with it!

Based on your research, interviews, and initial experiences, select a therapist. Work with that individual and set some goals. Then I’d encourage you to stick with it! Don’t give up on seeing improvement! You owe it to yourself!

Thrive: the Little Book that Changed My Life!

Thrive: the Little Book that Changed My Life!

This little book changed my life. Literally…. I’m not joking!

Background:

The Thrive book holds several lessons on holistic health, with a focus on improving quality of life for those who struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. The curriculum was developed by the Mental Health Grace Alliance, in Waco, TX.

How I Learned About Thrive:

I first got involved with the Grace Alliance after my church counselor failed to address the main concerns with which I’d come to her: my fear of conflict and increasing anxiety levels. I wasn’t ready to see a professional counselor yet, but knew I needed help.

At that time, my friend Jenna was on staff with the Grace Alliance, so I reached out to her for more information. We scheduled a meeting, and she told me all about the Thrive curriculum. I was intrigued!

The Difference it Made:

For the next few months, I met weekly with a Thrive coach, who helped me walk through the material and held me accountable in applying those truths to my life. The first topic was about sleep, and it was life altering!

At that time, I was working way too many hours at my job. I’d often stay in the office well past midnight. Yikes!! Not surprisingly, it was negatively affecting my memory, quality of work, stress levels, and overall sense of wellbeing.

The thing was, I didn’t care about myself enough to even consider making a change. The possible negative repercussions (not getting everything done perfectly, feeling like a failure, not being prepared, etc.) were too risky.

Sleep Log - Thrive WorkbookThe Thrive lesson on sleep discusses how important sleep is for quality of life as well as proper brain functioning. Our application step for that week was to try and sleep at least 7.5
hours each night, and to keep a sleep log, recording hours and quality of sleep, as well as how I felt during the next day.

I noticed these immediate benefits within just one week of proper sleeping habits:

  • A huge decrease in stress levels
  • An almost complete reversal of my anxiety
  • Improved memory functioning
  • More efficient, productive work days

But the BIG revelation was this:

I had been working myself into the ground, partly because I’m a perfectionist, but also because I truly wanted to serve people well and give back to the community. I thought that working a lot of hours was helping me get more done and provide better services, but it was slowly killing me.

Because of Thrive, I learned this vital lesson:

If I want to continue giving back to the community for the long haul (i.e. the next 30-40 years), I have to learn how to take care of myself now, so that I’ll be alive for the long haul.

And once I realized that…

For the first time ever, I was able to put my #selfcare first, without feeling guilty about it! Click To Tweet

Amazing! I truly don’t think I would have learned that lesson without having completed the Thrive curriculum. And that revelation was a springboard toward many other positive changes that have overall helped transform my life!

I’m so glad I got connected with the Grace Alliance and would highly recommend this resource to anyone!

So Here Are the Deets:

The Table of Contents is posted on the Grace Alliance website, but roughly, the book covers the following topics:

  • Physical Needs:
    • Sleep
    • Medicine
    • Relaxation
    • Diet
    • Exercise
  • Mental Needs
    • Finding Balance
    • Renewing Your Mind
    • Stress Management
    • Cycles and Triggers
    • Brain Resilience
  • Spiritual Needs
    • Hope
    • Identity
    • Relationship with God
    • Finding Purpose
    • Community
  • Relationship Needs
    • Healthy Relationships
    • Conflict Management
    • Forgiveness
    • Overcoming Stigma
    • Serving Others

Each topic includes:

  • 1-2 Scripture verses related to that topic
  • Questions for discussion / reflection
  • A bulleted list of relevant facts for better understanding of the topic
  • “Making a Change” section that gives tips and ideas for how to improve your habits and quality of life with respect to that topic
  • Homework (i.e. mood charts, sleeping logs, meal plan worksheets)

Mental Health Coaching

The Thrive book can be completed alone, but (depending on location) the Grace Alliance might also be able to provide a mental health coach who can help walk you through the curriculum. Having a coach gives you someone with whom you can discuss the material, as well as someone who will pray for you and help hold you accountable to applying the material. And accountability does wonders!!

The coach is not normally a licensed professional, but rather a peer, and should not replace professional therapy.

There is a small cost associated with utilizing a mental health coach through the Grace Alliance. It’s $35.00 per session and was designed to be not much more than a typical insurance co-pay.

Accessing a mental health coach through the Grace Alliance requires having someone in your area who has gone through their training process, but it’s my understanding that the training process is readily available. If you, or someone you know, is interested in becoming a coach, I would encourage you to contact the Mental Health Grace Alliance for more information.

Target Group:

The Thrive curriculum is designed for those who struggle with mental illness, but honestly, I believe it’s a great reference for just about anyone, providing practical skills and knowledge on holistic health.

Benefits:

  • The steps are easy to understand and apply
  • The curriculum emphasizes small, manageable changes that are sustainable, rather than large, unrealistic changes all at once
  • Each application section includes a variety of suggestions, so the book appeals to any experience level, and the reader can choose which portion he or she wants to focus on
  • Working with a coach provides accountability, which is huge!

Challenges:

  • Depending on where you live, it may be hard to find a coach
  • $35 a week for a coach comes out to $140 a month. It’s definitely worth the price, but for some, that might be too expensive. I ended up moving our meetings to every other week, to better fit my budget. The good thing is, they can be flexible with you.

Where and How to Get it:

You can purchase the Thrive book through the Mental Health Grace Alliance’ website. The booklet is $25.00 for a paper copy and $22.00 for digital only. They do have some bulk order discounts available.


Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this review and hearing about my personal experiences! I loved working through the Thrive booklet as well as attending a Grace Group with this organization.

To all the wonderful staff and volunteers of the Mental Health Grace Alliance, thank you for all you do!

Seven Steps in Working Through Distressful Situations

Seven Steps in Working Through Distressful Situations

Let’s face it. Life is hard. We all encounter seasons of distress. But very few people are taught how to deal with that distress. At least I wasn’t…. It’s not like they go over that in school. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years.

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health care professional. For any medical advice, please contact a licensed professional. Also, for emergency situations involving a crime or the potential for physical harm, call 9-1-1.

1. Start by re-orienting yourself

When something distressing occurs, it’s easy to feel trapped within the downward spiral of negative thoughts, especially if you struggle with anxiety. Perhaps there was a conflict at work and you can’t stop thinking about what that co-worker said, or the single distressing word in that email you read. In your mind, you imagine a hundred versions about what they meant. And when you can’t think of any more versions, you start recycling through previous ones. I experience terrible racing thoughts like this and they can last for days.

So do something to re-orient yourself. It’s kind of like shocking yourself out of the situation that you feel stuck in. For example:

  • Splash some cold water on your face. This can help decrease the rise in temperature you’re experiencing from the fight or flight syndrome.
  • Go outdoors. Even if it’s just for a couple of minutes, changing your environment can really help you get outside of the situation. Your mind will be distracted by the new stimuli coming in through all five senses. The sunshine. The sound of birds (or cars, depending on where you’re at). The smells. All of these things can help pull you out of the downward spiral.

2. Distract yourself

Take some time to get your mind off of the situation. Of course, when a distressful situation needs attention, seeking distraction sounds counter intuitive. However, science shows that, while we’re not consciously thinking about a problem, our subconscious mind is still working toward a solution. In fact, science states that we need this period of subconscious thought, in order to come to the best resolution. Sound crazy? Think about the phrase, “Sleep on it.” 

Also, distracting yourself gives your mind time to calm down until it can return to homeostasis. When you’re in the midst of a crisis, your body and brain move into fight or flight mode. It’s an increase in the sympathetic nervous system. Your brain makes quick decisions, ones that are not always the best decisions. You owe it to the situation to get yourself calmed down, so that you can think clearly again.

Try some of these ways to distract yourself:

  • Watch a funny TV show, like Parks and Rec.
  • Clean your room or work space.
  • Listen to some music.
  • Work on a Sudoku puzzle.
  • Read a book.
  • Play tennis.

Or anything that might distract you for a little bit.

3. Practice self-soothing behaviors

This is similar to the previous step. It involves calming and grounding ourselves, in preparation for dealing with the problem at hand.

When I’m too overwhelmed by a situation, the last thing I want to do is address it. I’d rather run in the opposite direction. In fact, I get really good at distracting myself with Netflix! However, I can’t do that forever. Being an adult, at some point, I have to address things. But before I can address things, I need to feel safe in doing so. Self-soothing behaviors are my warm-up for moving back into the situation.

For me, self-soothing behaviors could look like a few different things.

  • I take a walk in the park, because there are trees and water, which remind me of growing up in beautiful, peaceful New England.
  • Exercise causes endorphins to flow through your system.
  • I also love staring up at the night sky, thinking about the stars and planets, different constellations, the Milky Way. There’s a sense of wonder that comes from that. I realize how small I am compared to the entire universe, and it gives me deeper perspective.
  • For some people, it might be swimming or a hot bath.
  • Getting a massage.
  • Listening to worship music.
  • Hanging out with your best friend.

It could be anything that creates a pleasant emotion within you and helps you relax. You’ll need these pleasant emotions to groud you as you head back into dealing with the situation.

4. Take some time for prayer and consideration

Once you’ve calmed down a bit, you can take your emotions and the situation to God. Remember that He loves you and He has some creative solution for the challenges you face. That doesn’t mean the challenges will necessarily go away. Sometimes they don’t. But it does mean He has something in mind to help you get through it.

There is also a greater sense of peace knowing that you have a constant ally, One who is much stronger than you. And He works all things out for good. That doesn’t mean that everything that happens to us is good. It just means that, whatever happens to us, He can bring something good out of it, whether it’s a lesson we learned, a new career path, new friendships, or even just simply the ability to help others in similar situations.

Pray for things such as: peace, wisdom on how to approach the situation, reconciliation between the individuals involved, perhaps physical healing (miracles can happen!), perseverance, and anything else that comes to mind. Above all, ask for clarity on how best to move forward in a way that honors God and loves people well.

5. Recognize any unhealthy / unrealistic thinking traps

Sometimes when a situation distresses us, it’s because we are practicing unhealthy thinking habits. Other times, such as in interpersonal conflict, it’s often due to a simple miscommunication.

Common thinking traps:

  • All or nothing thinking (for example, people either fully love you or fully hate you)
  • Catastrophic thinking
  • The Fundamental Attribution Error
  • Mind reading (assuming you know what others are thinking)
  • Using a negative brain filter (filtering out any positive evidence and honing in on all the negative evidence)

To learn more, check out this website on thinking traps.

6. Take action, but remember the steps above and repeat them as often as necessary

I find that, when facing a distressing situation, I may have to pass through the above steps multiple times. That’s ok. Everyone is different and stressors will vary greatly. Part of building resilience is not giving up. If you get to step five, but you’re still utterly overwhelmed, you might not be ready to address the situation yet. I’ll say it again: that’s ok! Especially when we’re talking about situations of abuse or other trauma. Oh and on that note, please be safe…. That brings me to my final step, number 7 below.

7. Recognize that it’s ok to seek help

If you are the victim of any type of abuse, please seek help. The phone number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233. Call them if you are in a situation where you fear physical violence from a loved one. In other cases of physical violence or actual emergencies, call 9-1-1.

For other situations, if you are really struggling, you may benefit from talking to a licensed professional counselor or psychologist, and that’s totally ok! It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you, nor does it make you weak. If this helps, just think of them as a consultant who can help you brainstorm healthy, constructive solutions to the problems you face. I’ve seen a counselor multiple times in two separate situations, and, both times, I found it incredibly beneficial!

Anyway, I hope the above steps help. They are just a starting place and take practice, but they’ve definitely helped me on many occasions!

What about you?

What helps you get through stressful situations? I’d love to hear about your coping methods, so please leave a comment below!

My Bedtime Routine and Why You Should Have One

My Bedtime Routine and Why You Should Have One

About three years ago, I went from working 40 hours a week to working 60 hours a week, basically overnight. The first thing to suffer? My health. And boy did it suffer! With that came a significant increase in my anxiety symptoms.

At one point, I met with my friend who’s a 4th grade reading teacher and asked her how she manages the 60-hour-work-week lifestyle. She said something that stood out to me: “Michelle, you know what is super important? Having a bedtime routine and sticking to it!”

I was taken aback. Aren’t bedtime routines only for children ages 10 and under? And… my routine at the time? Uhm, not your shining example…

  • Get home from work
  • Watch Netflix until 2am
  • Fall asleep

Obviously… that wasn’t quite working!

Bedtime routines are for adults too, especially those struggling with anxiety. Click To Tweet

Here’s why:

  • Having a routine lowers my anxiety levels, because there’s the sense that I know what’s coming next.
  • Having a routine is something I can easily fall back upon when my mind doesn’t have the capacity to try something new.
  • I never know whether I’m going to get up the first time my alarm clock goes off in the morning, or if I’m going to be racing out of bed and straight to work at the last minute. So my bedtime routine includes specific steps that help prepare me for a smoother morning.

Here’s what my bedtime routine looks like now (…or at least on most days):

1.) Prep my lunch for the next day (so that it’s grab and go).

Since I don’t have much time (or energy) for cooking, I try and do meal prep on the weekends. I’ll cook one large meal (like a family-size lasagna) and eat a little bit for lunch each day during the work week. Since I’m still single with no kids, this seems to work well.

  1. Each night, I’ll dish out a portion of that large meal into a travel container, just what I need for the next day.
  2. Then I grab 1-2 small snacks. That normally includes a Fiber One 90 calorie brownie, which gives me something sweet, but substantial (thank you Fiber!), and if I’m doing well, I also pack a zip lock bag with a portion of frozen fruit.
  3. I place everything in a plastic grocery bag (Recycle! Don’t throw them away!) and it sits over night in my fridge. …Yes, the brownie goes in the fridge too. Everything together in one bag. Spending the night in the fridge ain’t going to hurt my non-perishable snack. And I don’t mind my frozen fruit thawing out over night. That means they won’t crack my teeth when I try and eat them the next day….
  4. In the morning, I just pass by the fridge and grab the bag on my way to work.

Lunch Prep

This process takes maybe five minutes per night, and it’s the first thing I do, because my roommates are normally chatty and it allows me to get something done while still interacting with them. It’s also a cue to them that I’m gearing down for the night.

P.S. Depending on what I cook for my large meal, this isn’t always the healthiest option, but it helps keep me sane. I use a 7-day pill container for my medicine as well as a women’s complete vitamin and a fish oil supplement. That helps get me some nutritional value when my energy level just doesn’t allow for healthier cooking. … Or another healthy option would be one of those tasty Bistro Bowl salads, like in the picture above.

Bedtime2.) Head to my room, turn on my bedside lamp, and turn off the overhead light. 

This dims the lighting and sends a cue to my brain that it’s almost time for sleep.

3.) Personal hygiene 101…

  1. I brush and floss my teeth. Final call if my roommates are still feeling chatty….
  2. I brush my hair and always pull it back into a pony tail. That’s because my hair is long and flowing, and I have a cat who just loves to crawl all over my hair while I’m trying to sleep!
  3. I wash my face. This comes after brushing my teeth, because toothpaste can sometimes aggravate the skin.

4.) I decide on tomorrow’s outfit.

This saves me a TON of time every morning!!! And it helps me sleep relaxed. At night, I have more time to check my calendar to see what types of appointments I’m going to have the next day, make sure my clothes have dried properly (without wrinkles), and perhaps even check Pinterest for something cute. It’s much more peaceful to do this at night time!

5.) I kick everyone out of my bedroom, ideally at least 30 minutes before going to sleep.

It’s time to be alone now! I love my roommates, but because I’m an introvert, I need to wind down each night by being absolutely alone. Just me.  …If I ever get married, I’ll have to figure out how that will look… but for now, being single, it works great!

6.) I set my alarm.

Ok, I have a terrible habit: the snooze monster… ahem, I mean, “button.” I’m terrible about hitting the snooze button for more than an hour almost every morning!!! Sometimes I’ve even gotten into the habit of setting my alarm for at least one hour before I need to be up. Because I know I’ll snooze. Does anyone else have that problem?

The best method I’ve found for slaying the snooze monster is to set my alarm for around when I think I’ll be ending a REM cycle. That’s when your body is naturally sleeping at it’s lightest and it’s easier to wake up. There’s an Android app that helps with this: Sleep Cycle. One of my readers told me about it. Sleep Cycle takes out all of the guess work. I tell it how long on average it takes for me to fall asleep. Then I tell it what time it is when I’m going to bed, and it tells me what time for which I should set my alarm. (Proper grammar right there….)

Sleep Cycle App

7.) I put my phone away.

Ok, I need to work on this one. But ideally, the phone goes away at least 30 minutes prior to sleep, because those LED lights keep me awake!!! And also because every time I check my phone, I somehow get sucked into the Facebook vortex and, before I know it, another hour has gone by… and I’m still awake!!

8.) I calm my mind with some light reading (or Sudoku).

Ok, Sudoku annoys the crap out of some people, but for me, it’s very relaxing! My mind prefers it when things are black and white…. When there is one “correct” solution to a problem. When things can be figured out. Sudoku helps give me that sense of peace…. plus I’m also good at Sudoku, so that helps too! Overall it relaxes my mind before going to sleep.

9.) The light goes off.

10.) I close my eyes.

Ok, confession, I added this last one (which is kind of a given, right?) just because I wanted to end on number 10…. I like ending on a 3, 5, or 10.

So there you have it! That’s my bedtime routine! I’m still working on being consistent, but hey, at least I have a one now…. What is in your bedtime routine? Anything good?

Why You Should Be Showering at Night

Why You Should Be Showering at Night

Sleep Experiment

Week #2:

Bathe Before Bed

Hey everyone! We’re back for week 2 of our sleeping experiment! Last week, we learned about the 4-7-8 breathing technique. This week, we’ll talk about taking a hot shower before bed!

The Basics

Studies show that taking a hot shower or bath before heading to bed helps you sleep better. When you move from the warm temperature of the shower to the cooler temperature in your room, it sends a signal to your brain that it’s bed time. Check out Greatist’s post for more of the science behind this!

The Experience

To shower or to take a bath? That is the question! Well… not for me, because strangely enough, I hate baths! So shower it is!

And I must say there is just something incredibly delightful about a hot shower on a cold January night!

It just feels like the whole rest of the world disappears for a moment and you just hear the rushing water and feel the warmth that melts away the weight of the world. It’s amazing!

P.S. I know they say hot water is bad for your skin, because it dries it out. But I’ve never noticed a huge difference…. So it doesn’t bother me. But also be careful about not scalding yourself and, if using super duper hot water, limit your exposure time…. (The pragmatic part of me feels the need to include that statement for liability reasons!)

Whenever I did shower at night this week, I definitely noticed a difference in the speed at which I fell asleep. It was much faster!

Why you should be showering at night, and how to set a bed time routine.

Here’s why I believe it’s better to shower at night:

  • It helped me fall asleep. As I said above, warm rushing water is sooo relaxing! I go to bed without the stress of the day, because the water washed that stress right down the shower drain! And going to bed without as much stress is definitely a plus!
  • I can take my time in the shower. If I shower at night, then the next morning I won’t have to experience the panic of oversleeping and the great debate it causes: arrive at work late but clean, or arrive on time but smelly…?
  • It makes for super fast morning hair prep (if your hair is long and flowing like mine.) I can french braid my wet hair, let it dry that way over night, run my fingers through my hair in the morning, and then simply add some hair spray. Quick hassle free beach curls that look fantastic! Maybe only two minutes of morning prep time required.
  • I can sleep in longer. And that, my friends, is glorious! I’m definitely a fan of sleeping in longer! Since I don’t have to worry about a shower or hair prep, that shaves at least half an hour off my morning routine.

So What Now?

Well, I have definitely seen the benefits of showering at night. But I’m so used to showering in the morning, so I’ll need to work hard at changing that habit.

A Good Bed Time Routine

8:00 pm – Brush my teeth and start showering. Enjoy my time in the hot water, and get out by 8:30pm at the latest.

8:30 pm –  Put on pajamas and french braid my hair.

8:45 pm – Pick out my clothes for the next day and do any final tasks in preparation for tomorrow.

Meal prep.

Gather any out-of-the-norm items I’ll need and pack my bag.

Check the weather forecast. That might change my ideas on what to wear the next day.

Etc.

9:15 pm – Put away the phone. Turn off the overhead light and use the lamp on my night stand. The dim lighting is another signal to my brain that it’s time for bed.

If I’m ahead of schedule, I may use this extra time to tidy up my room just a tad. This is not a time to get distracted by other things, but just to throw any dirty clothes into the hamper, gather any books or papers into a stack, and take any dirty cups to the kitchen sink. 

9:30 pm – Set my alarm. Get into bed and start reading a book.

10:00 pm – Lights out.

To me, that sounds like a great routine! Although the idea of beginning to get ready for bed at 8pm seems… so early! But I really think it would help me out. It would decrease my stress, provide consistency, and help cater to a more peaceful morning. 

Did I miss anything?

What do you do as a part of your bedtime routine? Have you noticed any additional benefits to showering at night? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you! And don’t forget to come back in about a week for the next addition of our sleep experiment!

Ok, well, signing off now!

Sleep well, my friends!

Michelle Louise

Help Me Sleep Better, Please!

Help Me Sleep Better, Please!

“Why can’t I sleep?!?!”

That’s a question I often ask myself. I have historically had terrible sleeping patterns!

Common reasons I can’t sleep:

  • I’m too busy thinking about work.
  • My mind can’t stop replaying some negative event that happened today.
  • I took a nap earlier and now I’m not tired.
  • I stayed up too late trying to escape life by delving into the latest episode of Supernatural on Netflix.
  • I stayed up too late working on my newest, most exciting blog post!
  • Or perhaps I simply can’t sleep…. That happens too….

But sleep is sooo important!!!

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Getting enough sleep has the following benefits:

  • My memory improves.
  • I’m in a better mood the next day.
  • I can think more clearly.
  • I have a better handle on my depression and anxiety symptoms.
  • It’s easier to get up each morning and spend time with Jesus.

Sooo… I’ve done some research into interesting ways to improve my sleep, and I’m gonna do an experiment!

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I’m going to take one sleep improvement technique each week and keep a log on how well it does or does not work.

Then, at the end of each week, I’ll post about that week’s sleeping technique, sharing my results with all of you, my fabulous readers!

I hope this experiment will help each of you find a sleeping technique that works for you!

Here are the techniques I’m going to explore:

Make sure you subscribe to this blog for regular updates on the experiment.

You can subscribe by entering your email into the subscribe box on our home page, or by scrolling down to the footer (in black) below.

And please leave a comment below if

you have any other sleeping

techniques

you want me to try out.

Anyway, week one starts today! Er, last night. We’re starting out with the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Learn more about that technique here, and feel free to join me on the journey! I’m already excited about what I’ve seen with this one! I’ll post the results on or around January 6, so make sure you check back at that time. Or subscribe!

Thank you, my friends, and happy sleeping!

— Michelle Louise

The War Between Fulfilling Expectations and Choosing Rest

The War Between Fulfilling Expectations and Choosing Rest

Expectations rule my life. My subconscious mind constantly seeks out the expectations of others, and then drives me toward fulfilling the “needs” of the entire world. Making them happy is equivalent to keeping myself safe.

Rest… letting go of expectations….

I remember when God first began teaching me about rest. I was sitting down to spend time with Jesus. I started by just quieting my heart and asking God how I should spend time with Him that day. I was sitting on a couch in the living room and I felt like He said, Just stare out the window.

“But God,” I replied, “I should read the Bible or something.”

Still, I felt like He was telling me to just stare out the window.

“But God, then I should spend some time praying or something.”

No, just stare out the window.

“But then, I should put on some worship music….”

Should, should, should. As if I knew better than God…. Have you ever argued with the Creator of the universe? Clear as day, I felt like God said to my heart, Michelle, on the seventh day of creation, I chose to rest. If you refuse to rest, then there is a part of My character that you will never understand.

So I spent an hour staring out the window.

Rest. What a concept! One night, I was in bed trying to fall asleep, but couldn’t calm all my racing thoughts. I kept stressing about events at work. I imagined whole scenarios about my boss, what she’d say and do, what others would say and do, how I’d respond, what I wanted to say but knew I never could, and overall how angry and upset I felt.

Rest. Could I imagine a life where the expectations of others did not rule me? What if I could make my own choices without fearing their reactions? What if I actually believed I was safe even when disagreeing with people? But what if I could just lie there in that bed and not have other people’s real or imagined expectations hijacking my brain?

Rest… taking a moment to just be. To simply exist. Not worrying about everything I have to accomplish. Choosing to ignore the expectations that are clamoring for my attention.

Rest… a moment to enjoy… silence. To focus simply on the air entering and leaving my lungs. To lie there and simply… lie there. To just… rest.

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Thanks for reading! If you have time, please leave a comment. I would love to hear what you are learning in your life about rest. This is still something that is so hard for me, and I’d love to continue growing in this area. I hope you have a blessed day!