November is in full swing and it’s time to start planning for SAD, aka Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka winter blues, aka winter sucks. I tried to tackle the cold gloomy days last year by using different DBT skills and techniques but it still left me hanging by a thread. After months of having mixed episodes and rapid cycling (cycles of depression, anxiety, and hypomania), I slowly regained mental sanity.
I was digging through layers of complexity by researching different medications, supplements, and therapies but the answer was hidden beneath my pillow… SLEEP!
Over the next few weeks, I will share with you the fundamentals to mental sanity (in my opinion). They are accessible and easy to complete… and most importantly, at no cost! It just requires your very best and full dedication.
Step 1 to conquer SAD: Sleep, snooze, and repeat.
Sleep is the #1 game changer for anyone, really, but especially for those living with bipolar disorder like myself (according to my psychiatrist). Like most answers in the mental health community, no one knows why. I guess I’m a human guinea pig though… figuratively speaking. Tried, tested, and true!!!
Just don’t forget that the amount of sleep you receive is just important as the quality of your sleep.
Sleep hygiene is the peanut butter to your sleep jelly. Think of sleep hygiene as the umbrella to your sleep routine, which leads to an improved quality of sleep. This includes cutting out caffeine hours before bed, ditching the gym late into the evening, and most importantly, creating a sleep routine. What are you doing right now before you sleep? Browsing through your phone or watching TV? All of those are normal, but it’s that hour leading up to your bedtime that really counts.
Create a sleep routine by setting a concrete time that will ensure you achieve those previous 8 to 10 hours of sleep. Then spend an hour beforehand to wind down without any activities that will create more stimulation, like watching TV or snapchatting your new sleep hygiene.
It took me over a year to perfect my sleep hygiene because of my odd day and night shifts. I felt wide awake after my day shifts and I had trouble dozing off when I came home after a night shift. The bipolar side of me took over and ravished my normal self for months and months since I was only getting 5 to 6 hours of sleep everyday. My psychiatrist put his foot down and said I was only allowed to work during the day if I wanted to prevent any further self harm or suicide attempts. Even if that meant I had to change my job.
Despite the change in my schedule, it was still difficult to develop a healthy sleep hygiene because of my anxiety and ungodly work hours.
I had to sleep at approximately 9:30pm in order to achieve 8 hours of sleep, which felt like a precarious quest. In fact, the feeling of defeat prompted many anxiety attacks each night. I spent each month inching a little closer and closer to my goal bedtime. I started to attempt this “sleep” thing at 10:30pm, which actually turned into 11pm. I eventually worked my way to 10:30pm, 10pm, and finally 9:30pm.
My lesson here was to never ever give up even though the anxiety attacks were exhausting because the best way out is always to go through. We’re all great at giving into those thoughts that tell you you’re not good enough, or that you’re not trying hard enough. I know that you are though. I know that you’re a warrior and you’ll get through this. You’ll always, always, come out stronger after the storm.
But first – routine! Come back and visit next week to learn more about creating a routine. You can also subscribe if you just scroll a little further down 🙂