Take Time To Wind Down

November 6, 2015

Take time to Focus on your Wellness

We all have rituals… habits we repeat almost daily that mark a part of the day and prepare us for what’s to come… like, coffee in the morning or maybe a morning devotional. The point is that most of us already have a series of habits for the start of our day, but what about the end of it? One of the most common complaints/comments I hear from my training clients and members is that they have trouble falling asleep.  And I’ll assume, for the sake of this entry,  that we all agree on the importance of sleep and how crucial it is for health and well-being.  So after hearing a comment like that, I usually ask, “Well how do you get ready for bed….?”  Usually, after that, I hear crickets…

The silence is typical because they haven’t really put much thought into it or they don’t know what I mean. “You mean do I brush my teeth?” is what I usually get.

That’s funny and close, but no. We have all these things we do all day… run errands, pick up the kids, drop off the kids, go to work, etc. We think we can just tuck the kids in, brush our teeth and hop into bed… abracadabra… I’m asleep. Yeah well, not so fast.Your mind and body may not be ready for rest and recovery yet.  You most likely have some unchecked tension lurking up between those shoulder blades (or wherever your tightness resides) and are about to carry that into your sleeping hours.  And on top of that, the ongoing list of events and “must dos” for tomorrow keep jumping to the forefront of your brain.

My advice is to create a nighttime ritual or add to your current “go-to-bed” activities.  This doesn’t have to be very structured or formal in any way, you are just shaking off the day… literally and figuratively.  For the physical part, plop down on the floor and start stretching. Spread your feet apart and reach for your toes, reach across, twist, etc. Just stay slow with the movements, breath slowly and deeply. Scan your body for tension and tightness and stretch those areas. This is a slow easy stretch, we’re not pushing into pain or even discomfort at this point.

The first benefit I noticed from implementing this practice was that I didn’t wake up with the soreness or stiffness I had experienced in the past.  Done with enough consistency, this procedure has a Pavlovian effect.  Remember the famous experiment with dogs, food, and a bell? They rang a bell every time they fed the dogs, then they took the food away and rang the bell… dogs still came.  When this habit is reinforced enough, your body will recognize “hey, we’re getting ready for bed” and you’ll start to relax faster and easier because of the neurological repetition.

Now the mental part has to do with getting “the list” out of your head and onto a notepad or whatever you use for organizing. First, give yourself closure for the day, list a few things you accomplished and/or are grateful for and then let it (and the day) go.  I’ve had people tell me they’ve even balled up the piece of paper and thrown it away for metaphoric affect, but whatever works for you. Now make a short list of things you need to do the next day, so you don’t fret about forgetting them and then forget them… until the next morning.

So make your sleeping hours more restful and more productive with some deliberate, consistent effort and reap the rewards.

Jake Salsbury, Head Trainer & Massage Therapist

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