On sleep and mental health and creativity.

So, let me begin by offering you a poem I wrote in honor of this month:

His eyes are like October skies
Changeful and abrupt
Gray and full like rainclouds ready to erupt
Gray and cloudy and hard to see
But then suddenly
Bright and burning
Luminescent in their yearning
Glorious, blazes in orange and red
Cooling like embers in a dying fire bed
It hurts to stare into such a glare
But his eyes are like October skies
And I can’t look away

Poem, “October Skies,” 10/05/2020

When I walked into the building the other morning, dangerously close to being late, the speakers were playing a tinny-sounding version of “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, a song less than a tenth of the current student body knows, which begs the question: WHY. Why that song? I can’t see the school engaging in some dark comedy during this pandemic. It’s just weird.

I only got two hours of sleep the night before, so that day was going to be weird anyway. I haven’t been sleeping well at all lately. I’ve been having trouble sleeping. Mayo Clinic tells me I have insomnia and that this could be the result of my depression, which unfortunately means that over-the-counter sleep aids are ineffective. “Mid-sleep awakenings often occur during periods of stress. Over-the-counter sleep aids rarely offer significant or sustained help for this problem.” So what is a girl to do?

Naturally, I took to Google and put in the search engine “how to fall asleep faster and stay asleep.” Perusing the results, I stumbled across this website. It elaborated upon the idea for a bedtime routine for adults. “Studies have shown that insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders. Stress from a busy workday and active personal life can cause sleep anxiety. Creating a bedtime routine puts your body in a relaxed state. By the time you’re finished, your body should feel relaxed and ready for lights out.” The article gives you 11 suggestions for a bedtime routine, which I will break down for you and offer my own perspective as I tried starting my bedtime routine last night.

  1. Set an alarm to signal preparing for bed.
    • I chose 7 PM. I figured I’d be asleep by 8 PM, so I’d get a full eight hours before 4 AM, when I get up to walk (hopefully run).
  2. Eat light and healthy before bed.
    • I actually didn’t eat anything before bed. I had dinner around 6 PM and was satisfied. However, the next time I’m at the grocery store, I plan on buying yogurt and ingredients for oatmeal. Both options double nicely for breakfast, and with the colder weather coming, a hot bowl of oatmeal might really help me feel relaxed and comfortable.
  3. Create a pre-bedtime playlist.
    • Lucky for me, I always listen to music when I sleep. This started after I watched “The Exorcist” and was convinced that if I didn’t have music playing, I would hear demonic spirits calling out to me. It’s pretty expansive (over 100 songs) and I’m proud of it. It includes songs like “Foolish Games” by Jewel, “exile [feat. Bon Iver]” by Taylor Swift, “WALLS” by Kings of Leon, “Could Never Be Heaven” by Brand New, and “Safe With Me” by Soap&Skin.
  4. Lower the lights and thermostat to hibernate.
    • Easily done and highly recommended; I always sleep with a fan on and curling up under a fluffy blanket is truly one of the best feelings in the world.
  5. Wash off stress in the shower or bath.
    • My whole life, all I’ve wanted is a soaking tub. Sometimes, I think about renting a hotel room for the night just so I can lay in hot bubbles and breathe. I don’t have a soaking tub in my home, but I thought I’d give it the old college try. I bought Dr. Teal’s Melatonin Sleep Soak and stayed in the tub for 20 minutes. It was relaxing, but I was missing the bubbles. So today, after school, I bought Dr. Teal’s Soothing&Sleep Foaming Bath. It’s not the recommended pairing, but it was all I could find at Walgreen’s. I ordered the foaming bath with melatonin and it should be delivered Thursday. I’m really looking forward to it. I also mde sure this was the last step in my bedtime routine because the article suggests taking a sleep aid while in the bath, and melatonin (my sleep aid of choice) should be taken 20 minutes before bed.
  6. Turn off electronics 30-45 minutes before bed.
    • OMG, this was so hard! I was unsuccessful but will be better tonight. I really believe this will make a huge difference.
  7. Reduce anxiety with a to-do list.
  8. Jot down your thoughts in a journal.
    • I combined suggestions 7 and 8, and have been doing this before bed for as long as I can remember. It definitely helps me to get it all out of my head and heart and onto paper, and I’m excited to see how helpful it becomes when combined with the other suggestions.
  9. Relax your muscles with a quick foam rolling or yoga session.
    • I didn’t try this suggestion as I was pressed for time. And it didn’t make sense to stress myself out about getting to every single suggestion when the whole point of the exercise was to reduce stress. Maybe I can implement this in the future.
  10. Drink something warm.
    • I drank a cup of Sleepytime Tea. I really, really need healthy, natural sleep.
  11. Use aromatherapy / essential oils.
    • I had a lavender wax melting beside me and I think it was effective. I had trouble staying asleep and I didn’t fall asleep as quickly as I would have liked, but I was also still answering text messages.

But why am I writing about this on a blog dedicated to creative writing? Because a troubled mind is not as productive. It’s a romantic notion, the stereotype of the starving, mentally unstable artist but in reality, it’s horrible. I went to therapy for a solid year about a year ago and at one point, my therapist asked to see me twice a week, worried I might do something to hurt myself. In honor of World Mental Health Day, I thought it’d be beneficial to share my mental health story and to freely admit I’m a work-in-progress. I’m employing healthier coping mechanisms, but everyday is a choice. I work every day at being in control of my emotions. It’s not easy and I slip. I eat my feelings, avoid my friends and loved ones, let my house become a filthy mess, stop taking care of myself, and stop writing. That’s inexcusable. For me, being healthy and being creative are synonymous.

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I'm a published author - my novel HER BEAUTIFUL MONSTER was published in October of 2012 by Martin Sisters Publishing. I'm working on revising my second manuscript so it can also be published.

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