Foundations for Mental Health Without Medication: Your Circadian Rhythm Part 1

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Symptoms of anxiety and depression are one way that our bodies and minds “speak” to us to tell us when something is wrong or “off.” The first thing to do when these symptoms arise is to stop and listen. What is your body trying to say to you?

Many different factors may be at play: fear, stress, blood sugar imbalance, hormone imbalance, gastrointestinal imbalance, tension or misalignment in the body, overload from chemicals or mold, unforgiveness, a difficult relationship. Just reading this list may feel overwhelming and almost impossible to take in mentally or investigate in practical ways.

A Great Place to Start

Instead, let’s take a step back – to the simple ways that every person can support her body to handle the challenges it is facing. As you seek out the answer to the question “What is my body trying to say to me?”, you can take steps that nourish your body, restore balance, and reduce stress.

Over the coming weeks, I will give you simple strategies that you can start right away that begin laying a foundation for lasting mental health. Though these changes can seem small or insignificant, they are actually affecting your physiology, your hormone balance, and the health of your body in powerful ways. The first category we’ll explore together is setting your circadian rhythm.

Your circadian rhythm is your 24 hour cycle of sleeping and waking. It is regulated by internal systems and hormones, as well as by external cues such as sunlight and temperature. A healthy circadian rhythm is key to having good energy levels, replenishing hormones overnight, healthy digestion, good metabolism, and stable moods throughout the day.

Here are a few signs that your circadian rhythm might be out of balance:

  • You wake up very early in the morning and can’t go back to sleep.
  • You have a hard time falling asleep at night.
  • You get very tired in the early or mid-afternoon.
  • You have a hard time waking up in the mornings.

Your First Step in Resetting Your Circadian Rhythm

Today, I’m excited to give you some creative strategies for resetting your circadian rhythm. This week, I’ll focus on helping you reinforce your morning wake-up time. Let’s call this a morning ritual.

A morning ritual is a great tool for helping you set your circadian rhythm for the rest of the day. You can start these lovely practices tomorrow morning! Choose at least 1 or 2 of these practices to incorporate into your routine every day this week.

  • Let in the light!

A simple practice that you can do while it still gets light fairly early is to open your curtains or blinds to let in the early morning sunlight. Even better, walk outside for a few minutes in the early light – you can simply sit or stand on your porch for a few minutes. Sunlight is one of the strongest external cues for setting your circadian rhythm. Don’t miss this simple chance every day to support the health of your body, mind, and spirit!

  • Feet on the earth.

If you do go outside first thing in the morning, then you can add another simple strategy: walking barefoot on the earth. Grass with dew still on it, soil, rock, or sand is best – try to get in direct contact with the earth. This also helps to set your circadian rhythm and has been shown to reduce stress in the body (this practice is often called “grounding” or “earthing”). In the winter, you may have to get creative or simply walk on the earth in your shoes while adding in other mindfulness techniques.

  • Breathe.

You can do this part outside or in! Take 10 long, slow breaths – in your nose and out your mouth. This will help you to center and be calm as you let go of yesterday and begin a fresh, new day. As you breathe out, let go of any stress or anxiety you have about the day. As you inhale, visualize breathing in grace, love, and strength for the day.

  • Warm water with lemon.

Drinking warm water with lemon in the mornings gives you an unbelievable number of health benefits, from improved metabolism to better digestion to reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression. Plus, it can be a wonderful, simple morning practice, especially as we head into the cooler seasons. You could even bring your lemon water outside with you for the previous practices.

  • Move your body!

Identify a few morning exercises that help you to wake up, to connect with your body, and to signal to your body that this is the time of day for energy and motion. Less is more on these – don’t take on a new 90 minute yoga routine. Choose a few exercises that you know you can commit to doing each morning. A simple salute to the sun (as done in yoga) or a few elements from this lovely energy routine by Donna Eden would be perfect.

  • Prayer or meditation.

A time of prayer or meditation is a classic way to awaken your spirit and center your mind as you begin a new day. There are many wonderful devotional books or common prayer books that can help you create a daily rhythm. I often use this one: http://commonprayer.net. I would love to hear recommendations from others in the comments section below!

Mental Health Without Medication is Possible

When we are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, it is easy for our minds to jump to ideas like chemical imbalances, diagnoses, or the need for pharmaceutical drugs. On this site, I hope to give you lots of resources for getting to the bottom of what’s going on with your mental health. There are many steps that you can take and physiological factors to look into. Still, I have found that backing it up and remembering the simple foundations of mental health can help every single one of us.

I encourage you to think about your morning routine this week and to create a morning ritual that helps bring balance and a healthy circadian rhythm back into your life. 

I’d love to hear from you: Have you tried any of these practices before? What has worked well for you? 

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