Sugar, anxiety and insomnia…and other tips to get you to sleep better tonight!

I have always been able to switch off my bedside light and fall asleep within minutes. Even on my travels, often sleeping in youth hostels sharing rooms, it wasnt an issue for me. Ever.

When my son turned one a year ago, it changed. For his 1st year I slept well in between multiple night waking and breastfeeding sessions. Now he was starting to sleep better and all of a sudden this mommy couldnt fall asleep anymore…shock horror!

Is this a joke – no – it’s very real.  Some even call it “momsomnia” or postnatal insomnia.

When you suffer from insomnia, you either struggle to fall asleep or you wake up and then struggle to fall back to sleep again.

It’s one of those things that can quickly consume you as you start struggling night after night and experiencing the repercussions of not so much optimal functioning during the day.  You start almost dreading going to bed even though you are tired.  The “Tired but Wired” saying became quite real to me…

It’s a vicious cycle… Insomnia creates anxiety and this creates more insomnia. I experienced over the past year that if I have a better night, the anxiety almost immediately starts to decrease dramatically helping me to go into the better direction of sleep again.

So what can you do – the standard advice that you’ll get…

  1. Sleep hygiene
  2. Herbal aids
  3. Melatonin
  4. Sleeping tablets
  5. Antidepressants (more to treat the anxiety)

These are the things that has worked for me to a certain extent recently and over the past year:

  1.  You absolutely have to do the sleep hygiene thing i.e. NO screen time for at least an hour before bed time and keep lights fairly dimmed in the house if you can.  I also started to have a bed time routine – for me this was drinking either camomile tea / hot water with apple cider vinegar and a bit of honey / milk with quarter teaspoons of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger.  And also reading a book until I feel I can’t keep my eyes open any longer.
  2. Consider cutting your caffeine.  I decreased it to one – two cups of coffee max all before 11am.
  3. Be careful of sugar as this can worsen anxiety symptoms and for me any form of sugar and even cocoa (dark chocolate) I found could increase my alertness and keep me awake.
  4. Alcohol – yes it helps to relax you – but I am not sure what it is – but I found this also didn’t help my sleep, so bye-bye drinks for now! (Insomnia is so tormenting that you will do ANYTHING to alleviate it).
  5. Melatonin didn’t work for me unfortunately, the herbal stuff also not, I wish it did as it’s not habit-forming.
  6. An anti-anxiety tablet and/or a sleeping tablet helped me at certain times to calm down at night and just re-set and get a night of good sleep – but it’s not for long-term use…
  7. Watch your mind… I found that the more I panicked when I couldn’t fall asleep the worse it all became.  I started meditating on Bible Scriptures about sleep, anxiety and fear which helped me a lot.  I also pray as part of my bed time routine.  And I watch out like a hawk for those evil thoughts that try to make me go into panic and fear mode.  I replace it with TRUE thoughts – Renewing my mind with God’s TRUTH.
  8. I have had to almost become quite relaxed about the whole thing – knowing through the grace of God that I WILL be ok the next day even if I didn’t sleep.  I had to make a point of tapping into the peace, joy and gratitude inside of me despite my lack of sleep and not feeling great the next day. Worshipping Him throughout became my Spiritual Weapon of choice.

This thing has become a lifestyle, spiritual and emotional journey for me.  Not something with a quick fix (believe me I tried all of that, spent a couple of R1000’s on doctors who couldnt really help although I am sure they wish they could.)

I really hope this helps someone out there…

Love Helene x x x

 

My sugar detox journal – confession time! What’s your WHY?

I never remember very clearly how it starts – it always seems a bit blurry.  

But then I find myself finishing an entire piece of the most delicious, moist carrot cake on a Sunday morning.  How did this happen…?  How is it possible to go from super motivated and focused, to stuffing my face with my all too familiar drug of choice – SUGAR?

I can tell you how it happens…

I will have an emotionally down day or moment –  and then I go to that familiar mind-set:

“Sugar will definitely help me to feel better, it will give me energy and that feel good factor that I desperately need (and feel I deserve) RIGHT NOW.”

Then I give in to a biscuit with my coffee, have one of my toddler’s sweet treats… and its like a slippery slope down hill (ok it’s not THAT bad, but you get what I am saying…).

Next thing I think to myself, well you have given in so you might as well have a couple of biscuits, or a piece or 2 milk tart (this was yesterday) and carrot cake…(today)…?

And the next thought…. Tomorrow is Monday and it’s basically the beginning of a new month… perhaps this time I will kick the habit and a few kg’s before summer…?

BUT I HAVE BEEN HERE BEFORE… And there’s no time for denial anymore – I am just too SICK of it.  Time to get REAL people!!!! O.k… I am trying really hard to motivate myself…

Human willpower (for most of us) just freaking fails us time and time again.  It’s the reason why new years resolutions are mostly a waste of time… and the: I will start on Monday… or next month or whatever…

So WHAT NOW???  I so desperately want to live healthier – and for me right now – this means cutting out the white stuff.  And the white floury stuff.

I heard a talk the other day… she said you need to 1st OF ALL – FIGURE OUT YOUR WHY.

Your WHY needs to be important enough to carry you through those familiar moments where you typically give in.

MY WHY?   I want to do what I can to not get sick.  I want to feel less achy, less moody, less tired and totally be there for my hubby and busy toddler.  And perhaps most of all right now – I am searching for a holistic, sustainable lifestyle cure for insomnia & anxiety.

What is you why?

Love Helene x x x

My sugar detox journal…hidden sugars to watch out for!

I finished my 21 days of trying my best to go off sugar.

HiddenSugarInfographicAlthough I am happy with my progress,  I am not entirely happy with how the 21 days went.

Why?

  1.  I had about 4 “cheat” days
  2. I didn’t cut out ALL sugar (for example: Honey, fruit and certain refined carbs)
  3. I don’t think I experienced the FULL BENEFIT of really detoxing from sugar… And this is what I am after – really getting to that point of moving beyond the withdrawal and cravings and starting to experience all the benefits.  Like…. better and a more stable mood, better sleep, clarity of mind, more energy and some weight loss.

So… What I am going to try to do over the next 21 days is to:

  1. Consistently cut out all forms of sugar (Including honey, fruit and hidden sugar in snacks – see this cool picture to the left…)
  2. Lower my overall carb intake (Mostly for me:  Bread; rusks; wraps; rice; potatoes; pasta; pizza)
  3. Decrease my caffeine intake to 2 cups max per day – mostly to help with the anxiety and insomnia.
  4. Trying not to get too ravenous (this is when I make my poorest food choices) – so filling my tummy with good stuff whenever I am hungry.

Here is a great list of all those other names under which sugar hides in foods:

According to the USDA and other sources, alternative sugar ingredients or names to watch out for when reading labels include:

There also “healthier” sugars, including coconut palm sugar, honey and blackstrap molasses. Generally since these are far less processed (especially real, raw honey), they are OK in moderation but still a source of sugar to keep to small amounts.

So today is another day 1 for me… wish me luck!

Love Helene x x x

What the sugar?? My sugar detox journal…

I am doing a sugar detox for 21 days. I am currently on day 6.

Why I decided to do a sugar detox? I feel that I have become addicted to sugar and that it was starting to affect my mood in a negative way. It is a personal mission of mine to achieve mental wellness, and I know its up to me to make it happen. About 6 months ago I started suffering from insomnia and this has seriously spurred me on to do everything I possibly can to start sleeping better again… Sugar potentially being one of the aspects that can affect your sleep negatively.

SugarWithdrawl_Graphic_1-768x3464
So the insomnia and mood issues are my main reasons for going on this sugar detox. (To be perfectly honest, other reasons for me include potential weight loss and the prevention of diseases.)
What a sugar detox looks like for me? A book that has helped me a lot is “I quit sugar” from Sarah Wilson. But there are many many books. So for me it basically means cutting out ALL sugar. A quick list would be : Actual sugar (brown, white) ; honey; any foods or sauces with lots of sugar added (check labels)and fruit (actual fruit, juices, dried). I am not cutting out all carbs – I have decided to make this about SUGAR.
How am I feeling? I felt perfectly fine for the 1st 2 days. On day 3 I started really craving and missing my sugar fix (usually cake/chocolate/sweets). On day 4 I started struggling emotionally and day 5 I felt completely depressed and tearful. I wondered whether this could be a detox symptom and found out that it absolutely can be…(have a look at this link.)

The start is always the HARDEST. But I have found that once you get started it gets easier.

It’s almost like you need to learn how to trust yourself again too. Trusting yourself that you will honour a decision that you make to commit to something. Even if no one else is checking up on you.

Day 6: Yesterday we celebrated my bother’s 46th birthday and since his wife always bakes with zero sugar I thought the birthday cake was a gluten and sugar-free version. After this 1st couple of bites I realised that it wasnt this time 😉

For a moment I felt like I was a failure and had to start all over again.

Then I decided to be kind to myself. So I am adding an extra day to my 21 days and today I am continuing as normal despite my little “glitch”.

People trying to eat healthier can often be so hard on themselves for having a weak moment – that weak moment then becomes a weak month of year… These type of negative emotions and guilt just never serve you.

So currently I am still on day 6 and so far so good. I had a scone this morning with butter and cream (no jam) and coffee without sugar. Also had a seed cracker with sugar-free peanut butter. And I am feeling a lot better today in terms of my mood…

I will do another post in 1 week!!! I will write about which sugar alternatives are BAD and which ones are OK. I personally like Xylitol… And of course an update of how it’s going with my detox…

Why not join me?

Love Helene xxx

20180707_133647_000.jpg3c17e9c86d309f43f7325071b8986d51-zoom

 

All of this unpacking is getting me nowhere…

“I got hijacked at gun point infront of the psychologist’s practise at her house in Cape Town…”

The journey of mental and emotional wellness looks different for every single person…

For the past 8 years or so I have been struggling on and off with bouts of anxiety and depression which was mainly linked to certain significant life events/experiences (Situational depression/anxiety).

The 1st time I went to see a psychiatrist almost 8 years ago, she “diagnosed” me with an anxiety disorder and gave me a script for an anti-depressant – that’s it.

I spilled out my heart to her for an hour – about how I was starting to feel generally down, almost like I was looking for more meaning in life and starting to struggle with regrets and my current work and relationship situation. I was hoping for some advice, some tips… but no – just a piece of paper and off you go.

That’s where my love hate relationship with the world of psychology and psychiatry started.

After the psychiatrist visit, I tried out about 3 different psychologists – to talk it out. They call it talk therapy – and together with exercise, taking your medication (if you are on any) it was supposed to be the best way to manage anxiety/depression.

Well, psychologist number 1 kept on referring to her text books and showing me diagrams of how my parents kept me under their protective wings for too long and how that has affected me negatively.
…A lot of talking and getting nowhere.

Psychologist number 2 – I rocked up at her house in Mowbray and got hijacked in front of her house leaving me standing on the side-walk after having been robbed of all my belongings including my car at gun point.

…Funny thing is – she seemed rather calm and not too shocked about the incident – and I decided NOT to start a relationship with her – go figure?!

Psychologist number 3 – I had high hopes. She seemed like a nice enough soft-spoken afrikaans lady. Sympathetic eyes. I gave her 5 sessions. Did it help me – no. We unpacked and unpacked and unpacked (my past life) until it felt as if all my “clothes” were strewn across the floor – all “deurmekaar” – and I felt worse and couldn’t make sense of anything.

Everytime I asked her, so WHAT CAN I DO NOW TO MAKE THINGS BETTER, what kind of action plan can I take going FORWARD, like practical LIFE SKILLS… – she seemed a bit confused and unable to answer me. The last straw was the day I left ALOT more depressed than I was before the session. I actually let her know afterwards and she was oddly unsympathetic and too professional.

Since then I havent been to any psychologist purely because out of my experience I have come to the conclusion (for ME) that seeing a psychologist is a lot of money and a lot of talking and digging into your past (and yes getting some form of insight) – BUT getting you NO WHERE. But I am sure there are psychologists out there who have adopted a more practical approach, and I also have a lot of time for experienced life coaches.

I really want to help people in the future who struggle with similar issues like I do, especially new moms – I really want to help people overcome and live a better quality life. I want to empower women of all ages as well as teenage girls and give them hope at a point where they might feel hopeless. I want to help them to start believing the TRUTH about themselves and reject the lies that they have been believing about their identity.

I am trusting God to show me how and when I can start helping others on this journey of mental health. I have decided to not push it and to rather just open myself up to opportunities and open doors and trust that things will fall into place in time. Perhaps do some further studying, although I doubt that the formal route of Psychology is the answer for me…

For now, I am still learing every day. I get up every morning and realise it is something I have to manage actively (more so on some days than others).

For me what works currently is a combination of watching what I eat (more on this in my next blog), exercising, trying to do things that I like (aka “self-care”) and most of all watching what I am thinking about.

What is very important to me is to try to walk closely with God every moment of every day. To incorporate prayer into my daily life. To ask Him for guidance, grace, favour and strength for every moment. To help me to live mindfully in the moment, to be grateful, to love, have mercy and grace for myself and others, to forgive easily…

Chat soon, love Helene xxx