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Getting Sleep in Spite of Depression or Anxiety

When we think of depression, we might imagine sleeping a lot and having a hard time getting out of bed and facing the day. But it can often mean the opposite—being unable to get enough badly needed sleep. The same is true with anxiety. We can keep ourselves awake with worry or a vague restlessness can keep slumber just out of reach. 

Research confirms how vital good rest is for mental and physical health, in spite of our modern lifestyle of energy drinks, 24/7 connectivity, binge-watching and bragging about how little sleep we can live on. Even if you are not already struggling with either of these conditions, skimp on visiting slumberland long enough and depression will come knocking on your door, with anxiety likely not far behind.

If wakefulness is plaguing you, let’s review some of the basics that promote a restful sleep:

  • Get some exercise—but not too late in the day. Regular workouts or even just a daily brisk walk will relieve stress and then later facilitate sleep. Finish 90 minutes before bedtime so its energizing effects won’t postpone shuteye.  
  • Avoid coffee colas and energy drinks after noon. Even after 6 hours, half the caffeine is still in your system, so a 4pm espresso can still be haunting you at 10pm. 
  • Alcohol is a culprit too. It can make you sleepy at first but leave you wide-eyed in the middle of the night. It blocks REM sleep, the most refreshing kind, so you wake up feeling unrested. And it aggravates snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Develop a bedtime routine to signal the body to get ready to shut down. Turn off most lights, take a shower, change into sleep clothes and sip herbal tea. Listen to soothing music or a relaxing podcast. Diffuse lavender or other relaxing scents into the air.
  • Follow a regular sleep schedule even on weekends to keep body rhythms on an even keel, and avoid more than very brief naps during the day.
  • Discipline yourself to avoid screens—phones, tablets and TVs—at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light inhibits production of the natural sleep-maker, melatonin, and resets your body’s inner clock to a later bedtime. Like alcohol, this light also interferes with REM so you wake up feeling groggier. Avoid LED and fluorescents, too—same problem. Go old school and read a book. If you must work on your laptop at night, dim the screen or use settings to warm the color of the light. 
  • End that large meal two hours before sleep time. A late light snack like an apple might be helpful, though. 
  • Use the bed only for sleep and lovemaking, so it becomes associated with rest.
  • Keep the bedroom cool, dark and quiet. Try earplugs or a white noise machine or app to prevent intermittent noises from keeping you up or disrupting deep sleep. Eyelids alone don’t block light, so use an eye mask or opaque window shades. Turn that digital clock away from view. Not only is the light problematic, but you don’t want to focus on the time and start worrying about how much sleep you are getting.
  • Keep things well ventilated—open that window or turn on that fan and keep warm with blankets as needed. The best temperature is 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Try freezing a soft gel pack and slip it into your pillowcase to cool the scalp. 
  • Chamomile tea is a proven sleep aid. Make it strong and cover the cup to retain the oils. B-vitamins, and certain mineral, amino acid and herbal supplements are also effective to facilitate rest and combat insomnia (like this formula). 
  • Keep Bruno or Fluffy out of your bedroom if they disturb your rest. Even their resting body on the bed can inhibit you from freely moving about as you need to while asleep.
  • Wind down any focused task an hour before sleep, so your mind can get ready for rest. Same with any discussions of emotional topics. 
  • If basically calm but still awake after 30 to 60 minutes, consider getting out of bed and going to another room—you don’t want to lay awake so long that you come to associate the bed with sleep difficulty. 
  • Distract yourself with a quiet activity like light reading or coloring until you are sleepy. 

(What to do if you can’t stop worrying or reliving distressing moments from the day? Good question. That’s for part two of this blog.)

A key point is not to obsess about getting enough sleep or get impatient and give up after just a few hours. Worse comes to worse, let yourself lie and rest the eyes and aim for an unfocused reverie to give the brain a break for as long as you can. That can be good enough. 

Overcoming depression and/or anxiety requires a multi-faceted, whole-person approach, but optimizing sleep is certainly foundational. As Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of Hope, points out, these disorders and “sleep deficits are unarguably entwined. Yet in that interwoven relationship lie opportunities for treatment, relief, and healing.” Enhance your sleep and symptoms inevitably improve.

Written by John R. Williams, MA LMHC for the The Center • A Place of HOPE. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety or stress, our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in the treatment of depression and has been voted a Top 10 U.S. Depressions Treatment Center.  We use a whole-person approach that allows you to discover what is truly going on in your mind, body, and spirit. 

Taming the Fire: Trauma and Anger

Part III of a Six-part Trauma Series. Trigger warning: This is a difficult topic. Some examples of traumas will be eluded to without details in order to set a scene for clarity and relatability.

Part II of this series, Trauma and Depression: The Other Side of the Mountain, can be found on aplaceofhope.com blog.

Part I of this series, What Trauma Is and Is Not, can be found on aplaceofhope.com blog.


Ever since your trauma, you find yourself feeling so angry. Everything bugs you for no real reason you can see. The thoughts running through your mind surprise you. Nothing is enjoyable. It feels as if the universe and everything in it has conspired against you. 

No one understands. People keep checking on you. They ask you if you are mad. Of course, you say no because you know there is no logical reason to be angry. They do not believe your answer because everything in your tone and body language says otherwise. You know this, but there are just no words for what is happening. You wish they would stop asking already because the questions are no longer about “the incident,” or “the trauma,” but about you. You have begun to wonder if you are broken beyond repair and the futility of it all fuels the volcano within. Will the cycle ever end?

Remember how trauma was described in the first edition in this series: 

“A very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems, usually for a long time. It can be helpful to think of trauma as a sort of spectrum, ranging from unpleasant surprises on one end to near-death experiences on the other.” (Emphasis added)

No one asks for a trauma. Even if you are intentionally acting in a risky manner, it is highly doubtful the results of trauma were what you intended to accomplish. Trauma is an interruption, an abrupt and jagged curve in the road. It affects every single aspect of life; mind, body, spirit, and social realms. 

The initial distress of a trauma may be over. The perpetrator was caught. The compensation money has been deposited. Your body has healed. You came clean about your part in it and everyone rallied around you with support when you needed it most. You may even believe that God was with you and “it was all for a reason.” No matter what the situation, at one point, you were headed down Road A and trauma came along and, without your permission, flung you to Road Z. Your boundaries were crossed, and the outcome was a whole lot of unfairness. Rest assured, the absolute reasonable and correct response to injustice and boundary crossing is anger.

Really? You sure?

Yes. Really. I am sure.

This may sound wrong to some of you. Many people have been taught that anger is wrong and “mean”. This is simply untrue. Anger is a healthy emotion. The problem often arises when anger, aggression, and rage are confused for each other.

Our emotions are part of an intricate, brain-based signal system that runs on rules and algorithms, often outside of our awareness.  Anger is an emotion that supplies us with heat and energy to propel us toward keeping ourselves safe, speaking the truth, and striving for justice. We know when overt actions occur, someone hits us or takes something of ours, anger is appropriate. When it becomes more subtle, when, “they didn’t mean to crash into me on the freeway,” our logical mind may tell us a story to keep us in social equilibrium. However, our much more “feely” right brain will still know that a rule was violated, and the emotion of anger will be triggered accordingly. This is why you do not know why you feel as you do sometimes.

As mentioned, anger is not to be mistaken for aggression or rage. To understand the difference, consider the following chart:

Emotion Emotion Self-talk Emotion Action
Anger “This is unfair. It needs to change” (Firm, heated, but not disrespectful or harmful. You can think and make a plan) Firm voice, persistent. Willing to persist from different directions until heard. Easier to lay down boundaries. Thoughts are action/solution focused. 

Aggression

“This is unfair. Someone needs to pay and I’m going to make it happen” (Heated, loud, distrusting, disrespectful) Pushes you to prod and poke until you hurt the other side. Yelling, insulting, intimidating, withdrawal of affection. Thoughts are focused on punishment.
Rage “AAARRRGG!!” (Incoherent, irrational, loud) Yelling, hitting, throwing, breaking things, bailing on others. Not controllable without outside help. Thinking is usually offline.

Anger is a normal and proper response to trauma. However, if not properly vented or addressed, it can fester and grow, leading to aggression or rage. If you have struggled with anger and it feels as if it is becoming a wildfire, here are some things you can try:

Give Yourself Space to Tell (or Show) the Truth. Undoubtedly, there are aspects of your traumatic experience that feel unfair and/or violating. You have a right to those feelings. It is important to express them in a healthy manner. Everyone processes differently. Some people need to tell their story over and over again until the brain is satisfied it has worked out all the details. Other people feel better if they act out their feelings (throwing ice cubes in the bathtub, chopping wood, smacking balls at the batting range, and so on). Others feel best if they take their tragedy and morph it into something useful to others. Whatever method works best for you, find a way to speak or act your truth. Start with God, the Universe, a pet, a journal, or a trusted and safe friend. Don’t lock it up inside.

Know Your Temperature. Anger carries heat and energy with it. This makes it easy to notice if you pay attention. On a piece of paper, write a line and put numbers one through ten. One indicates complete calm and happiness and ten is rage. At each one or two points, write down a personal experience that correlates to that place on the line. Perhaps one would be when you were lying on the beach in Maui. Four might be when that person cut you off on the freeway. Seven could be when your mother said she was not coming to your wedding.  Perhaps the angriest you have been was when your significant other left you. That might be your ten. Whatever it is, notice the types of thoughts and body sensations you have at each point along the way. Then, find a way to check in with yourself a few times a day to measure where your anger meter is. If it is rising, stop and spend some time speaking truth or self-soothing until you are calm and in control of your thoughts and actions.

Opposite Action. Don’t make things worse. Once you have decided that a given episode of anger is not about the present moment, you need to override your emotions with a decision. Decide how you want to behave and do that, even if your anger tells you otherwise. It is easiest and most effective to act opposite to the emotion. Perhaps you are having a particularly rough day and your sister is twenty minutes late. Suppose your trauma occurred when you were waiting for a friend who was late. You realize that the intensity of your anger is coming from the trauma and is out-of-proportion to the current situation because your sister is rarely late and always apologetic. You decide that when you see her, you will smile, listen carefully to what happened, and give her a hug (when, really, you want to scream, throw things, and chase her out of the room). This takes strength, but after a few practice runs, it will not only be easier, you will feel more powerful and in control.

As with the above example, the taming of the fire of anger (keeping it anger rather than allowing it to grow into aggression or rage) produces a feeling of great empowerment. Anger is helpful and healthy. Attempting to stoke it or quench it will only result in physical illness, chronic irritation, or other unhealthy response. You are not bad because you are angry. God is not mad at you for being angry at the trauma. God can weave whatever we give Him into a beautiful tapestry, but He knows that the particular thread of trauma itself is unpleasant. If you struggle with chronic anger, you need not suffer alone. There are many professional anger management treatment programs like the one at The Center • A Place of HOPE. Find a trauma survivor support group. If that does not sound like enough, then consider a call to The Center for information on its trauma recovery program. 

Written by Hannah Smith, MA LMHC CGP, Group Therapy Training & Curriculum Consultant for The Center ● A Place of Hope. As a Neuroscience-informed, Licensed Therapist and International Board-certified Group Psychotherapist, Hannah’s passion is to see people reach their potential and find lasting, positive change. The Center is located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and more.

The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in the treatment of depression and has been voted a Top 10 U.S. Depressions Treatment Center.  We use a whole-person approach that allows you to discover what is truly going on in your mind, body, and spirit. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and begin the healing process.

A Cleanse and Detox Protocol that Addresses Depression

Your body has multiple organs and systems that work together to filter and flush toxins out of your body.  The liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, lungs, and skin can become overwhelmed by the large amounts of toxins in our diets. Not to mention daily environmental factors we encounter. 

Unless we are very intentional about diet and lifestyle, there’s a good chance we are not supporting these organs and systems with the nutrition and activities they need to stay in tip-top shape.

At The Center • A Place of HOPE, when we work with a new client who is struggling with depression, we often recommend a three-week protocol designed to cleanse and detox the body. The protocol incorporates detox agents, dietary changes, and actions that support the body in performing at maximum capacity and work to eliminate problem-causing toxins that are affecting health and mood.  Below is the recommended protocol.

Look to incorporate detox agents into your daily routine.  Each day, do at least two of these: 

  • Drink a cup of dandelion root tea in the morning and another one in the afternoon.
  • Take 500 mg of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) twice a day.
  • Take 300 mg of milk thistle (extracted from the fruit or seed, not the leaf, and standardized to 70 to 80 percent of the active ingredient silymarin).

These are dietary changes that will assist in supporting your body.  

  • Eliminate all alcohol, soda, energy drinks, coffee, and juices or teas with added sugar.
  • Avoid all candy and other sweets.
  • Drink two cups or more of fresh-pressed vegetable juice every day.
    Limit animal products; eat no more than six ounces of animal flesh a day.
    Avoid all dairy products except for butter.
  • Focus on whole foods (whatever you can buy in the produce section).
  • Drink at least two liters of water a day.  

It is important to move the blood and lymphatics.  Each day, do at least two of the following: 

  • Dry skin brushing, which involves brushing your skin with a soft brush prior to a bath or shower. This provides gentle exfoliation, boosts circulation, and encourages new cell growth.
  • Spend time in a sauna, then follow up with a cold rinse for ninety seconds or less. (I recommend choosing this at least three times a week.)
  • Exercise for at least twenty to thirty minutes at a time. Exercise boosts circulation through the body, which helps flush toxins out.  

Now, we must talk about sleep!  Get at least seven and a half hours of sleep a night. This will help you feel rested and less stressed.  Sleep reduces inflammation so the body can function at its best.

In addition to helping your body get rid of built-up toxins, this plan will also eliminate foods that are common causes of food sensitivities and inflammation in the body.  After following this protocol for three weeks, you are in the perfect position to slowly reintroduce common problem foods back into your diet, paying close attention to any reactions you may be having.

Pick one of the foods that was eliminated, and eat it twice a day for two days. Bread is a good example.  Be sure to keep a journal and write down any differences you notice in your body, energy, or mood. Make a note if you feel more depressed, have headaches or joint pain, or feel bloated. Also, notate if you are experiencing brain fog or have trouble concentrating. 

If your body responds negatively to the food item you have reintroduced, remove it again from your diet. Wait a few days, then reintroduce a different food and pay attention to how your body responds.

Whether you have gluten sensitivities or not, when it comes to managing your mood, clean eating is going to make a major difference.

The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in the treatment of depression and has been voted a Top 10 U.S. Depressions Treatment Center.  We use a whole-person approach that allows you to discover what is truly going on in your mind, body, and spirit. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and begin the healing process.

How a Good Night’s Rest Affects Depression

A good night’s rest is not something you do; it’s something you experience.   Depression interferes with the healthy production and operation of serotonin and melatonin, neurotransmitters used for the body’s sleep-wake cycle. As you work toward recovery from depression, you will want to assist your body in any way you can to achieve this restful sleep.

Try intentionally preparing for rest. This means allowing your body and your mind time to transition into sleep. Far too many of us carry on a stress-filled day right up to the time we climb into bed and then expect sleep to automatically arrive. This winding-down period could consist of listening to relaxing music, reading for enjoyment, listening to soothing natural sounds on an MP3 player or CD, or quiet meditation.

Give yourself enough time to get adequate rest. Eight hours, granted, is an average, but be aware of when your body might require more sleep. Anytime the body is under stress, physical or emotional, it will require more rest to rebuild and replenish. Five to six hours a night is probably not going to provide what you need. Resting adequately may require you to make choices about activities so you can establish a healthy routine of getting to bed on time.

Establish a set time to go to bed each night, whether weekdays or weekends. Studies show that it is far better for your sleep cycle to go to bed and get up each day at approximately the same time. You are helping your body to establish a biorhythm. If you swing from ten o’clock one night to two o’clock the next, your body is under stress having to adjust to wide swings of time. Do yourself a favor and find a time that works well for each day of the week, and then stick with it.

Cut out caffeine in the late afternoon and evening hours. Caffeine, as a stimulant, can interfere with your body’s ability to know when it is actually tired. Instead of drinking coffee or caffeinated soda at dinner, drink some of your water or an herbal tea.

Reduce the activity, noise, and light levels as you go into the evening hours. Televisions blaring, lights blazing, and people running around frantically at ten o’clock at night is not conducive to rest. Start turning off lights, turning down volumes, and putting away activities as the evening progresses.

Another way you can help your body relax and ease into sleep is by not eating late in the evening. Evening snacking leaves food in your stomach that must be digested, and your entire body cannot fully rest if your digestive system stays up late to process your ten o’clock snack. One exception can be a small cup of hot tea, the kind that promotes a calming emotional effect.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 29 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.