8 PILLARS , part 2, "Sleep & Rest Dynamic"
I decided to give this one pillar a full post page because it is so overlooked, undervalued, and necessary to personal and public health, particularly at this time.
What does it have to do with herbal medicine practice, specifically? Here are some points to ponder : 1) Herbal therapeutics such as nervines and adaptogens, in addition to supporting overall holistic body systems health, and our individual ability to recover all manner of sickness, play a very important role in supporting the work of this Pillar in our well being and in our healing programs. 2) Improving sleep quality , and learning different ways in which the concept of "Rest" can enrich our lives, will accelerate healing and strengthen vitality overall.
Moving into the dark side for a moment, I recently read about an ambitious and accomplished 23 year old athlete who took her own life. The narrative was strong regarding her overwork and driven nature. Even after her first suicide attempt, in January, those around her recognized she "needed to rest", among other very red flags! It was said she needed a "Day of Rest". Sadly, this to me - a "day" - was a huge understatement. I would hope that this type of situation, and many thousands of other stories like it, that may or probably do not end in suicide, could transform to an understanding of how much rest we really need, and how it doesn't always have that much to do with "sleep". Recognizing and assisting in the improvement of this dynamic is essential to good client care and self care.
We are an ecological system. Any such system has a need to take in nourishment, release waste, and foster growth in a balanced manner. Back for a moment to the PEMS model in the first Pillars post ( again, it means Physical, Emotional, Mental, Subtle energy) - we may need varying different levels of rest from that which affects our lives. Periods of any kind of trauma, (including social) overwork, injury, sickness, and life transitions/transformations REQUIRE REST.
Mental and emotional rest may come about as a result doing a clearing of unnecessary things, activities, patterns, and habits in our lives. I am sure most of us can think of several! Here are some other ways we may need to adopt new habits as rest and rejuvenation, either daily or for prolonged periods:
1. After finishing a project, a season, a job, a relationship, or making big changes in any of those areas - you can benefit from a graceful period of contemplation and rest. Meditative time each day, a period or season of longer sleeping nights, dropping some extra activities- all of this nourishes and creates space for the mind and emotions to balance and clear which is RESTFUL.
2. Changing old patterns and habits can be rejuvenating and thus restful. This could come in the form of re-arranging rooms, adding a nurturing activity, letting go of a draining activity. Anything draining is not contributing to rest. STEP BACK- sometimes it is necessary to create by unplugging and allowing yourself mental stay-cation to gain perspective and be able to say - " Ok, I am cutting __________ out of my life." As well as " I am adding this (___good thing ___) to my life"
3. Rest and Sleep quality are supported by very practical measures, such as creating a quieter home life, cutting down on shows and media time, walks in nature......also by evaluating if you have comforts in your life that will contribute to restfulness. Herbs, Essential oils, Ablutions, warmth through quilts and socks- this all sounds very basic, but many of us benefit from "embodying" more and surrounding ourselves with these cost-free creature comforts. (Note- what is an ablution? More on that in an upcoming Hydrotherapy Post.)
Is an "eight hour night" all we need? Well, no it is not. After a trauma of any sort or big adjustment, we may need to sleep longer, or have a daily siesta or nap in addition to night sleep. At least for awhile. I once needed an entire year of very, very extra "sleep and rest" to get back into balance from some traumas- there was no other way to sort them out , and certainly not by avoiding them and remaining in any way over busy or driven. One persons bump in the road may be another person's trauma. We are a full energy system. Be true to yourself.
What supports the best possible SLEEP AND REST? Truly, back to the Pillars again. A poor diet can bring us out of balance and ruin our nervous and digestive systems. Guidance in this area can be priceless. Common excesses include sugars of all kinds, processed foods, and excesses as to caffeine and alcohol. A lack of physical movement can bring about pain patterns in our bodies which in turn make us irritable, and ungrounded, so some daily movement such as walking and stretching is recommended as a baseline. Different types of hydrotherapy treatments can affect our nervous system in a very restful way- we have the Laws of Physics and Thermodynamics to thank for that As we mentioned above, herbs help greatly. Energy Medicine treatments such as Polarity and acupuncture can help bring about, through nervous system resonance, the ability to reach deeper states of rest, as can conscious meditative practices.
Last but not least, most people I meet as clients or in general need, as I have needed, to give themselves permission to change, perhaps radically change, their attitudes and habits around rest and quality sleep and what a gift that can mean in their lives. Sleep & Rest Dynamics is one of the 8 pillars for good reason! And it can be the missing link to true healing and good quality of life