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RIP: How to Rest in Peace • An Empty Cauldron

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

Welcome to our first week of RIP: a guide to resting in peace without the guilt of taking a break from tasks and to-dos. This not-so-scary topic will feature memes and punny jokes from our favorite Halloween movies, research to help us grow into a more restful lifestyle, and a chance to chase down our biggest monster: that nagging inner voice telling us to do more, more, more.


This week's witch's brew:

perfectionism + anxiety + too much screen time = an empty cauldron


This week's phrase to hold onto:

Hocus Pocus, I need REM sleep to focus!



As I reflect on my own difficulties with rest, I've discovered that my greatest barriers to sleep and relaxation have been perfectionism, increased productivity, generalized anxiety, too much screen time, lack of a routine or sleep schedule, travel, and not enough physical activity. In my experience, when any of these things are unbalanced, I usually don't sleep well; and deeper than sleep, I also don't relax well. I become irritable, I can't stop my brain from spiraling, and I feel like I didn't accomplish enough throughout the day. I lose patience with myself and everyone around me (sorry, Kat and Mom). Since you're here, it's very likely that you have a similar experience.


Rest and relaxation (R&R) are vital to our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Here is some data to consider when you find yourself resisting the urge to take a timeout:

  • A blog from Inc.com reintroduces a fact the majority of us already know: most major religions call for a day of rest, and science agrees with this notion. As both a faith and science believer, I identify with the Sabbath, and I understand the importance of rest.

  • Taking time away from work and productivity is proven to reduce stress. Quoted by the Inc. article, "The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports in a CDC publication that stress levels at work are higher than ever and that "health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress." Stress creates havoc with our physical and emotional health. "A growing body of evidence shows that "...skipping breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion."

  • Completely migrating away from your work on a regular basis reduces inflammation and the risk of heart disease.


To broaden our witchy horizons, let's discover some truths in understanding our bodies and how they naturally function best in regards to sleep:

  • According to Mental Health America, REM [sleep] is the most restorative of the stages of sleep and should account for one-fourth of the time you spend snoozing. An adult who sleeps 8 hours needs 2 hours of REM sleep.

  • The article also states, "the amount of sleep you need depends on your age. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends at least 11-12 hours for preschool-aged children, 10 hours for school-aged children, 9-10 hours for teens and 7-8 hours for adults."


I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I fall into the "preschool-aged children" category, since I need about 11-12 hours of sleep to function normally. Or potentially, it could result from a lack of REM sleep. Let's discover the stages of sleep together:

  1. Stage NREM N1:

    1. This is the falling asleep stage. It's a non-REM cycle that lasts a few minutes. Our breathing and heart rate begin to slow down.

  2. Stage NREM N2:

    1. This is the light sleep stage. It's a non-REM cycle that lasts about 25 minutes. Our breathing and heart rate slow down more, there aren't any eye movements (*ehem* to the fakers), and our body temperature drops.

  3. Stage NREM N3:

    1. This is known as "Slow Wave Sleep". In combination with our breathing and heart rate being lowered and a loss of eye movement, this stage is where Delta waves are present. It's also where tissues and cells are regenerating. Winifred would've LOVED this stage if she didn't need children to regain youth.

  4. Stage REM:

    1. We've finally arrived! This stage is where our dreams of luring children into our wooden cottage come to life. Okay, that was dark.

    2. Our limbs become temporarily paralyzed, our breathing and heart rate begin to increase, and our eye movements become - you guessed it - rapid.


So basically, if you don't get enough REM sleep, you end up like Winnie:

hating your life, hating mornings, and looking like a "hag" (courtesy of Thackery).



Since overcoming our barriers isn't an easy charm to cast, let's talk about some ingredients we can add to our empty cauldron moving into the weeks ahead:

  1. Pick your wind-down timeframe. Once you've selected that timeframe for yourself, don't do anything you would consider "productive" after that.

    1. No doing laundry, washing dishes, wiping down counters, or writing another email to your horrible boss (Winifred). Do nothing productive.

    2. Yes: nothing. Productive.

  2. Select a bedtime for your screen time. This can include TV, but it doesn't have to. I'm mainly talking about our phones. Once you've determined the time that you'll be done scrolling through your digital spell-book, don't pick it up.

    1. Charge it in a different room, turn on DND (do not disturb), or throw it away.

    2. Just kidding. Don't do that.

  3. Journal every morning or evening, and include any and every productive thing you've accomplished.

    1. List everything. Exclude nothing. No task is too small.

    2. I've begun to do this myself, and I speak from experience when I say that this has helped me realized just how productive I am in a day.

    3. Celebrate that small win by going to bed!


In the weeks to come, we will discover more witchy (or warlock-y) potions designed to teach us how to rest, activities that promote relaxation; we'll learn how to develop a sleep routine (sleep hygiene), and more fun-not-frightening tricks and treats. Oh, and one last reminder:

Don't work yourself to death. It's just a bunch of Hocus Pocus.


"You betcha!"

 

Sources:

[1] “A Day of Rest: 12 Scientific Reasons It Works.” Inc.Com, 5 Jan. 2021, www.inc.com/rhett-power/a-day-of-rest-12-scientific-reasons-it-works.html.

[2] “Rest, Relaxation and Exercise.” Mental Health America, www.mhanational.org/rest-relaxation-and-exercise. Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

[3] Lockett, Eleesha M. “Everything to Know About the Stages of Sleep.” Healthline, 30 Sept. 2021, www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sleep/stages-of-sleep#stages-of-sleep.

[4] Hocus Pocus. Directed by Kenny Ortega, performances by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, and Thora Birch. 1993.



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