Most of us got a summer vacation when we were kids. We would have a couple of months to play, and sleep in, and generally unwind from a year of hard work and learning. As adults, however, most of us hardly get to hit snooze once throughout the summer! Maybe you get one vacation, but if you don’t stay on top of your email you’ll regret it when you get home. Maybe all of the things you’ll need to do when you get home haunt you the whole vacation long. And weekends are filled with social gatherings, weddings, graduation parties, and more. If you’re anything like me, much as you love celebrating with and for the people you care about, it can simply be too much! How can you protect your resources and care for yourself amidst the adulthood stresses of summertime?
1) Your sleep is essential. Set boundaries around it
A 2014 report from the CDC found that in Maryland, between 38.0% - 44.1% of adults 18 years old or older are getting inadequate sleep (<7 hours per 24 hour period). For teens, the percentage is disturbingly high - in 2013, the percentage of teens getting inadequate sleep (<8 hours for teens) was a whopping 68.4%. In a large review of the literature on short sleep duration, inadequate sleep was found to be a significant predictor for increased risk of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, coronary heart diseases, obesity, and mortality (Itani, Jike, Watanabe, and Kaneita, 2017).
Sleep is medicine.
If you know you need to take a medicine at a particular time of day or at a particular frequency or dosage in order to be well, most people take the medicine as prescribed.
But when it comes to sleep, we seem to have a steep learning curve. Maybe your friend has a party starting at 10 PM, or your partner is out of town in a different time zone, and you choose to stay up late talking to them on the phone, or your exercise classes start late at night, or you have an infant or young child who wakes you at night.
This is not an easy thing to work with. It requires a very high level of commitment and awareness around one’s health.
To start out, create a schedule for yourself that gives you at least four days out of the week where you can be in bed at the same time each day and wake up no sooner than 7-8 hours later. Once you have created this schedule and set this intention for yourself, communicate it to the people who are closest to you in your life. Your partner(s), friends, children, and coworkers may be able to support you in your commitment to your health, and you may even inspire them to do the same. You could find your friends’ invitations may change: “I know it’s late for you, I understand if you won’t come.”
If your friends don’t understand, you may want to reevaluate their place in your life. Good friends don’t tend to stand between us and our medicine.
2) Counteract overstimulation with quiet and calm
All stress is stress - we all know how stressful starting a new job, or a new school, or a new marriage can be. Parties may be fun, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Of course all of these events are exciting, and a source of joy. As are the parties and other gatherings we attend in high volumes in the summer time.
However, for many people, going to cookouts, weddings, and graduations every weekend can really drain our energy. In Chinese medicine, there are seven internal causes of disease: emotions which are out of balance. It is said that joy slows qi. It injures the channel which is associated with consciousness, attention, emotional awareness, and healthy sleep. When there is a condition of too much joy (generally considered to be a sense of overstimulation), symptoms which may arise include heart palpitations, insomnia, and restlessness. A daily meditation practice, however small or simple, goes a long way towards counteracting the frenzied energy of overstimulation.
Take a few moments throughout your day to sit quietly and close your eyes. Take deep breaths and feel the breath filling your whole body, from toes to crown. Breathe out and feel the stimulations of the day draining down through your body, out the soles of your feet. Use this time to listen to your body and mind.
3) Give yourself a little treatment using acupressure
If things are particularly frenzied in your mind and body, you can use acupressure to help calm things down. Across the inside of the wrist are three very grounding and calming points named “Very Great Abyss,” “Great Mound,” and “Spirit Gate.”
“Very Great Abyss” caries with it a sense of opening oneself to a state of emptiness. When we are full up with ideas, and things to do, and people to see, we lose sight of our self. This point brings more energy to the Lung channel and organ, to help us let go of what doesn’t serve (like the carbon dioxide we breathe out) and bring in fresh, clean energy (and air) to help us think more clearly.
“Great Mound” is so named because of its potential to bring greater perspective. This point is on a channel called Pericardium, or Heart Protector. This channel is responsible for allowing us to be vulnerable with others, and for protecting us and setting boundaries when being vulnerable isn’t appropriate or safe. This point can help you set better boundaries around your sleep, and have the strength to say “no” when you don’t have the energy for one more party.
“Spirit Gate” is a very powerful point to calm the mind. When you’re worrying, stressed, struggling to fall asleep, or feeling very emotionally unsettled, this point on the Heart channel is an essential friend to clear the mind. In Chinese medicine, the mind is associated with tumultuous emotions and worries, and the spirit is associated with conscious and awake to the self and to others. The Heart is a chamber which must remain empty of turmoil so that the etherial substance called spirit can enter the heart and be rooted. When the spirit is rooted, we are able to be conscious to one another, to fall asleep with ease, and to be calm within ourselves. This point helps the mind to become quiet, and the Heart to become empty so that the spirit can settle.
To stimulate these three points, place the pad of your right thumb on the inside of your left wrist at the base of your left thumb, and lay the rest of your right thumb across the crease of your wrist. Hold gentle yet firm pressure here while you take a few deep breaths, then switch to work on the opposite wrist.
4) Get help
Acupuncture and zero balancing are great tools for achieving greater balance between activity and rest. As the above exercise in acupressure demonstrates, the channels and points pertain to essential physiological and emotional functions which, when well balanced, create greater ease. If you’re looking for help with setting boundaries, getting adequate rest, and balancing stimulation and calm, make an appointment for acupuncture or zero balancing today.
As always, this blog is not intended to replace professional medical or psychological care. If you are concerned about your emotional or physical health please talk to your doctor.
CDC, (2014). https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html
Itani, Jike, Watanabe, & Kaneita, (2017). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1389945716301381
Itani, Jike, Watanabe, & Kaneita, (2017). https://www.sciencedirect.com/scienc