Sleep, Supplements, Stress

Getting enough shut-eye is just as important to this challenge as the devotional, nutritional, and physical aspects. In fact, I would say it is foundational in allowing the previously mentioned areas to be a success, as well as assist in renewing the mind. Really, it isn’t JUST about success in any given area. Sleep is critical to help stave off certain conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, and mood disorders. This was a big challenge for me, but once I began feeling more energetic after just a few nights of MORE sleep (I went from 5-6 hours of sleep, to 7-8 hours per night), I now guard my sleep time. Catching up on social media, watching late night shows, and reading a good book do not hold a candle to a good night’s rest, now. 

Who needs sleep?! WE all do! How much, is dependent upon the individual, but for many it is a minimum of seven hours. Trial and error will help to figure out how much each of us need. If we allow late nights to catch up with us, we may become a not so happy person - tired, cranky, and more selfish than normal. We definitely want to do our best to get the right amount of sleep for OUR body. So what is up with sleep? Why is it so important for the body, and especially for the brain and its assistance in the mind renewal process?

The body utilizes the sleeping hours to repair and rebuild when an individual is exercising. When people ask me about the first thing to implement when hoping to lose fat, I suggest they start focusing on getting enough sleep. This was a big one for me years ago. I was amazed at how much better I felt, and recovered, once I started sleeping seven to eight hours a night, instead of six or so. When building muscle, ample sleep is crucial for muscle growth, which leads to a more efficient metabolism, which leads to fat loss.

When it comes to renewing the mind, sleep is equally important. When an individual is getting enough sleep, blood flow is increased to the prefrontal cortex which enables higher order thinking to take place, which enables one to focus on and live out more those habits that assist in renewing the mind. When we aren't, blood flow is reduced and the amygdala, which causes one to be more reactive, sort of takes over. When this happens we may experience increased cortisol levels, loss of inhibition, mood swings, negative perceptions of situations, reduced concentration and cravings for low quality foods. In short, we become more instinctual and reactionary, rather than compassionate and responsive. This may also lead to excessive caffeine and junk food consumption, coupled with reduced exercise time, potentially creating a storm where people may wonder what in the world happened to their spouse, parent, or friend.

The cycle can be disrupted with a good night's sleep and continuing the pattern, to assist in increased blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, which allows one to experience lower stress levels, more discipline for study time or meditating on God's Word, balanced moods, realistic assessments of situations with others, and continued focus on what matters most. Our time becomes less about putting out fires we may have caused due to a lack of sleep and more about giving energy to a process where we more often operate from the mind of Christ.

I'm sure this may be an oversimplification of a more complex situation, but it certainly encouragement to get to bed early and sleep solid, in order to build muscle and renew the mind.

Supplements

While the idea for the commitment is to get all our vitamins and minerals from the whole foods we are consuming, sometimes extra supplementation is necessary. Supplementation is going to be unique for each individual and may also be determined by consulting with your physician, functional practitioner or nutritional coach. Fish oil, vitamins D3, B12 and C, are part of my current regimen. For digestive health, super enzymes and probiotics are also great supplements to integrate.

The key is to research and determine what you need specifically, and look for products that have no fillers, gluten, soy, and other “nasties” in them. NOW products, as well as Jarrow and Pure Formulas are good and may be bought from Amazon.

Stress

We all have it. We all manage it (or try to). We all either allow it to propel us, or cripple us. We all either do things to tame its effect on us, or we allow it to rule over us (typically unconsciously). Stress is a booger. 

Seriously, it is typically hard to get at, takes on its own nasty form, obstructs the inward-outward flow of life God would like us to live, and truly does reside in our bodies. However, we aren’t always that great at “blowing it out”. We aren’t always that great at breaking its strong hold and releasing it in a way that will allow us to be unhindered by its negative ramifications psychologically, hormonally and spiritually. Stress isn’t always easy to give over to God, usually, because we like to be in control. While there are practices like prayer, deep breathing, meditation, Christ centered stretching, listening to classical music, and host of other practices, for some the practices just aren’t enough. I believe at the heart of it is trusting God’s ways truly are better than ours. This notion may be deep, or unbelievable even. However, others’ experience with stress aligns. When one tries “to do it all”, figure it all out, keep the reins on life, being stressed is typically the case. When we come to the point and say, “God, here you go. Please lead the way”, we begin to gain a true sense of peace. Though not perfectly, it is perfected every day, as one chooses to ask His guidance of Him.

It is about resting in Him, not stressing in because of our own efforts. Learning to rest can be more challenging than one may think. Not in the sense of learning to physically do nothing, but in the sense of learning to rest in the Lord and trust He has all things worked out and we need only to trust Him with EVERYTHING.

Everything being, well, everything. When relationships are experiencing a season of turmoil, rest in Him. When time is being maxed out due to extra hours at the office, rest in Him. When the body is going through an adjustment period and things appear "off", rest in Him. When we may not exactly be sure what the future may hold - REST IN HIM. Rest NOT stress.

Some may reserve Sundays as a day of rest. Believing it is biblical and knowing they operate better when practicing this habit. Resting isn't reserved only for the seventh day. Resting in the Lord, is intended for every moment of every day. This allows anxiety and the need for control over life to be relinquished, and God's Spirit to reign. In those moments when we would love to control the outcome of a situation or when we may begin to experience anxiety about what an outcome may be, we have a choice to go to the place where God is, and let it all go by placing our concerns at His feet.

This doesn't require a room, or place with a certain ambiance, it simply requires we consciously acknowledge our thoughts, and allow God to bring peace. Calm. Rejuvenation. In an instant, all can be let go and God's presence can rule in our heart, mind and thoughts.

This, in turn, affects the way we respond to others, otherwise stressful scenarios, and even self induced pressure to reach goals we have for ourselves. As a result, we may find we do not spend nearly as much energy and we actually have MORE energy on a daily basis. We may also sleep better and just feel good.

Whole 30 has some interesting informative articles on stress. If we have a look and maybe even pray to be open to where we may lie on stress continuum, we can begin to seek ways to be freed from our “stress dragon’s” grip.

Lessons Learned

During past commitments, I experienced stressful situations I was not expecting. Intellectually, I held the idea of resting in Christ in my mind, but I was having a difficult time ACTUALLY living it. I found myself frustrated and I wanted to eat (a long held stress response). Being aware I was beginning to repeat a pattern, I instead looked to God in prayer. Just going to Him restored joy and peace. The situation didn’t change, but my response did.