COVID-19: Stay at Home, Stay Healthy Part 3 - Sleep & Stress
It’s estimated that 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep, and over half of Americans report feeling stressed during the day. What gives? If we were to honestly strip back the layers of our daily activities and habits (maxing out our calendars, fitting in extra appointments, trying to check just one more thing off the to-do list at the end of the day) we’d likely come face to face with a harsh reality: as hard as we might try, we can’t do it all. And this constant chase to do it all has led to what some have deemed an epidemic – chronic lack of sleep and chronic stress.
Stress, in immediate and short-term situations, is actually beneficial for our health. However, when we are constantly stressed, our health takes a hit. Chronic stress can harm the immune system, raise blood sugar and blood pressure, increase our risk for heart attacks, and contribute to insomnia. Chronic stress is caused by things like being unhappy in your job, having a heavy workload, the death of a loved one, financial burdens, never slowing down, or even feelings of fear, uncertainty, and change.
Finding ways to manage the daily stressors of life is one of the best ways to take care of your health. We are reminded in Psalm 55:22 to “cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.” So often, we carry burdens that we aren’t meant to, and this only adds to our stress.
Below are a few ways we can steward two aspects of our health – stress, and sleep – in ways that glorify God and allow us to live life in a slower, restful, and more peaceful pace.
Ways to manage stress:
- Go on a walk in nature.
- Call or facetime with a friend who can talk with you and pray for you.
- Spend time in prayer.
- Meditate on Scripture. If you don’t know where to start, try Psalm 55:22, Psalm 94:19, Philippians 4:6-7, or 2 Corinthians 4:7-9.
- Practice a regular weekly Sabbath.
- Pick a quiet place and journal, knit, or read.
- Box breathing method: breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts. Repeat as needed.
Sleep is another vital aspect of our health that many tend to neglect. Habits like staying up late to watch another episode (or two) of a show on Netflix, mindlessly scrolling on your phone in bed, or continually burning the midnight oil trying to get ahead at work, unfortunately, contribute to poor sleep. Chronically poor or inadequate sleep can lead to impaired thinking, heart disease and high blood pressure, diabetes, unwanted weight gain, and a quick temper.
Psalm 127:2 says, “it is in vain that you rise up early and go to late rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” This verse reminds us that not only is sleep a gift from the Lord, but that constantly overworking to the point of exhaustion and lack of sleep can even be a sign of our distrust in God’s provision. Yet again, in Psalm 3:5, we are encouraged that the Lord sustains us, even in our sleeping and waking.
Ways to prioritize sleep:
- Aim for 7-9 hours per night.
- Start small by getting in bed 15-30 minutes earlier each night.
- Limit the use of screens (TV, phone, iPad) at least one hour before bed.
- Create a nightly routine to signal when it’s time for bed.
- Limit caffeine consumption after noon.
- Spend time outside during daylight, to help regulate your body’s sleep system.
Take inventory of some potential areas for growth from the list above, try a few new practices, and see if it doesn’t benefit your stress and sleep levels!