• Martha Clark Scala

Empty Out!

May, 2020


A Dog's Command May Help You Sleep

“Empty out, Annie. Empty out.”

This was the command that Annie, an adorable little doggie, heard at night when it was bedtime. Her human Mom would open the door to the backyard, and Annie was expected to go outside, do her business quickly, and return indoors. This assured a more restful night for both Annie and her Mom.

Annie complied with this command. For a well-trained adult dog, emptying out was an easy thing to do.

For humans? Not so much.

This is not a blog about difficulties with elimination of our body’s waste! Well, actually it is . . . but I’m referring to a different kind of waste.

What is taking up more space in your body and mind than you may even realize? How is it impacting your ability to sleep during “normal” times, never mind during this prolonged period of sheltering in place?

It might be useful to take an inventory: what is clogging you up? Is it way too much screen time, an excess of disturbing news coverage, not enough vigorous exercise, or inadequate outlets for pent up feelings that have accumulated during the day?

How might we do as Annie did every night before we go to bed? What are some useful Empty Out strategies?

If you Google “sleep hygiene,” you will find helpful, concrete suggestions such as not drinking caffeinated drinks at least four to six hours prior to bedtime, following a fairly regular pre-sleep routine, and not turning off the bedside light until you are truly drowsy.

Zeroing in on pre-sleep routine, I think it’s the elimination aspect of emptying out that needs more of our attention and intention. How to digest the good stuff but offload the more toxic stuff we have witnessed or absorbed in our wakeful hours?

I do not have all the answers. But here are a few ideas I’ve gleaned from . . . let’s call it “field research!”:

· As your day is winding down, take stock of good things that have happened. Relish them. Accentuate them. Keep a gratitude journal if you are so inclined. Or share your pleasure about these things with another person, if possible.

· When you have actual indigestion, it’s not typically the best of times to eat more. Towards nighttime, “eat” less! This could translate to less people contact, less news-watching, minimizing stimulation (because caffeine isn’t the only stimulant we “ingest”) or letting go of petty disagreements.

· Stretch: especially those neck and shoulder muscles that have taken a beating by being at a computer screen too much. Oh, and don’t forget to BREATHE while you stretch. Exhale longer than you inhale to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (slows your heart rate, assists with digestion).

· They say excessive exercise too close to bedtime can be harmful to sleep quality. But a good walk or bike ride (or swim for those lucky enough) as you move toward evening time can be a nice transitional activity.

· If it has been a day of overload, either write out or tell another person what has overwhelmed you. Sharing what upsets us, rather than bottling it all up, is health-enhancing. A load shared is never as heavy.

· Laugh. Save some of the humor that circulates via social media, texts and email to enjoy in the evening. Or make sure to watch stuff on TV that is amusing. Laughter provides a delightful release of pent up tensions within. It’s as critical as oxygen, IMHO.

I’ve always felt that the often-delivered advice to “let go” was so easy to say, and much harder to do. If it were a switch to turn off, we’d have worn out the switch by now. I bet it took Annie a while to master what emptying out meant. I’m sure she had some mishaps. But like Annie, we have to just keep at it, night after night, until it’s a habit we can count on for improved sleep quality.

Bottom line? Worse sleep = everything seems harder. Better sleep = greater potential for feeling joy.

How do you empty out for a better sleep? Please feel free to add your own Empty Out suggestions in the comments below.


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Prompts For Joy

Click here for your COVID-special hoot from a gifted music teacher.

(Thanks so much, Claudette Bergman)


Click here for a blurry but funny bit about a misplaced want ad.


Click here for a reminder to empty out and lean on someone.

(Rest in peace, Bill Withers.)


Click here for all previous Prompts for Joy.

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