The night after a big test or competition ought to include a good, deep, restful sleep, but in my household, it rarely does. We celebrate, of course, and go over all the details of the victory or defeat many times, reliving it in our minds and speech for hours afterward. By the time I finally fall into bed, I’m both charged from the day and utterly exhausted by it. In truth, post event slumber is as almost as restless as pre-event sleep.
I learned a long time ago how to quiet my mind with deep breathing and visualization. When I was much younger, that was enough. I’d focus on breathing into my belly, so my lower abdomen and stomach would gently rise and fall with each breath. That alone often relaxed my body and mind. Sometimes I’d visualize myself resting and relaxed in the glow of victory knowing I’d done my best.
I still use deep breathing and visualization to relax, but in more recent years I’ve needed a bit more help than that to quiet my mind and let the tension slip out of my muscles. Too often, I’ve pushed myself past the point of easy recovery into a repeating cycle of stress and adrenaline that discourages my mind and body from fully relaxing.
Herbs like lavender, skullcap, and mint are a Godsend for the stressed or exhausted athlete. Lavender helps the body relax. It’s almost earthy floral scent alone eases muscle tension. Through the years, lavender has been used as a topical medicine to help sore muscles heal in part due to lavender’s ability to unlock both muscle and nerve tension and let healing and nourishment flow in. Lavender in your eye pillow or sleeping mask can help you ease into sleep as can a spritz of lavender mixed with isopropyl alcohol on your pillow just before bed or a little lavender massage oil rubbed into tense or exhausted muscles. Even a drop of lavender essential oil rubbed onto the pulse points at your throat, wrists, and ankles can help you let go more easily.
With lavender’s help, my body usually relaxes pretty quickly, but my mind doesn’t always follow suit so easily. Stress, especially associated with competition and testing, gets my mind stirred up. Sometimes, my thoughts seem to be racing with the Olympic track team just when they ought to be winding down into the lovely quiet of deepest night. Skullcap and spearmint are my best friends on nights like that. Heck, I’ve turned to them by day as well to help tame my thoughts, too. Both are from the mint family, and both grow like weeds once they’re established, which may be exactly why I keep coming back to them. They help ease my adrenal system into a slower pace and reduce my racing thoughts to something with which I can effectively deal.
Make a simple Lavender Goodnight spritzer to keep by your bed. Mix 2 ounces of isopropyl alcohol with 8 drops of Lavender essential oil in a spray bottle. Spritz a little on your pillow just before bed,
Keep a bottle of lavender essential oil by your bed. Massage a drop or two onto your main pulse points, at your wrists, ankles, and throat, just before bed. Conversely, make Lavender Massage Oil to massage into pulse points or tense muscles just before bed.
Make a simple skullcap and spearmint tea using a scant teaspoon of each herb in 8 ounces of boiling water half an hour before bed,
Take up to two droppers of tincture of skullcap and tincture of spearmint shortly before bed.
Candace Hunter is a self-taught herbalist and artist who never, ever practices on guinea pigs in part because her family and friends are generally up to the job. She is co-author of The Practical Herbalist's Herbal Folio series and author of Herbalism for the Zombie Apocalypse. She edits The Practical Herbalist website and Practical Herbalist Press publications. She has also recently entered into the field of podcasting with reckless abandon. Listen to her on Real Herbalism Radio today, see her work at CandaceHunter.com, or find her on Facebook at Candace Hunter Creations.