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12 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

Covid-19 Support Series #2

I hope you are well and safe during this Covid-19 pandemic. It’s a scary time. We can’t always control the things that happen around us or to us, but we can control how we react to them. How we manage our sleep impacts our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being and our relationships.

Today I’m going to share information about sleep hygiene.

Insomnia contributes to physical disease, a compromised immune system, accidents and mental illness. It also damages our relationships because we have less emotional resiliency.

Stress and anxiety can disrupt sleep. It may be harder to get to sleep, or more difficult to sleep through the night.

Please answer these questions:
1. When you wake up during the night, can you get back to sleep within 10 minutes?
2. Do you wake up in the morning feeling refreshed?

If your answer is “no”, do as many of these activities as you can.

1. Aim for 7½ to 8 hours of sleep every night … even when you don’t have a regular work schedule. Maintain your schedule on weekends. When we don’t get consistent sleep, it’s like being jet-lagged. Those who sleep less than six hours are especially susceptible to infections. Many people who don’t think that they need 7.5 – 8 hours of sleep are success-oriented individuals who are in denial about the need for enough sleep. Inadequate sleep lowers your immune system.

2. Be mindful. Observe your thinking and behavior. Accidents of all kinds occur more frequently when we don’t get enough sleep and we’re stressed. We’re prone to make decisions in split-seconds instead of taking time to ponder wise choices. Have any of these events ever happened to you?

You ran your body into a piece of furniture and caused a deep bruise. You weren’t aware of your body in relation to the environment, and you didn’t see the piece of furniture.

You fell down the stairs when you were carrying too many boxes because you wanted to leave the house quickly.

You crashed your car.

I admit it. I’ve done them. During a time of crisis, we need to prevent as many unnecessary injuries as possible.

3. Examine your most important values. Take self-care seriously. One study indicates that most airplane crashes involve sleep deprivation. Even if you are not a pilot or a person in a high-risk profession, you can’t afford to dismiss the value of good self-care during a crisis. Your choices not only impact you; they affect everyone around you. Remember what the flight attendants tell us: in the event of an emergency, put the oxygen mask on yourself first. If you don’t care for yourself well, you may not be able to care for anyone else.

4. Go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. The more you wake up at the same time, the more your brain unconsciously tries to help you go to sleep at the desired time.

5. Design a wind-down routine.

  • Get in bed a ½ hour to one hour before you want to be asleep. It’s normal to need ½ hour to fall asleep. Do self-soothing practices.
  • Listen to my guided meditation: “A Journey into Wholeness.” Click here for the MP3. Click here for the CD.
  • Listen to The Ultimate Brain meditation with stereo headphones. These are soothing engineered theta wave sound patterns that move you into a state of very deep relaxation. I use it daily. It’s free on YouTube. Search for Tom Kenyon The Ultimate Brain video booster cz 720p 2212017
  • Listen to the meditation apps available for your smartphone.
  • Read a book, but only if it’s soothing and doesn’t stimulate your mind.
  • Pray.
  • Watch a calming pleasurable movie. No dramas, no violence, no politics.
  • Take a hot bath. Hot water followed by a cooling down process helps you sleep.
  • Adjust the temperature in your room to a cooler temperature.
  • 6. Create a sleep-friendly environment.
  • Make your bedroom as dark as possible. Buy room-darkening curtains if you need to.
  • Remove all sound devices unless you need white noise to sleep.
    Turn off the TV. Better yet, remove the TV from your bedroom.
  • Use a white noise machine if you need noise to help you sleep.
  • Remove electronic devices from your bedroom whenever possible.
  • The electrical current impacts your body and brain even if you don’t realize it.
  • Wear earplugs if you are particularly sensitive to noise. I like these comfortable earplugs that I buy from Walmart: Mack’s pillow soft silicone putty. Personally, I don’t like any other earplugs.
  • Don’t use your computer or smartphone one hour before bed. Get an app that turns off the blue light.

7. Consume a healthy diet.
Do not drink alcohol in the evening. Alcohol will help you become sleepy, but your blood sugar will drop while you sleep and then you will wake up in the middle of the night. Abstain from recreational drugs which weaken your immune system. If you must drink alcohol, limit it to one a day for women; two a day for men. If you are have trouble with alcohol or drugs, seek counseling.

Drink plenty of pure water. The rule of thumb is to drink half our weight in number of ounces per day. Example: if you weigh 120 pounds, you would drink 60 ounces of water each day. Dehydration can interrupt sleep.

Nix the sugar and simple carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, white pasta). These decrease your immune system and dysregulate sleep.

Eat anti-inflammatory foods: fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds and healthy fats.

Eat superfoods: Spinach, kale, red onions, capers, apples (eat the peel), berries.

Plant your own garden so you don’t need to go to the grocery store.

Eat a healthy small snack before you go to sleep. Eat a combination of proteins and complex carbohydrates to stabilize your blood sugar throughout the night. Examples: 5-10 almonds and 8 dried cherries with no added sugar. If you are a diabetic, seek your physician’s recommendations about a snack before bed.

8. Don’t do any activities in your bedroom other than sleep and make love. Your brain will unconsciously associate your bedroom with pleasure and sleep. Do all your other activities in another room.

9. Exercise at least 30 minutes every day. If evening exercise makes you too alert to go to sleep on time, exercise earlier in the day.

Soak up the sunshine for 10 minutes a day. It stimulates vitamin D and boosts your immune system.

10. Reduce or eliminate caffeine. If you’re having trouble sleeping, don’t drink caffeine. Not even in the morning. One of my psychiatrist colleagues says that caffeine can stay in the body for 2 days. The caffeine in green tea impacts you, too. I realize that people vary in their sensitivity to caffeine, but if you have trouble sleeping, don’t ingest caffeine for 30 days and see what happens.

11. Resolve your relationship conflicts. When we don’t feel securely attached to our loved ones, we experience grief and loss. All our emotions have a physiological counterpart. In my experience, grief is felt in the lungs. To help prevent and heal pneumonia and other lung-related dis-eases, mend your relationships as soon as possible. If your loved ones won’t cooperate, learn how to repair the wounds yourself. Seek psychotherapy and spiritual counseling.

12. Meditate mid-day to reduce chronic anxiety or insomnia. When our sympathetic nervous system is continually in a state of hyper-arousal, it’s hard to calm down at night. We call this state “tired and wired.” Chronic anxiety is really bad for our physical and emotional health.

Research says not to take naps during the day if you have insomnia. I recommend meditation to renew your energy when you are exhausted.

Take 30 minutes somewhere between 12 noon-4:00pm to go into a deep state of relaxation to calm down and renew your energy. Don’t meditate later than 4pm or you may have too much energy, and that will interfere with your sleep.

As I mentioned before, here are some resources to get a better night’s sleep.

Listen to “A Journey into Wholeness.”   Click here for the MP3.  Click here for the CD.

I’ve been using “The Ultimate Brain” meditation every afternoon at about 3:00pm for the last 30 years. That’s how helpful it is. Soothing sounds help increase your theta brainwaves, a state of very deep relaxation. It can also help eliminate pain. It’s free on YouTube. Search for: “Tom Kenyon The Ultimate Brain video booster cz 720p 2212017”

If you really desire to get a better night’s sleep, do this:

1. Print this article.
2. Put a check mark by all the activities that you want to use.
3. Schedule them on your calendar just like you would for any other important activity.
4. Set alarms to help you maintain the schedule.
5. Post a chart of your daily actions where you will see it.
6. Ask someone to be your accountability partner.
7. Even if you don’t do all of these activities perfectly, recording your behavior will keep you focused on your goals so that you will be more successful.
8. You might want to choose two or three items and become successful with those. Then add more until you master the whole list.

We create new habits after repeating new behaviors for 60 days. Consistency is the key.

You can do this!

I love you. I bless you. I believe in you.

Warmly,

Benita A. Esposito, MA, LPC

Benita Esposito is a psychotherapist in Georgia with four decades experience.

If you would like to schedule a complimentary 10-minute phone chat to see if we are a good fit for counseling, please complete the Contact Form.

I offer “distance counseling” by Zoom videoconference. I also offer FaceTime during this Covid-19 crisis to all residents of Georgia. In non-crisis times, I see clients in my Blairsville, Georgia office.

If you live in another state, it may be possible to receive counseling from me because the federal and state guidelines have changed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Please inquire on the website of your state’s professional counselor licensing board.

Please comment on this article or leave a question. Please it with your friends on social media.

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Reduce Your Stress During Covid-19

Covid-19 Support Series #1

I am sending you my love and blessings during this world crisis due to the coronavirus Covid-19.  I bless you with the wisdom to make healthy choices and to keep you and your loved ones safe from harm. Read more

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Intimacy and Deep Emotional Healing

Even in the best of relationships, couples sometimes struggle with emotional connection. They want to feel close, but it seems like there’s a wedge between them.

If this has ever happened to you, I want to help you successfully overcome this hurdle. Consider the following situation.

Imagine that your partner wants to tell you about his anger, or hurt or displeasure.

Now imagine your automatic reaction. What do you feel? What happens in your body?

Do you want to lean toward your partner and listen? Or do you feel on edge?

Many of us would say, “I think I’d rather not hear this story.” Our quick computer-like mind calculates how we can get physical or psychological distance so we won’t have to feel uncomfortable. Even if we stay physically close, our mind and our heart might not be very open.

The following behaviors prevent the exploration of emotional material that would help us understand our partner on a deeper level. In most cases, these behaviors occur innocently and unknowingly.

1. Give advice: “Listen to my suggestions and you’ll feel much better.”
2. Rescue: “Here, let me make it all better for you.”
3. Praise: “I know you’re a strong enough person to handle it.”
4. Criticize: “That’s a ridiculous way to feel. That’s stupid.”
5. Intellectualize: “You have no reason to feel that way. Think about it my way.”
6. Defend: “Yeah but, you never listen to me either. You hurt me, too.”
7. Convince, dominate: “My way is better than your way. Do what I tell you to do, pleeeease!”
8. Exit: “Oh, I just remembered that I have to call Sylvia back.”

Our partner won’t feel that we deeply connect with them.

When we distance, we often do so nonverbally as well. We break eye contact when we start to feel uncomfortable. We may turn away or walk out of the room.

Sometimes, we want to strike out with words or behavior.

Our instinctual brains go into protection mode. We call it the fight or flight phenomenon.

Sometimes intense emotions scare us. That’s why we want to get away from feelings in the first place. We might be afraid that we will go out of control and hurt ourselves or hurt someone else.

When we learn to contain our emotions
we don’t go out of control.

Why being intellectual does not work.

Our society prizes smart productive people. There is a certain amount of intimacy that occurs on an intellectual level, and thats great. But more often than not, we feel deeply loved when our partner meets us on a heart level.  

We hurt when we have unmet emotional needs. We want our feelings to be understood by our partner.

We need to learn how to stop intellectualizing and start feeling our suppressed and repressed emotions. We need to find an effective way to stay emotionally present with each other. We must learn to do this in a responsible way. We shouldnt dump our reactive anger all over our partner.

When we feel distant from our partner, we can remind our selves that we want an intimate relationship. We can tell our partner that. Thats a good first step.  

As we look for ways to create emotional intimacy, it helps to ask ourselves if our ideas will generate true closeness. Do we use sex or embraces or flowers or conversations or vacations? All of these can be absolutely wonderful, but do they generate enduring repairs for a troubled relationship?

Have you ever felt close for a little while, but the intimacy fades away all too quickly? Do you say to yourself, Theres something wrong with this relationship. I keep trying to get close, but the moments are too fleeting. Is this all that I can expect from an intimate relationship?”

Maybe you focus on the flaws in your partner. Maybe you try to get him to change. You think, Hes the one with the problem. If he would just change it would all be OK.”

Or maybe you decide that you are the one with the problem. You spend hours psychoanalyzing yourself, reading books and talking to friends. You understand your pattern better, but the same old feelings haunt you.  

The antidote is to develop the ability to feel our vulnerable emotions and stay 100% present.

We can develop the ability to unconditionally love ourselves. We can invite the unconditional love of God. Then we can experience our Authentic Self as larger than the emotional experience of the moment.

We can experience our emotions, but they no longer have power over us.

Then we feel centered.

Then our partner can experience emotions, and we can stay emotionally intimate with ourselves and with our partner. We dont get reactive. We can listen well.

We can handle all the ups and downs of a conflict like navigating the rapids of a river.

We can come through the experience together as partners rather than as adversaries. 

 

The Remedy: Empathy for Self and Our Partner

We all want to be understood and cared about. Empathy is one of our most powerful tools.

When we empathize with our partner, we feel their emotions to some degree and see things through their eyes.

That does not mean that we need to agree with our partner. And it does not mean that we lose our selves in the process.

Empathy means

that we let our partner know

that we feel what they feel and

that it makes sense to us.

Empathy pulls for empathy from our partner.

To empathize effectively, we must stop distancing from our own uncomfortable feelings that arise in the presence of our partner.

We must go deep inside of our own caves and caverns where we have not yet ventured to visit our uncomfortable emotions. We must find a way to make peace with our challenging emotions. Sometimes it is really dark in the cave and we might be frightened to venture in alone. We might want to ask for help from a therapist.

The deeper we are willing to go inside of our own emotions and explore our internal world, the more self-aware we will become. There may be all kinds of feelings that we have shied away from … hurt, anger, pain, sadness, fear, insecurity, guilt, or shame. These feelings may have been formidable enemies for us.

If we are not willing to make friends with these so-called enemies, these emotions will always have power over us. They will rise up in the most unexpected and unacceptable moments. They will be uninvited disruptive guests.

We may try to get rid of uncomfortable emotions, but they will cycle back around again.

So we try harder to make them go away.

We eat too much or sleep too much. We might drink too much alcohol or take drugs. We might talk with friends. We work too much. We shop for things that make us feel good temporarily. Or maybe we run into the arms of another person to try to feel good … or at least not feel so lonely.

We have all kinds of ways of running away from intimacy with our selves.  

When we dont stay 100% present with ourselves, it is impossible to be close to our partner when he is experiencing difficult emotions.

 

How to Make Peace with Our Uncomfortable Emotions

Imagine there is a part inside of you who feels the uncomfortable emotions. I often imagine this to be a child part of myself. Notice how old your inner child seems to be.

Now imagine that you also have a wise nurturing adult part of you. The nurturing wise adult is compassionate and wants to understand the child. She is willing to be fully present. She is a caring witness. She says, Tell me all about it. Im here for you. Tell me what you need and Ill do my best to help meet your needs.”  They explore the situation together. They build their relationship.

The child and the wise adult interact like a scene in a movie. As the wise adult tunes into the child, the child will eventually feel safe enough to open up. When the adult loves the child and tries to meet her needs, the child will receive the healing instead of being closed off.

It helps to journal this story as it unfolds in your mind so you can stay focused. Most people need to do a series of writings before their inner child feels safe and healed. You may require a skilled therapist to help you with this process.

When we feel safe to disclose our deepest pain in the presence of a compassionate other,” we feel better simply because we have a caring friend. This friend” can be our inner wise adult self, a spiritual being, our partner, or another friend.

We no longer feel alone or lonely.

Feeling supported, we can more easily accept ourselves. We can open to receive healing from our spiritual source. We can think more clearly and receive wisdom.

We can always sit down with our inner child, our spiritual source, and our wise adult and do this process. The inner dialogue helps us feel whole and remain patient and grounded until our partner can be emotionally available.

Hopefully, our partner will choose to engage in this process as well.

As we do more healing with our inner family, we feel more inner peace. Then we have more ability to be emotionally intimate with our partner. We can help him feel understood. We can express compassion and empathy. We are both healed by Gods love that flows through us.

 

Conclusion

This article only scratches the surface of how to develop emotional intimacy when you experience conflict. I hope you have gained a few good insights.

If you are serious about developing your ability to maintain emotional intimacy, look for a therapist who has done his or her own healing work … someone who has ventured into their own dark caves and made peace with the emotions they have found there.

Some people complain about spending years in therapy and not getting the results they want. They intellectually explore their patterns, but their lives dont significantly change. Thats why we need to do deep emotional healing work.

Transformation occurs on the emotional level.

Intimate relationships are possible.

It takes a dedicated commitment and desire to cultivate intimacy within yourself and with your partner.

It requires handling conflicts and emotions as they arise and not running from yourself.

It requires realizing that you and your partner are mirrors for each other. What you see in your partner is often a reflection of yourself. If you dont like what you see in your partner, it is probably because there is a counterpart that you havent made peace with inside of yourself.

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. But just like any labor of love, it is worthwhile for those who have a burning desire for the riches of genuine emotional intimacy.

 

About the Author

Benita A. Esposito, MA is a licensed professional counselor in Georgia with four of decades experience. She is also a spiritual counselor available by video conference to people worldwide. Click here to read her credentials.

If you would like to see if you are a good fit for Benitas services, please click here to complete the contact form and request a complimentary 10-minute phone session.

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9 Tips to Reduce Family Conflicts During the Holidays

I’m reaching out to all of you who have troubled family relationships during the holidays.

Maybe family members act more like frozen icicles than warm comforting blankets. Perhaps cutting words feel like daggers that pierce your soul. Maybe your mother still treats you like a 12-year-old. That hurts all the time, but especially during the holidays. Read more

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Happy Wife, Happy Life

I’m writing to men here. But if you are a woman who is married, dating or engaged, you’ll probably want to read this, too. Give him a gentle nudge to read it. Read more

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Breathwork Healing Stories – Laura

Story #1. Laura’s Chronic Shoulder Pain

Laura didn’t think the pain in her right shoulder would ever go away since the injury in 1994, so she didn’t even try to heal it. That was not the intended focus of this breathwork session that took place in 2002. Read more

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Valentine’s Couples Retreat 2020

This small group Valentine’s Retreat is perfect for couples who want to strengthen their marriage. It is also for engaged, co-habitating and dating couples who want to prevent unnecessary problems from arising in the first place.

One day: February 15, 2020. 9:30am – 5:30pm

Young Harris, Georgia in the Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

As couples move beyond the “honeymoon” phase, they inevitably encounter conflicts. If not handled skillfully by both people, emotional wounds mount up, adding one more brick to an invisible wall. Don’t wait until the wall is too high to climb. Invest in the training you need to create the flourishing relationship you know is possible. Read more

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Healing Trauma: Abortion and Open-heart Surgery

This article was written by one of my clients who chose to remain anonymous. I’ll call her Sally. She was a smart business leader whom people respected. She felt confident at work, but she had trouble forming meaningful friendships. She felt empty inside. Read more

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23 Tips for Turning Conflict into Peace

I hope your holidays are filled with love and laughter. I bless you with inner peace that glows from your heart. Unfortunately, holidays are not merry and bright for everyone. I’ve written this article to help people who struggle at this time of the year. However, you can apply these skills 365 days a year. Read more

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Benefits of Meditation

I want to pass on the benefits of meditation that I’ve come to enjoy. It can bring so much more peace to your life.

My energy dips at 3pm. Meditation renews my energy for several hours. I don’t get cranky because my nervous system is so calm. Meditation helps me heal from illness. It eliminates pain. It heightens creativity. I’ve been meditating at least five days a week for most of the last 46 years.

There are many types of meditation.

Guided meditation is easier for many people. It gives our minds something positive to focus on instead of the monkey mind chatter.

I created a guided meditation CD called  “A Journey Into Wholeness.” 

It helps you relax, calm your nervous system, build self-esteem, strengthen your spiritual connection and heal difficult emotional experiences. Click here to read the full description and listen to an audio sample.

Here’s the story of how I learned to meditate.

You’ll find this story in my book, The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self.

The paperback and eBook are available on Amazon.

When I learned to meditate in college, I did it twenty minutes twice a day every single day. I was amazed that I was able to memorize minute details like names, dates and places. I was able to understand complex ideas that were previously incomprehensible.

The following story was my first remarkable experience with meditation.
I was in a social philosophy class. For three months, the professor and one other student carried on brilliant dialogues that none of the rest of us understood. Three weeks before the end of the semester, the professor assigned a written report and an oral report that were to be completed the last week of finals. Half our grade depended on these reports.

We could choose any philosopher we wanted to study, and I picked Kant. Trying to read Kant was like trying to read Greek. The night before I was to give the oral report, I still didn’t understand this philosopher. I hadn’t written the report. My imagination began to show me scary pictures of what would happen the next day if I couldn’t give my report. I could see myself turning beet red and fumbling over my words.

I meditated to see if it would help me because nothing else was working. I read Kant again, and to my amazement, it was all crystal clear! So amazingly clear that I spontaneously wrote the report in one hour. I read it one more time and totally understood it.

I had one more hurdle to overcome. I hated public speaking. I had never taken a course in it, and I never wanted a course in it! I disliked feeling on display where everything about me could be judged. Highly sensitive people can be like that.

The next morning, instead of fretting, I meditated again. When it was my turn to give my presentation, I was nervous. Although my face turned red, the words flowed effortlessly. I was well-organized and poised in a way I never thought possible. After the class, students exclaimed to me, “That was the first thing we’ve understood all semester!”

How was it that meditation had helped me learn so easily? I couldn’t explain it. I had discovered a door into the part of my brain that gave me access to higher intelligence. This door opened only when I was deeply relaxed. Before this, the only way I knew to succeed was by putting a lot of effort into learning, and as I’ve said before, dyslexia made studying difficult for me.

Little did I know that 40 years into the future, neuroscience would provide plenty of evidence of how meditation not only calms our nerves but also stimulates creativity, lowers blood pressure and increases wisdom and productivity.

Meditation also helped me heal and recuperate energy that was easily drained from my highly sensitive body. I was able to unwind and rest instead of being so stressed all the time. I could ward off colds and the flu. My life became so much easier as I soothed my anxiety and opened to what experts call “the flow.”

Meditation wasn’t a cult like my parents thought. No one was trying to dominate me. I proved to myself that I had good instincts for trying unusual paths that led to success. As I look back on my life, I am proud of my 20-year-old self who had the courage to follow her own heart even though her parents disapproved.

To have the fulfilling life you want, self-care must shift to the front burner of your daily life. Meditation is a key part of good self-care for highly sensitive introverts.

Your health will improve, your relationships will be more harmonious, and your work will be more creative.

I recommend meditations that take you into such a deep state of relaxation that your busy thoughts vanish. I particularly like theta brainwave entrainment music that is engineered to help you enter this extremely peaceful state. You’ll feel like a wet noodle and be refreshed afterward.

Guided meditations are also useful to reprogram negative thinking and to heal and enhance creativity.

Click here to listen to an audio sample of my guided meditation CD, A Journey Into Wholeness. It will help you cultivate clear thinking, strengthen self-esteem and manage your emotions.

There are many forms of meditation, and it’s important to find the ones that work for you. If you’d like to discuss this, and other forms of meditation please contact me for a complimentary 10-minute phone interview.

Benita A. Esposito, MA, is a licensed professional counselor with office in Atlanta and Blairsville, Georgia, USA.

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