Guest Post: 8 Techniques for Sleep While Dealing with Loss


Guest Post: 8 Techniques for Sleep While Dealing with Loss

I am honored to share a guest post by Sara Bailey, who after losing her husband Greg, created to support her fellow widows and widowers. She is also the author of the upcoming book Hope and Help After Loss: A Guide For Newly Widowed Parents.

8 Techniques for Sleep While Dealing with Loss

Extended grief after the loss of someone you love can result in a condition called complicated grief, which can disrupt sleep. During times like this, it’s important to prioritize targeted self-care to alleviate some of the major symptoms of grief and stress. Here are some techniques that can help.

1. Invest in a good mattress

A mattress is one of the most important sleep tools you’ll use. If you’re experiencing pain with your current mattress, it’s time to look into getting a new one. If you’re a side-sleeper, look for a mattress that’s more cushiony and can support your joints. If you’re a stomach- or back-sleeper, get something that is more broadly supportive. 

2. Exercise a little bit daily

It’s been reported that only about 11 percent of people who don’t exercise say they get enough sleep each night. Exercise can be highly useful in promoting restful sleep and doesn’t have to be difficult. You can get out and start taking daily walks. There are also a lot of options for doing yoga, swimming, or other community group classes. A little bit of regular exercise can go a long way. Plus, it can be highly therapeutic when dealing with grief. 

3. Develop a nightly routine

Having a consistent bedtime ritual—whether it’s reading a book, taking a bath, doing yoga, or something else—can train your body to sleep on a normal schedule. The ritual can make a difference just by triggering your body and alerting it that it’s time to start winding down and preparing for sleep.

4. Rearrange your room

Whether it’s the color of the room, the temperature you keep it at while you sleep, or even the level of darkness, room environment is an important part of falling—and staying—asleep. If your sleep is regularly disturbed, try rearranging your room. Get blackout curtains and move your bed into a better position, perhaps against a different wall. New pillows might be useful as well. It’s important to remember that changing your physical environment can help improve your mental space.

5. Try floating therapy

According to Time, scientists and researchers are finding that flotation therapy is an extremely useful and proven way to relax and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and stress, which often accompany the grieving process. Flotation is one of the many different therapies you can try to help yourself sleep better. What makes flotation therapy special is that it’s a sensory deprivation experience. You’ll be able to calm your mind and drift off more easily.

6. Turn off your devices

The blue light from electronics can mimic natural light and, therefore, prevent your body from naturally producing melatonin to help you fall asleep. If you have a habit of watching TV before bed, try reading a book instead. A book can help you calm down—unless you’re reading something particularly exciting. Turn off any electronics at least half an hour before going to bed. Avoid any distressing news or other stimulating experiences before bed. Your body will be able to wind down more easily.

7. Avoid certain foods before bed

Certain foods, which some people think help them sleep more easily, like alcohol, can actually do more harm than good and prevent truly restful slumber. Try to avoid eating at least an hour before bed. However, if you are someone who enjoys a late-night snack, opt for something light. You can eat cereal, or maybe some carrots and dip.

8. Let your thoughts go

Many people who have a difficult time falling asleep find that different stressors or cyclic thoughts run through their mind and prevent them from sleeping. Get a notebook where you can review important tasks you accomplished for the day or write down worries. This can relieve stress and help you gather your thoughts.

Sleep is an important part of recovering from grief. While you will always feel the loss of a loved one, you can continue on in life and enjoy all of its benefits. The first step is to get some sleep, and life will begin to feel brighter again.


The Human Behind The Entrepreneur


The Human Behind The Entrepreneur

*As seen featured in the Huffington Post

When you think of an entrepreneur, what are the first words that come to mind? My guess is that words like “go-getter,” “hard-working,” “dedicated,” “brave,” “motivated,” and “driven” are at the top of your list. 

But what about “human?” 

It is easy to forget that behind every ambitious entrepreneur is a person who has had life experiences that shape their views of the world around them. Regardless of whatever hard exterior we work to show publicly, deep down, we are all just human. That humanness means that we bring our “stuff” to the table in everything that we do and when we have not yet overcome past negative experiences, that negativity bleeds into our businesses.

Many people steer away from the word trauma when describing entrepreneurship, but I think it is crucial that it be acknowledged. There is a common misconception that to experience a trauma, something terrible like war or physical abuse had to occur. While those are examples of trauma, there are many types of other traumas that warrant mentioning.

Losing your job, financial insecurity, taking risks, and not having emotional support are all examples of trauma that are common among entrepreneurs. Not to mention exposure to life experiences outside of business such as divorce, cheating, health issues, grief and loss, neglect, emotional abuse, etc. All of these negative experiences can pile on top of each other to negatively impact the entrepreneur and their business. 

The good news is that awareness is key. Once you are willing to look at yourself without judgement, get clear about your stuck points, and take steps to unravel the impact of your past experiences, it is more than possible to get unstuck and propel forward both personally and in your business. 

Common stuck points: 

  • Fear of failure- If you have had failures in your life, identify as an over-achiever or perfectionist, or have seen others fail, than this one likely resonates with you. A fear of failure keeps you stuck by blocking your ability to really put yourself out there. If you don't take risks, you can’t fail, but you also won’t be able to achieve all that you are capable of.                                                                        
  • Fear of success- Having a fear of success is less talked about than a fear of failure, yet it is equally if not more common. Many people struggle with the thought process of “Who am I to be great?” This comes from feeling less than and not connecting to your true value. This can keep you stuck playing small, as that feels safer than taking a leap into success. 
  • Fear of visibility- Many people struggle with insecurities and fears about being seen or heard. This stuck point keeps you behind the curtain, back stage and unseen. If this is something you struggle with, you may often define yourself as a chameleon or someone who is always morphing into what others want you to be. This is linked to low self esteem which can manifest itself in many ways, from body image issues to a lack of confidence.
  • Fear of losing people- This fear is usually connected with loss or grief in some way. Many people who have had significant loss in their life or have a lack of consistent support, have fear of connecting with others deeply because they believe that they will lose them at some point. This keeps you stuck because it creates walls that keep you from getting too close to people both personally and in your business. 
  • Lack of trust- While I do believe in the importance of healthy boundaries and getting to know someone before sharing your world with them, learning how to trust people is a key to getting unstuck. A lack of trust can be detrimental in business, where partnership and collaboration can open doors and lead to more opportunities. 
  • Difficulty setting boundaries- In contrast to lack of trust discussed above, some people struggle with setting firm boundaries, saying “no.” This is common for people who describe themselves as “people pleasers” or have fear of rejection. Setting boundaries is an important part of a healthy business and lifestyle. When someone is stuck in this area, they often feel overcommitted and spread too thin.
  • Money issues- Many people struggle with issues surrounding money. This is manifested through spending too much, hoarding, fear of charging your value, insecurity around earning what you are worth, etc. In entrepreneurship investing in yourself and your business is a key component to success, one that is often hindered when people have issues around finances. 

If any of these stuck points resonate with you, I encourage you take some time to invest in yourself so that they don’t keep you stuck any longer. Many people stay stuck because they do not believe they are worth investing in themselves when it comes to therapy, coaching, and personal development. When in reality, such an investment can change every other aspect of their life for the better. 

As human beings we are social creatures. We are not meant to endure the challenges of life alone. Having a coach or therapist can open the door to an objective support system that can make a huge impact in your ability to heal. Your business is only as strong as the leader behind it. What are you willing to do to be the best version of yourself? 



Name It To Tame It


Name It To Tame It

We all have many parts. We grow up and experience different things in life, leaving us with parts of ourself that create different meaning along the way. We often have our inner child part, our adult part, our playful part, our angry part, etc. When we don't acknowledge them as different parts of ourselves they often get louder and louder as voices in our head. Let me be clear, these are not actual voices, but more so persistent thoughts that effect how we feel about ourselves.

Many struggle with a few parts from the past impacting their current experience. What if we give a voice to these different parts so that they don’t have nearly as much as control? 

In working with my clients, I often notice how when they keep things bottled up inside, their secrets have that much more power over them. But once they identify them out loud, their pull is much weaker. I help my clients to name their feelings in order to gain understanding of them. 

We can take a similar approach to our parts so that they do not control the way that we think. For example, many of my clients describe a voice in their head that is negative and mean, often criticizing them and telling them they are not good enough. This is called negative self- talk. It often stems from a culmination of negative past experiences, insecurities and fears. It can have quite an impact on us if we let it. 

But rather than allowing it to dictate our beliefs, lets name it. I often suggest that my clients create a name that fits for them. Some call it curse words while others use names that they don't find particularly attractive. The most important part of this exercise is naming it something other than yourself so you can begin to identify it as something separate from you and your own voice. This way you can choose to turn the volume of this other voice up or down like a TV remote. 

Give it a try and let me know how this works for you!


What Is Self Love?


What Is Self Love?

Self love is accepting yourself as you are.

It is being okay with yourself in the skin you are in today. It means loving yourself now. Not when you are thinner, richer, in love, etc. But NOW!

Self love means that you are willing to work on yourself from the inside out. That you are okay with the person you are at the end of the day. That when you lie your head on your pillow at night, you are at peace within yourself.

Self love means that you will not tolerate being treated poorly. It means that you are okay being authentically you.

That you invite others to love themselves as well, by walking the walk and talking the talk. That you inspire love and ignite passion by being REAL.

Self Love is the truest love there is.

You can love yourself. TODAY. Just as you are. In this body. In this life. In this experience.


Guest Blog- On Grief and Trauma


Guest Blog- On Grief and Trauma

Hi Healing Tribe! I am excited to have a friend of mine and fellow therapist Alex Michaud on the blog today talking about the relationship between grief and trauma. I love how clearly he emphasizes that grief is not linear, taking the "should" out of one of the most human experiences. You can check him out on Facebook @AlexMichaudCounseling for more on grief healing. 

Hello everyone. My name is Alex Michaud and I’m here to talk to you about how grief and trauma overlap. But first, a special thanks to my good friend Marisa Hughes for letting me take over her blog for this post. Have you checked out her take-over of mine H.E.R.E. Okay, let’s start with a story:

It was a normal, quiet evening at the office. A client and I had been sitting together for 30 minutes already that evening and there was no lack of conversation happening. On this night, however, it wasn’t our exchange of words that caught my attention as being special. Rather it was his decided, momentary pause and deep sigh mid-sentence, atypical for him. He sat there for a second having a deep personal realization:

“You know”, he said. “Sometimes the grief process feels more traumatic than actually losing her”. 

It was a profound statement from a man who normally likes to keep things close to the chest. Fighting tears, he talked about the occasional anguish that he still felt over the loss of his wife and how it caught him off-guard at times — intense and sudden. It wasn’t that her passing wasn’t distressing but he had worked through the initial impact of that. Now came the hard part — learning how to rebuild a life without all of the pieces. 

More conversation followed about the transition through her death and his transition back into life and I couldn’t help but notice the overlap between Trauma and Grief throughout. It made me wonder why we don’t talk about them in the same sentence more often. Thinking back over the years of working with clients who had either experienced a traumatic event or had grieved a loss, there certainly seemed to be a shared link in their processes of healing.

To start understanding their similarities, we can being with a definition. Psychological trauma has been defined in many ways: when an overwhelming amount of stress affects an individual causing them to exceed their emotional resources; a “stuck” process in which an individual has difficulty accommodating or assimilating significant sudden information into their normal world view. Grief often can be described in a similar way — as the deep and conflicting feelings that come as the result of the end of or the change of normal patterns of being. 

Much like my client hinted at above, the process of grieving the loss of someone you love can be intense in itself. Most people are familiar with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ “Stages of Grief”: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. But when it comes time to grieve they often look to this information to inform what their process “should” look like. What most fail to be aware of is how varied the grieving process actually is and how unique it can be day to day. In fact, one of my first questions to clients is “How do you think you are SUPPOSED to do this?”. The answer often has an impact on how they would have grieved alone had they not come to see me, or how we start our work.

Similar to working through trauma, grief is no short process and it looks very different from person to person. With so much variability, how can any therapist really help either group of people? Well, fear not. There are great approaches to help people work through both. If you know Marisa, you probably know that she uses a skill set called EMDR to help guide her trauma-affected clients overcome their challenges. As for me, I use a model called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to help my grief clients. Here’s a basic view of the model and a little bit about how the steps apply to grief specifically. 

Acceptance is the first principle of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. The raw process itself is about learning to not avoid feelings and thoughts we judge as “bad” or “negative”. When it comes to grieving, this step can be tough. It means making room in your emotional world for the thoughts and feelings you’re having to exist. We learn to breathe into those feelings and allow them to be what they’re going to be. Often, I see clients really fight this step because they are afraid they’re going to drown under the weight of the emotions — they try many different things to hide from their thoughts and feelings (which only makes them worse in the long run). Acceptance for grief also means forgetting any “rules” you thought there were about how to grieve properly; “I SHOULD be doing this” or “I SHOULD be feeling that”.  Holding on to those rules will only slow down the process. In many ways, this is similar to the Exposure piece of EMDR.

This acceptance is somewhat predicated on being engaged with two other main areas in ACT; Mindfulness and Defusion. 

Mindfulness is being aware of and in-contact with your present moment. To deal with all the thoughts and feelings we’re having, we need to know what they are. For many people this means stopping to be present and, in grief work, to anchor ourselves. When we let our brain latch on to its stream of consciousness it can carry us away like we are being swept out to sea. Stopping to turn our attention toward our general state of being in the present tense can help us feel grounded. 

Defusion is a secondary process of Mindfulness in that it also helps us feel grounded. Defusion is the active process of putting some space between ourselves and our thoughts. Normally, we live a very “first person” life with our thoughts: we “are” the thought: we call that “Self-as-Content”. But by defusing, we can become an observer of our thoughts — i.e. I notice that my thoughts are racing, I notice that I’m having feelings of being overwhelmed. This nonjudgmental process allows us to recognize that we aren’t actually our thoughts but they happen in a larger context of life. This is called “Self-as-Context”. It serves to help us recognize that our thoughts and feelings are manageable.

Values is another key step and living in agreement with our values is the important part. As you’re working through your grief process are you honoring what’s actually important to you? If family togetherness is important to you, are you leaning into that or are you pushing away from them? Doing so will create more psychological friction. 

The Committed Action step is all about moving forward. One of the things I see that keep people stuck in grief (possibly turning it into complicated grief) is a “standing still” or a “moving backwards”. There is much to be learned about ourselves from the grieving process: our true nature, our capacity to love, our range of emotions. Using that information to move forward is extraordinarily helpful. When people shut down and don't engage in these processes or, worse, sabotage themselves it fuels the grief process more. Not only does it not help the grieving process but it means that you’re having to overcome even more during the later parts of the process. 

Much like dealing with trauma, grief work and the secondary trauma that can come requires self-compassion. It works best when we can minimize our amount of unhelpful self-judgement and can maximize our psychological flexibility. The overlap, at this point, seems obvious between the two challenges and I hope that by reading this, you now know a little bit more about how they fit together and how I approach the healing process. 

If you’re engaged in this process now or know someone that it, I would be happy to answer any questions you have. I feel blessed to have been a part of so many grief journeys and would love to be a part of yours, even in some small way. Feel free to reach out to me on Facebook @AlexMichaudCounseling if you want to connect or to follow along.