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Well-Being & Sleep: Letting Go

Well-Being & Sleep: Letting Go - Featuring Kali Patrick
Well-Being & Sleep: Letting Go - Featuring Kali Patrick

“Practicing letting go is crucial, and it's not something that happens overnight ... Creating spaces in our day for moments of reflection, allowing our minds and emotions to process, can pave the way for more easeful sleep at night. It's about practicing stillness during the day, making an appointment with ourselves to process thoughts and emotions, and ultimately bringing about a shift in our daily routine." Kali Patrick

Kali Patrick, M.S. is a Sleep, Health & Well-Being Coach whose book Mastering Your Sleep Puzzle helps busy people who struggle with sleep due to stress and overactive minds. Kali highlights the importance of letting go, creating personal space, and making positive lifestyle changes for better sleep. Our interview revolves around understanding and addressing individualized sleep challenges through a comprehensive, mindful, and personalized approach.

Stephen Matini: As an expert in sleep, my first question would be, how did you sleep last night?

Kali Patrick: Well, it varies for me. Despite being a sleep coach, there's a common misconception that I experience perfect sleep every night. It's akin to assuming a nutritionist never indulges in anything unhealthy. Being a woman of a certain age, my sleep involves bouts of feeling hot and cold. Some nights are better than others. It wasn't a bad night, but it certainly wasn't great.

SM: You mentioned that many of us find inspiration for our careers from challenges or disruptions. When did you become interested in sleep?

KP: My sleep issues trace back to my childhood, but they became a significant concern during college. I was under immense stress, pursuing a degree that didn't align with my natural strengths and interests. 

The pressure to maintain good grades and financial support took a toll. I struggled with sleep, experiencing teeth grinding and subsequent mouth pain. Even after receiving guards for my teeth, the issues persisted. I felt tired, stressed, and this pattern continued after graduation when work-related stress took over, particularly in the high-tech field.

I was developing websites during the early days of the Internet, and while it was something I enjoyed, the constant changes and fast-paced environment led to ongoing sleep troubles. Recognizing stress as a root cause, I explored solutions like yoga and meditation, taking occasional classes to calm my mind. 

Despite these efforts, the problems persisted. It wasn't until about 15 years later that I decided to undergo a sleep study, thinking there might be an underlying issue. Seeking help from a doctor, I underwent monitoring with wires attached to my head in a cold, sterile room.

Surprisingly, I fell asleep, and the doctor concluded that there was nothing wrong and prescribed medication. Reflecting on this later, I questioned why I received a prescription when there was seemingly nothing amiss. 

I took the medication for about a week but stopped due to grogginess and the loss of vivid dream recollection. Turning away from pharmaceutical solutions, I explored natural alternatives like valerian and melatonin, but none proved effective. 

Experiencing burnout in 2010, I made a drastic change, leaving my job and enrolling in a yoga teacher training program. Initially, I didn't plan to teach yoga but sought a positive change in my life. 

The intensive training turned out to be transformative, leading me to embrace a different path. The decision caused turmoil in my existing life, resulting in the shedding of my career and relationship. However, this challenging period ultimately gave rise to my current practice, where I assist people in improving their sleep without relying on external aids.

I don't label myself as a sleep expert but rather as a sleep coach. In coaching, I collaborate with individuals to navigate their unique challenges, helping them reconnect with their natural ability to sleep. It's about identifying and eliminating factors that hinder sleep, rather than adding more stressors or distractions. 

Many of the individuals I work with have already tried various approaches, seen doctors, and found no apparent issues. It's gratifying to guide them towards a personalized solution that works for them, recognizing that what worked for me may differ for each person.

SM: How do you begin increasing awareness?

KP: Typically, I start by having individuals undergo an assessment. We lay out all the problems and put everything on the table. Clients often face multiple sleep issues, with the primary concerns falling into categories like difficulty falling asleep initially, struggling to stay asleep throughout the night, waking up too early, and occasionally experiencing interrupted or poor-quality sleep. Some may feel fatigued in the afternoon, affecting their daytime energy levels. 

Once we have this overview, people usually have an idea of factors positively or negatively impacting their sleep. For example, I ask about habits that contribute to better sleep and those that might hinder it.

Many individuals note positive sleep effects from activities like exercise or a daytime walk. On the flip side, a common negative contributor is late-night use of technology—phones, iPads, or watching TV. We talk about these factors, exploring contributors and influences on sleep. 

Additionally, it's crucial to take a step back and envision the future. What do they want six months or a year from now? Most people express a desire for better sleep and increased energy. 

The next step is to imagine having achieved that goal. What will they do with the newfound energy, time, and resources devoted to solving sleep issues? This vision becomes a motivating factor, leading to aspirations like starting a business, engaging in creative pursuits, improving relationships, or pursuing personal goals.

There's no right or wrong answer, but clarifying the vision is crucial. It helps guide choices in the myriad of small decisions that either make or break someone's sleep on a daily and nightly basis.

SM: Do you think sleep is a reflection or result of other aspects in our lives not aligning well?

KP: Absolutely. Much of it, as I mentioned, involves removing barriers and clearing the path. When individuals begin to make different choices, especially regarding rest and recovery, sleep occurs. Sleep isn't something you create or force; it naturally happens when you remove obstacles. It requires a shift in mindset and a new perspective on the issue, leading to a different solution.

SM: One thing that stuck with me from the first time we met is your statement about sleep being a process of learning to let go.

Kali Patrick: I often express the idea that sleep is about letting go or surrendering, intending to contrast our typical approach to sleep struggles. While having a bedtime routine is beneficial, becoming rigid or stressed about it can be counterproductive. 

Many individuals, especially those accustomed to problem-solving, try to control their sleep issues by implementing practices or running through various strategies. This mindset of fixing and controlling, which is usually effective in other areas, tends to backfire when it comes to sleep.

What we need to shift towards is acknowledging what we can let go of and how we can surrender to the process. Although it's a simple concept, it's not necessarily easy due to our conditioning. We are often trained to identify a problem, consider our options, and find solutions. However, with sleep, it's less about doing and more about undoing.

Practicing letting go is crucial, and it's not something that happens overnight. We can cultivate this practice by incorporating moments of rest, receiving, and recovery into our daily lives—something many people overlook.

Even when attempting to rest, we are so conditioned to constant activity and productivity that sitting quietly for a short period without external stimulation can be challenging. Creating spaces in our day for moments of reflection, allowing our minds and emotions to process, can pave the way for more easeful sleep at night.

It's about practicing stillness during the day, making an appointment with ourselves to process thoughts and emotions, and ultimately bringing about a shift in our daily routine.

SM: Do you intentionally incorporate quiet moments into your day, or do you allow them to unfold naturally?

KP: Personally, I plan for these moments. My mornings are particularly sacred, with a dedicated two to three hours before officially starting my day. During this time, I engage in activities that ease me into the day, such as reading and savoring a hot cup of coffee. While I'm not entirely still, I have a deliberate process.

Additionally, I schedule an appointment with myself around 3:00 in the afternoon, as that's when I typically experience a dip in energy. It's an opportune time for self-care and personal reflection.

Some of my clients adopt a similar approach, finding moments in their schedules that work for them. Whether it's during lunch break or adapting to the demands of parenting, establishing a routine proves beneficial for most.

Consistency, having a designated time each day for specific activities, becomes ingrained in the body and mind, contributing to a more structured day and, in turn, a better night's sleep. However, the key is finding what suits each individual best.

SM: In going through your website, I came across the concept of revenge bedtime procrastination. I used to have a hectic schedule, constantly on the go, and in the evenings, I would procrastinate going to bed as a way of claiming some time for myself. Is this behavior an example of revenge bedtime procrastination?

KP: Absolutely. It's a hundred percent accurate. The lack of time for oneself during the day often leads to distancing when the house is finally quiet, or when you feel you've accomplished all your daily tasks. It becomes a scheduling issue, influenced by too many activities not centered around personal well-being. 

Setting boundaries is a frequent topic in coaching because many struggle with saying no at work, to family and friends, or even asking for and receiving help without feeling guilty.

Establishing these boundaries is crucial. Both in work and personal life, the to-do list seems endless, with everything turning into a project. Simple tasks end up taking longer than anticipated, and we often overlook budgeting time for ourselves and moments of quiet.

Consequently, we end up robbing ourselves of moments of rest and quiet, taking away from our sleep time. It's a choice. Is that time for yourself more valuable than the quality of your sleep? Perhaps, but eventually, what you're sacrificing from your sleep will catch up with you, prompting a reassessment of priorities.

SM: In the context of the western world's cultural emphasis on constant activity, the idea of carving out personal space is often seen as unproductive.

KP: I often provide services for companies, conducting webinars, discussing sleep, leading meditation classes, and teaching yoga. These are offerings aimed at promoting mental and physical health as well as achieving balance. 

Unfortunately, what I observe is that many individuals don't take advantage of these programs. The primary obstacle appears to be the lack of permission and a safe environment. 

While companies offer such benefits, there's often an unspoken expectation that employees shouldn't prioritize self-care over work. This reluctance stems from the fear of being perceived negatively for taking time for oneself. The key issue is creating an atmosphere where individuals feel comfortable and supported in choosing self-care options, whether it's a company-provided class or a personal activity like an afternoon run.

It boils down to permission and security. If individuals feel that taking time for themselves will be frowned upon or punished, they are less likely to engage in self-care practices. This has been a longstanding problem, and the cultural reluctance to prioritize well-being remains a significant hurdle. 

I've encountered this challenge during consulting work, where taking breaks during meetings was met with hesitation. An example that stands out is when I had to leave an all-day meeting for a brief break. I was the only one to do so, and it required courage, as I grappled with concerns about perceptions and being the sole female in the room. 

Despite the initial difficulty, it illustrated the importance of breaking away from unhealthy work culture for personal well-being.

SM: What sets your book, Mastering Your Sleep Puzzle, apart from others on the same topic?

KP: Well, I'm not sure there is a similar book. The books I've read about sleep are more focused on sleep science. While these can be interesting for those struggling with sleep, many people delve into deep sleep science and insomnia details, creating additional anxiety.

My book, on the other hand, blends the coaching process of health and wellbeing with concepts from yoga and meditation. It revolves around the philosophy of energy and how excessive stimulation is a root cause of many sleep struggles today. By following the guidance provided in the book over 12 weeks, individuals can develop their own plan based on the concepts presented.

This flexible approach aims to help a broader audience, as it is not prescriptive but follows a proven method that has worked for many stressed and busy individuals dealing with overstimulation and disrupted sleep patterns, not necessarily due to a medical condition but behavioral and lifestyle factors.

SM: Are there practical dietary tips for the evening that people can immediately consider to improve their sleep, given your holistic approach?

KP: Certainly, there is a dedicated chapter in the book addressing the relationship between eating habits and sleep. Stress, exercise, light exposure, and many other factors also play significant roles in influencing sleep, contributing to the complexity I explore in Mastering Your Sleep Puzzle

Caffeine, with its lasting impact, is often underestimated, and sugar can pose challenges, especially with age. Personally, I've adjusted my habits, being mindful of my caffeine intake and modifying my evening dessert choices. 

Adapting food patterns, like having a light dinner or addressing hunger appropriately before bedtime, is crucial. The book emphasizes the individualized nature of these adjustments, encouraging readers to understand their body's signals and make informed changes to promote better sleep quality.

SM: Considering the diverse topics we covered on sleep, is there a specific starting point you'd recommend for listeners?

KP: One common trend I observe and hear frequently from people is a constant recounting of unsuccessful attempts. Individuals often share their experiences of trying various methods without tangible results. 

If you are uncertain about a particular approach's effectiveness, especially if it contributes to stress, consider letting it go. I encounter individuals with elaborate 12-step bedtime routines, yet they still struggle to sleep when consulting with me. Why persist with something that isn't helping? It's crucial to release it and start anew.

When faced with waking up in the middle of the night, many people delve into a mental file drawer, presenting various options like specific breathing techniques, meditations, or other strategies. The result is a mental clutter of busyness and stress. 

Instead, my suggestion is to pick one approach and commit to it for at least a month. Disregard the multitude of alternatives that may catch your attention, whether from social media or elsewhere. Stick to your chosen method. 

While there are numerous potential solutions, spreading oneself thin across them is akin to digging shallow wells—unlikely to yield results. Concentrate on an approach that resonates as enjoyable, potentially beneficial, and intuitively feels right. Tune out the distractions for a while and observe the outcome.

Many individuals are increasingly fixated on achieving better sleep, a commendable goal. However, there's a risk of developing a hyper-focus that does more harm than good. Our conversation consistently revolves around making new connections, learning from successes as well as from obstacles we face, creating space, and letting go of unhelpful elements. It's the underlying theme of our discussion, expressed in various ways.

SM: It appears an approach rooted in positivity and strength. Instead of actively searching for a solution, it emphasizes the existing elements that can be harnessed to enhance the overall sleep pattern.

KP: Absolutely. Many individuals require assistance in this regard because we're deeply conditioned. That's how I collaborate with people—aiding them in shifting their focus and, at times, altering their mindset or perspective on making healthy choices. 

How do I communicate with my partner about considering separate sleeping arrangements? How do I convey to my friends that I'm not being antisocial? 

We can discuss and work together to figure out the best approach. Adopting a curious attitude towards the process is essential. 

What happens when I try a particular method? Let's pay attention and assess what worked and what didn't. How can we amplify the effective strategies? Relying on your strengths, abilities, and past accomplishments is crucial. 

Some individuals claim they haven't experienced a good night's sleep in ages, but through conversation, I discover they had one just a week ago. Recognizing such instances helps rekindle hope and shifts the mindset toward identifying what works and how to do more of it.

There's so much potential within individuals. Sometimes, people express a lack of hope, believing it's impossible for them to achieve a good night's sleep again. However, through our discussions, we reconnect with the positive aspects and start reshaping the mindset. We focus on what can be done, what is currently working, and how to build on those aspects.

SM: Kali, this evening, I'm bound to reflect on you and all the wonderful insights you've shared. Thank you so much.

KP: Oh great. Thank you. It's been my pleasure speaking with you. 

🎧  Listen on your favorite platform: Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podbean, or your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to the podcast Pity Party Over.

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