And, that's OK.

***[content warning: death; dying]***

There could be a lot of factors impacting sleep in this moment. The world seems to be more chaotic, and we have a lot on our minds.

For one, financial worries can feel particularly overwhelming, intense, and traumatizing right now. We might be wondering about what may happen now that we've lost our jobs. If we're lucky enough to still have jobs, seeing others struggle is painful. And, we may experience many what ifs. What if I lose my job? What if I start getting paid less? What if other emergencies come up, and I just can't afford those emergencies? What if my friends and family struggle, and I can't help them? These thoughts can make us feel helpless and scared.

Two, we are getting so much information about what we should be doing during this pandemic, and our brains are so overwhelmed. In five minutes of scrolling through social media or the news app, we may see headlines or posts about how to wash our shoes so that we don't bring the COVID-19 virus into your home. Or, how to wash our groceries and the packages we receive properly. New tips on how to clean our homes. How to wash our hands. How to take a shower. Where the hell to find toilet paper. How many of us are sick. How many of us have died. How many of us will die.

It's just all so much.

And maybe we wonder -- what if I don't do all the things that scientists are recommending. What if I don't adhere to the social distancing rules. What if I don't clean my shoes well enough. WHAT IF I TAKE ALL THE PRECAUTIONS AND I STILL GET SICK. And, I get my loved ones sick.

It's a lot to think about.

Three, we may be experiencing a significant amount of existential crises. Not only do we have to make sure all aspects of our beings are "clean" and "disinfected." But, we also have to contend with the fact that we might get sick and die. That our loved ones might also get sick and die. That everyone in the world is grieving and traumatized by this pandemic. That we can't celebrate our birthdays the way we want to. That we can't celebrate graduations the way we want to. That we may die alone, particularly if we live alone and don't have a lot of folks we interact with on a daily basis. That we might not get all the things we wanted in life, like a partner or kids or a successful career or the ability to travel, as there are many restrictions in our lives right now.

We can't even touch each other, and many of us need touch to feel comforted, stable, secure, loved, and cared for.

I'm thinking of Jim Gaffigan's joke about our loved ones not touching us, and so we end up having to pay massage therapists to touch us: we get massages from strangers because we can't count on the people who love us to touch us. That's funny, and sad and true. And now, we can't even get massages from those strangers during the apocalypse! Or, from anyone. Ahhh! :D

So, what do we do? Absolutely nothing.

Well, we know what science says. We've probably read all the articles about sleep hygiene. If you don't know about the things we're supposed to do to get better sleep, I'll paint a picture for you.

Imagine, come 9pm, you turn off the TV, you close your laptop, and you put your phone away. Maybe you're sitting on the couch in some fancy cabin in Upstate NY, in front of a fancy fireplace. And, you close your eyes, you hug yourself, and you take 5 slow deep breaths -- inhaling for 5 seconds and exhaling for 5 seconds. You rock a bit from side to side.

You open your eyes. You go upstairs to the master bathroom. You have thoughts like "I'm so proud of you. You survived the day. You were so effective and competent during this meeting and that other interaction. I love that you called your best friend and had some laughs with him." You look yourself in the mirror as you're brushing your teeth and you think "I love you. I care about you."

After you take a slow, relaxing, mindful shower, you walk into your bedroom. You've got your oil diffuser going. Maybe you smell the lavender. You start to read an enjoyable, and not too exciting book. You start to feel tired a bit by 1130pm. You turn off the light. You focus on taking d e e p, s l o w breaths as you focus on what your pillow feels like. Or, what your body feels like as you lay on the bed. You focus on the sounds outside. Maybe it's raining and windy. Maybe you practice gratitude: "thank you universe, for allowing me to have a bed to sleep in, for allowing me to have shelter, for allowing me to be able to smell the soothing scent of lavender."

D e e p

S l o w

B r e a t h i n g.

As you're drifting off, maybe you visualize your favorite calming place. It might be a quiet beach in Kauai. You feel the sun on your face. You hear the calming waves. You smile, and you feel what it's like to focus on your breath, and engage in this relaxing visualization.

You fall asleep. You wake up at 7am naturally. And, you immediately jump out of bed and go out for your morning run before you start the day.

Doesn't that sound beautiful. You follow that routine filled with mindfulness and self-kindness and self-soothing everyday.

Can you imagine?

But, in a not so perfect world, maybe we can't follow that perfect sleep routine. Maybe we do need to have the TV on as we fall asleep. Maybe we do find screens soothing as we listen to a Seinfeld or Frasier or Friends episode for the millionth time, because that comforts us and soothes us.

Maybe we do all the "right" things (e.g., not drinking caffeinated beverages past 12pm, staying away from substances, not eating a big meal right before bed, doing a sleep meditation before bed, setting a worry/plan time from 6-7pm everyday so that we can practice more mindfulness outside of that worry time), and we still wake up throughout the night or we still can only get 3 hours of sleep. There may also be too much serotonin and dopamine swimming around our brains. Or, hormonal shifts that contribute to those sleep difficulties.

Earlier I wrote that if we're experiencing sleep concerns, we should do nothing, in a kind of facetious way. Doing nothing is OK. I think as the world seems like it's burning, we need to have some grace with ourselves, and practice acceptance with whatever we're feeling and experiencing. We don't necessarily have to keep trying to fix or change.

Sometimes we get frustrated with ourselves when we don't get the things we want. Self-kindness/self-compassion goes out the window and self-blame, self-shaming, and self-judgments come up.

Right now, if we're doing all the right things or we're not doing the things that doctors recommend when it comes to sleep hygiene, it's OK. It's all OK.

If we do wake up at night and can't seem to fall back asleep, I am encouraging us to do a tad more than nothing. Just a tad more. And, that is to -- breathe.

Think of your brain as if it's a child. What would you tell that child if they came up to you at 3AM and woke you up? Maybe you'd be frustrated, and that's fair. But, I hope that you would also say some supportive things to them: "You can't sleep? Aww. Come here. *hugs* let me read you a bed time story."

If we think of the brain as a child, we might also say: "Wow. You really don't want to sleep this week. OK. Well, I respect that." And, if you know me, you know I love the Calm meditation app. They have great sleep stories and soothing relaxing music. Putting something like that on immediately after waking up can be helpful. It does feel nice to have something else to focus on. Having warm bodies next to us in bed can also be soothing -- we can put our hand on the person's belly and breathe to the same tempo as they're breathing.

J u s t

F o c u s i n g

O n

B r e a t h i n g

To g e t h e r.

Sometimes all we can do is breathe.

What a privilege it is right now to be able to breathe. If we have that privilege, let's practice gratitude for that. If we're willing and able, we can put one hand on our heart and one hand on our belly, and as we inhale for 5 and exhale for 5, we can think: "Thank you body. I'm so grateful for the ability to breathe. Thank you."

I wish you so much wellness and peace.

Take good care of you and others.

We have (hopefully) survived another week of quarantining and social distancing! And, stress. And, anxiety. And, sadness. And, confusion. And, numbness. And, overwhelm. And, fear.

But, hopefully lots and lots of joy also. If you haven't found joy this week, and are looking for some joy, music, and dancing, look no further! You'll especially love that, if you're a fan of Cardi B.

Today, after listening to the psychologist and meditation teacher, Tara Brach, I'm inspired to write about how we can more easily come home to ourselves.

Often, we might walk around feeling completely disconnected from our thoughts, our bodies, our feelings, and our behaviors. This disconnection may be particularly prevalent as we continue to experience this collective trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trauma has a way of making us leave ourselves. We leave as we mindlessly scroll through social media, as we do, do, do as human doings as opposed to human beings, as we engage in emotional eating, as we think, think, and think some more, as we worry, as we buy things we don't need, and as we binge watch shows or the news.

But, how can we come back to ourselves? Can we come back to our internal homes? If we do come back to our homes -- ourselves -- what kind of home do we inhabit? Do we like our homes?

First, I do want to say that it's OK that we sometimes don't want to come back to ourselves. The process of building deep connections and deep mindfulness with ourselves can take time. It's a journey. Wherever you are on the journey is OK.

Second, when we're ready and willing, there are some ways to ensure that the internal homes we inhabit are as safe, calm, and secure as possible. Right now, when we're being faced with news of individuals being sick, individuals dying, and stores running out of resources, our internal worlds might be agitated, on edge, and scared as all hell.

This idea of finding ways to come back to our senses and our bodies helps to soothe the chaos that may bubble up inside of us. It's like a caring, supportive parent who holds their children as they're crying and in pain. We can be that supportive parent to ourselves. When that parent hugs us, kisses our cheek, sings to us, rocks us, we feel more at ease. We find some peace and stillness. We may even smile and hug them back, and feel incredible gratitude for their kindness, care, and love.

Being that parent to ourselves helps us come back. When we're kind, accepting, compassionate, and caring to ourselves, we can more easily come back to our senses and our bodies. We can more easily come back to the present moment.

So! How do we come back?

Some ways that help me come back home to me are:

Community! There are so many opportunities for virtual meditation and yoga. Last night, I did a meditation via Zoom through Three Jewels, and it was honestly magical. I felt like I entered another world, where everything was wonderful and we all got along, and there was finally world peace. Ha!

Whatever you're into, whether that's dance, open mics, cooking, or happy hours, you can find virtual communities who are engaging in those activities. Community is important. We're social beings. We need each other to survive and thrive. We need each other to feel safe and secure.

Self-Compassion! If you know me, you know that I'm always preaching self-kindness. We have to be kind, patient, and understanding of ourselves. If I notice self-critical and self-shaming thoughts, I say: OH NO, YOU DON'T! Ha!

But, seriously. Remember the calm, caring, kind, patient, compassionate parent? I practice embodying that as often as I can throughout the day. That means, hugging myself. Saying really lovely, supportive statements to myself (e.g., I believe in you; I love you. I'm here for you. You're trying your best).

Also, research has found that speaking to ourselves in the third person is really helpful, and helps to calm our anxiety. Whaaaaa?

So -- Sarah believes in you. Sarah loves you. Sarah's here for you. Sarah's trying her best -- would be even better statements to say to myself.

Mindfulness! I LOVE MINDFULNESS! I imagined Oprah as I wrote that :D :D You get a mindful moment! YOU get a mindful moment. EVERYBODY gets a mindful moment! Ha!

Being mindful means that you're coming back to your senses and your body. That means, as I write, I'm noticing how my feet feel on the ground, whether my feet are cold or warm, what my bottom feels like on the chair, whether my shoulders are tense, whether my breathing is of a slower or faster pace. I can notice what it's like to touch my laptop and what the keyboard feels like as I type. I can also notice what it's like to see the GIF of Oprah, what it's like to hear this song playing, and what it's like to sway my body to the beat.

Once I notice all of these facets, I can make some changes, if needed. Maybe I can intentionally start to breathe slower (e.g., inhale for 4 seconds, pause for another, exhale for 4 seconds, and hold for another 4). Maybe I can relax my shoulders. Maybe I can pause from writing and look outside my window; I can appreciate seeing children and dogs running and playing with each other. Maybe I can sip my tea slowly and really notice the different flavors and sensations that I experience as I drink.

Moving my body!! If you can, move your body as often as possible, and move it in a mindful way. Really notice what it's like to move your body to a song. Or, what it's like to go outside, breathe the fresh air, hear different sounds, or feel the sun on your skin as you walk. If you're exercising, really notice what it's like for your body to get in different poses and to commit to repeating certain movements as the sensation of pain or feelings of joy and connection arise.

Gratitude, of course! Practice gratitude all day, everyday! Have a gratitude party over Zoom. Get together with folks and discuss all the things you're grateful for. Maybe it's the food you have access to. Toilet paper. Clorox wipes lol! The sun. Shelter. Time to read. Time to play video games with peers. Enough money to survive for the day. Technology. Your breath. Seltzer water :D

Helping others! Make it a habit to help others. Help often. Help however way you can. Maybe someone needs you to listen to their complaints. Stop what you're doing, take some deep breaths and listen. Maybe someone needs you to share whatever resources you may have. Or, needs you to sign and share a petition. Or, needs you to empathize with their pain. Or. Or. Or. Or. We need each other. Let's find ways to take care of each other.

My hope is that in coming home to ourselves, we can also find homes in and come home to each other.

Take good care of yourselves and each other.

Updated: Mar 17, 2020

Whew chileeeeee!


I think this past week, many of us moved from the self-protective defense mechanism of denial or minimizing the impact and potential impacts of the novel coronavirus to the reaction of oh my god; AHHHHHHHH!!! Let's go out and panic buy all the toilet paper!

For me, my main reaction to the barrage of headlines, social media posts, and others' panic about the state of the world was: who has the time, money, and energy for a pandemic right now, bro? Not I! That's for damn sure. I started to worry about all the folks who may not have homes, health insurance, or funds to buy months' worth of groceries, medications, and supplies. What about the people who live with abusers? What about the people who can't work from home or take time off from work?

It just all seems so scary, uncertain, sad, and heart-wrenching. And, I just wish we lived in a country in which all of our basic needs were met so that when we are faced with pandemics, natural disasters and other traumatic events, it could potentially feel more bearable for all of us and we'd all feel a little bit more supported.

But, alas. Since we don't live in such a country, how can we cope in this time of uncertainty? In a time where many of us are quarantined and we're told to practice social distancing. I can only imagine how much higher our levels of loneliness, hopelessness, deep sadness, and fear and anxiety will be.

BUT! We're going to try our best to get through it!

I love this handout on how, when we feel that we're in danger or feel unsafe, we've evolved from having a freezing reaction, to engaging in some action-oriented behavior, fighting or fleeing. And, most recently, we've evolved into beings who don't have to actively be in survival mode all the time. We can feel at peace, connected, and safe. We can trust ourselves and others. We can feel like we belong to ourselves and each other. We can play, sing, laugh, and dance.

These processes can be represented on a ladder, where freeze is at the bottom, fight and flight are in the middle, and safety/relaxation/calm/joy are all on top of the ladder.

This past week, I noticed myself experiencing the freezing reaction (e.g., not being present, not attuned, not paying attention to my needs) and the fighting reaction (e.g., tense muscles, driving more aggressively, feeling annoyance towards others, not sleeping as much, being hypervigilant).

Part of what's important to me in this life, though, is to be present, to feel connected with myself and others, to be kind, and to be understanding, patient and accepting. And so, I tend to be motivated to engage in self-care practices to stay up the ladder more often than not.

The handout discusses how we can practice to notice ourselves moving up and down the ladder from freezing to finding safety, or from safety to fight and flight mode. There are also ways for these states to work together, so that we can survive and thrive.

And boy, do we need these systems to work together effectively, now, more than ever. Noticing what we're feeling and thinking is important. Once we notice our emotions, how our bodies feel, and what kind of thoughts we're having, we can explore our needs.

If we're in fight or flight mode, we can practice pausing, breathing, and calming ourselves a bit. Then, we can explore possible necessary actions we can take (e.g., give money to folks who might be struggling financially, buy food for our loved ones, ask neighbors if they need help, ask loved ones if they'd like to video chat at a certain time everyday).

We can, then, move further up the ladder to find even more balance and safety (e.g., doing something calming, watching something funny, doing yoga or zumba in the living room, reading, FaceTiming with friends, setting up video chat date nights with friends, family, and romantic partners, engaging in a nourishing nighttime routine). Speaking of nighttime routines! Have y'all smelled eucalyptus oil before bed? So good!

I do want to say that being all the way down the ladder, in freeze mode, can be challenging and difficult to get out of, particularly if we're down there for days. When we're feeling depressed, hopeless, stuck, paralyzed, and alone, we may need to ask for help. We may need someone to pull us up so we can begin to climb up the ladder again. A crisis counselor can be helpful. An online therapist might also be key here.

If possible, getting in touch with a loved one, but I know that this can be tricky as many of us may not have folks in our lives we can ask for help. Sometimes, watching TED talks help me. Brene Brown is particularly powerful. Also, love Kristin Neff! And, podcasts! Oh my goodness. Tara Brach is a gem! Connecting with others on social media might also be helpful. They might be experiencing similar feelings, and it's nice to feel seen and understood by others.

I think prevention is also key. We have to practice finding ways to prevent ourselves from falling all the way down the ladder. Consistent self-care practices help.

The main factor that helped me move up the ladder this week was reading good news. NBA players giving money to employees put a huge smile on my face. Here's another act of generosity. Italians singing and playing instruments from their balconies while quarantined is also AMAZING!

More good news! Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds have donated some funds to food banks to help combat hunger during this pandemic. If you can donate, please do.

And, since I meditated probably 20 hours a day last week (lol!) and I love meditating, I LOVED seeing that Ten Percent Happier is offering FREE resources (e.g., meditations for healthcare providers, podcasts) for us to learn ways to cope and build resilience in these stressful times. YAS! The Calm meditation app is also providing some free resources!

My hope is that we can help each other. If you were one of the ones who bought 1,000 rolls of toilet paper, give some to your neighbors, for example (ha!).

I hope that we also take care of ourselves so that we can be more present with ourselves and with others more effectively. The more we take care of ourselves, the more we'll be able to practice kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and love. We need each other. Let's find ways to help each other.

Take good care of you and others around you.

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