The Thrive Questionnaire with Julie Westervelt

Sleep Crown founder Julie Westervelt talks yoga, technology and entrepreneurship.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Julie Westervelt: The very first thing I do when I get out of bed is check on my daughter. She is 17 years old! I still do it. Partly because I can’t wait to see her, but also because I understand the radical shift that is barreling toward me when she leaves for college in a year.

TG: What gives you energy?
JW: Love.
Sleep.
Yoga.
Clean eating (no gluten, sugar or alcohol).
Friend/Student/Customer connections.
Being outside.
Feeling helpful.

TG: What’s a daily habit or practice that helps you thrive?
JW: Daily contemplative and movement practice which are both achieved through yoga for me. This is where creativity flows through me. And foam rolling!

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
JW: The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche – exceptionally beautiful poetry describing the systems and soul of the body. My favorite piece…
Insight Verse 136
Consider all the pain and all the pleasure you have ever experienced as waves on a very deep ocean which you are. From the depths, witness those waves rolling along so bravely, always changing, beautiful in their self-sustaining power. Marvel that once you identified with only the surface of this ocean. Now embrace waves, depths, undersea mountains out to the farthest shore.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
JW: I try to have healthy boundaries around my phone usage. But I’m also human. There are times when my daughter and I will lie side by side scrolling through Instagram. But we share the best memes with each other. My phone is my alarm clock, so it does charge on my bedside table at night, but it is in Airplane Mode and the wifi in our home is on a timer that turns off from 11:00p-6:00a.

TG: How do you deal with email?
JW: I love connecting with my customers through email. I’m a microbrand, so I enjoy the personal emails and watching the flow of orders. I do a small celebration dance when I receive an order. So, email is still good for me.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
JW: I check in with my senses to determine what it is that I’m truly hungry for… Is it food? Is it time in nature – feet in the grass under my fave tree? A quick foam roll? A phone call with a friend? Sitting quietly and breathing? I typically try to step away from technology for a refresh throughout the day.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
JW: As a fledgeling entrepreneur, it is tempting to say yes to everything. It is beyond exciting to have opportunities come my way and I’m very grateful for every bit. However, I realize this is the quickest route to overwhelm me. It is important to follow the energy of a new venture and say yes to only the things that resonate at the highest level – the things that make my heart flutter. Because I definitely cannot do it all. So I’m learning that it is OK to say no to even wonderful invitations.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
JW: Any time a mother sees her child struggle, it feels like a personal failure. My mind goes to ‘how could I have prepared her better so that she could have avoided this hurt/upset/fill in the blank.’ As I’ve matured as a mother, I realize that I’ve done my best to prepare her for life and some pain must be experienced personally in order to grow and develop.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
JW: You are the sky, everything else…it’s just the weather. -Pema Chodron

We all understand the multitude of health risks associated with not getting enough sleep… heart disease, obesity, diabetes, can put us at risk for some cancers and mental health issues. Scary stuff! However, these all fall into the ‘some day may lead to’ category. On a more relatable and visceral/practical level, think about the last time that you didn’t get enough sleep. How was the next day for you?

Were you grumpy? Did every task seem hard? Did it make you act selfishly? Were you weakened to the power of your vices? Probably. Me too.

The fact is that not only does sleep help optimize the systems of our bodies, it is also where we develop resilience and a higher sense of optimism; sharpen mental clarity. Together, these lead to greater coping skills and move us away from reactivity and toward creativity.

It is possible to level up your sleep game through intention, awareness, habit and some natural sleep solutions.

I have this weird little sleep secret… I have always slept with a pillow OVER my head! As it turns out, a lot of people are sleeping with something on their heads. We’re in this strange little club. The desire to withdraw from your senses when sleeping is obvious. This sleep trick seals out any environmental disruptions to your sleep… light, sound. The bonus benefit is the gentle compression that the weight of a pillow provides. Our bodies crave compression. It’s why a massage feels so good.

I study and teach yoga. It is through my study of the principles of yoga and my own personal sleeping habit that I developed the perfect pillow specifically for this purpose; Sleep Crown. And while I definitely think everyone should sleep with a pillow over their heads, my customers report that they enjoy their Crowns in a variety of ways… over the head, behind the neck, over the chest or simply snuggling it. It is the lazy person’s natural sleep aid. Nothing to ingest, schedule or remember. Just put it in your bed, flop it over your head and go to sleep. Night Night.

Sleep is not a luxury. It is one of our basic human necessities. We can’t thrive without it. So let’s create the best conditions. And sleep better.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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